24 hours from now I will be one hour into the marathon . I'll be jogging slowly up the steepest hill of the race at that point, climbing up up up over Crissy Field to the Golden Gate Bridge. It's such a painful grind getting up there, and such a payoff when you do. San Francisco splays itself out, off to your right like a gorgeous lover on a bed, exhausted from how beautiful everything is. She sports the golden dome of the Palace of Fine Arts winking up, promising you that when all this is over, art will still win. Through budget cuts and sarcasm, through depressions and earthquakes and war, through snarky detractors and through each and every hurdle, art will hurl its golden dome up into the world, proclaiming its resilience and its freedom. Its unquenchable spirit for survival. It has always been here, and here it will stay, not just proving the faith people have even in the most treacherous depths of despair, but also providing it for those still here. People will always paint and sculpt and write and photograph and film and perform and dance and draw and sing. Humanity is built to be moved and to move each other. And straight from the heart of New Jersey, we were also Born to Run.
Today I don't do any training. I am done. Finished. Complete in that way. I tied a big bow on my work with a brand new route last night down Ocean Avenue in my new neighborhood and back home, ending at my front door. I collapsed on the couch, my head spinning, pouring sweat from my hairline, just three little miles into the thing. About one eighth of the distance. The thing about the little runs is there is no time to settle down. To settle in. To make peace with the project at hand. I spent the last run too excited about Sunday, but what's a girl to do? It will be impossible to understand what I am about to do until there I am. I do not understand what it's like to be with so many people. I have done this, the road part, alone. I don't understand what it is to be witnessed, so slow and awkward next to gazelles. To see my friends, my family, my brother and my parents along side the road, cheering for me in a state of pain and destabilization. To see my beloved Ginger, a heavy camera on her neck, electric albatross capturing all of it as I lumber around such a pretty place, doing the best I can, which promises to be just as painful to watch. I will surely see her and I will feel that familiar excitement about having her back, having my time back, having long lazy days in the yard with her, gardening, reading, all the time laughing. But the race will have me so very stripped down, and already I can feel the nakedness of being seen doing a thing I am not good at. I am not a person with talent in this area, and that's finally, finally, ok. Not comfortable, but ok.
This whole pilgrimage into the world of the marathon has been so much more profound than I could have imagined. And I don't think I knew I would stick with it after that first mile. I don't think I knew I'd stick with it until today, I guess. How can you know? But here, on my last day before the ribbon, are some things I learned.
1. People are full of love. They want to help and they want you to succeed. Let them be your wave when you are adrift. Let them carry you when you feel exhausted. Your strength will return, and you will get your legs under you again.
2. You are capable of anything your mind conjures. Your mind is not only your strongest villain, but your most ferocious ally. It will be your guide to everything your life is offering you. And if you let it move aside, it will be a most gracious ambassador to your heart.
3. Strangers are just like you. When you tell your story, they will hear it, and they will recognize themselves, and they will rise up and share theirs too. Or they will nod at you and you will know. Or they will quietly relate. Or they will never say a word, never once make a motion toward you, but you will have connected and they will take that seed into the world and plant it and other strangers will quietly walk by in the night and water it. And we will have made a forest.
4. Pain is a dull word that stands in for a billion sensations. Just like love. And the two cannot exist without each other, and that's just fine.
5. Your story matters. Your efforts matter. And if that is fiercely true, then it is also true for all the people you run by every day, even the ones who make vile noises at you and stupid comments. It is true for the people we fear and the people we reject. Everyone's story has to matter. No one was born an asshole. Even the ones who eventually arrive there in such a blaze of glory. And so it matter, at the very least, to honor the grain of truth that humanity is a collection of stories and each one is a little bit what shapes you too. Yes, even that asshole over there whose ass you just kicked. I'm not trying to tell you what to do here, or not to be mad or outraged or disgusted or frantically filled with loathing in any given moment. But that too, is part of your story.
6. In one of my favorite poems, Mary Oliver says,
"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting"
7. When you think you absolutely have to quit, you don't.
8. When you least expect it, that's when the quitting clobbers you.
9. It is rewarding to live in the body. And here I am speaking directly to women. Do not let the media rob you of your gorgeous body. Your disabled body or your rotund body or your scarred body or your struggling body or your damaged body. This is your home. Do not let the weeds run amuck in the yard or the cobwebs to overtake the corners. This is your instrument of life, you best and most treasured gift, the home of your mind and your heart. To tend them, you must enjoy the home. Stretch. Walk. Dance. Move your arms. Blink. Smell things. Eat what nurtures you. Make an alliance with thing the world would have you turn against and be silent with. I began my first mile truly disgusted with the jiggle and thunk of my heft. Today I am able to thank it, to honor it and be myself. This thing has carried me further than I ever would have imagined, to lovely sights and gorgeous places. I have had the honor of being its student. I never thought I could love a home so imperfect, but it's mine and I do.
10. Tell your story. It's yours and no one can ever take it. Raise your voice. Trust that someone is dying to hear it.