I have been running for the past two weeks. And for those of you who know me, the zombie apocalypse did not come to Mountain View and I am not being chased.
I have mocked running more than once in my life, not really impressed by the grunty seriousness of runners who woosh by me on my meandering walks. Why are they going so fast? I don’t trust it!! Not only that, but the clothes are significantly more boring than those I dance in, and the tininess of running shorts is just confusing–does no one make Bermuda length running shorts? Do I really want someone to see that much of my ass as it jiggles past them? Mostly, it just looks hard, and I have enough hard things on my plate at present.
So, no zombie apocalypse, no Bermuda length running shorts–then what’s going on? It started a few weeks ago at a dance workshop entitled Both Sides Now: The Power of Paradox. I was sitting at breakfast before class on Saturday morning, headphones in, fork in one hand, colored pencils in the other, working on my mandala coloring book. All of a sudden I thought, I want you to start running. My response? “Let’s meditate on this thought and listen to what the Universe has to say.” HAHAHAHAHA….NOT!!!! My response, given here verbatim because I wrote it in my journal later: “I want you to shut your whore mouth.” We left it at that, and I didn’t feel even a little bad ignoring this totally random idea.
During the last part of class on Saturday, we did an exercise called Voice Dialogues. In it, through a process of partner interview, you are able to hear from different parts of your personality. There’s no voodoo or schizophrenia involved, just acceptance of the fact that you play many roles for yourself every day, and they might have some wisdom to share on the evolution of your life. As my partner interviewed the protector side of me, I heard myself say something stunning: “I didn’t originally show up for Chelsea, I showed up to take care of the other people in her life, and we just kind of adopted each other.” I am still very much boggled by this revelation.
That night journaling, I popped back in with: You should run. My response was a little less harsh, but it still fell along the lines of, “You should shut up.”
This continued through Sunday and Monday’s return to regular life. It was by no means a constant chatter, but the moment my attention was on an unrelated topic, there it was again. I need you to run. My reply continued to be ‘no’, but it waned in enthusiasm each time. I know when there’s a definite yes present and building, and this was it.
By the time I got to dance Monday night, my resistance was low enough to investigate. “Okay you, maybe this is my protector looking to shift the terms of our relationship, maybe this is a mid-life crisis, but let me hear it. Why the ever loving fuck do you think I am someone who needs to start running? I may not be in great shape, but I am not house bound by any means. I don’t get it.” It was almost the end of the night, when I thought I was going to walk away with no answer, just a nagging sense of need:
You’re not as far into the unknown right now as you think.
But, you’re about to go a whole lot further out and deeper in before you see land again. I need you to run because I need to make sure you don’t get lost in what’s coming up. You can calcify around chaos the same way you calcified around habit. You have tools now to prevent this, but I need to bring even more on board. Some of the things that have joined your life in the last few months are part of this. I’m not concerned about making your body a different shape or fitting you into boxes you just recently left. I just need you to have another way to grab movement again when you’re in deep.
I thought leaving teaching had been the outer reaches of my departure from the norm, but according to me, it isn’t. Oy. Who knows what ‘further and deeper’ will mean–big, visible changes, small but radical shifts? Either way, my protector was showing up for me this time, this much was clear. As the last few dances of the night slowed, my dance swelled and quickened. It was a dance full of gratitude and of fear. I walked away that night, happy to be clearer, but still not convinced that this was a good idea.
Thus, I was back to the equivalent of being poked on Facebook all of Tuesday and part of Wednesday. I picked up the phone that afternoon to make my weekly Dad call. Since he was diagnosed with lung cancer, I have been making a good faith effort to repair and build relationship with him, primarily through hearing the stories of his Forest Gump-like life. Today was the day to hear about his time in jump school, training for the Paratroopers at age sixteen. Though I expected to hear about boyish pranks and the adrenalin of jumping out of a plane, there was something else I did not expect, something that rippled through my chest like a gong:
We had to run all day. We ran from the barracks to the practice area, practice area to mess, mess to practice area, and back to the barracks again. And when you were in the training area? Forget it. There was absolutely no standing, sitting, or lying down. You were running, either single or double time. And it’s not like today when the guys get to wear sneakers. We did it all in combat boots. Easily fifteen to twenty miles a day. It was incredibly hard. I had had rheumatic fever as a kid, and so I always thought of myself as somewhat of a weakling. I was tall, skinny, awkward. I didn’t think I could do it. I was sent back to company twice, and I had to go what they call free back, which is basically starting over. You do 8 hours of physical training a day for two weeks, and then you can go back to jump school if you haven’t quit by that time. I don’t think they thought I could do it, but I did. Always running.
I could feel his feet sweating and chafing inside heavy boots. I could feel them hit the ground, both desperate and final. I could feel the searing desire to remake a definition that was inherited, not chosen. I looked at the cat after ending our call. “I guess I’m going running,” I sighed.
What follows are excerpts from my week one journal (week two involves almost the same amount of pain, but a lot more confidence). When spiritual journeys have physical outlets, we are healthier for it, and hopefully others get to giggle and relate and know they’re not alone.
Day 1: Stupid tiny shorts!!! I resent the money I spent on them at Target, and the semi-camel toe situation that had to be discreetly managed. Set out after nightfall where no one could see me suffer/pick at wedgies. Why oh why do I/did I have such anxiety about this? My heart was jumping out of my chest before I even started running. Was kicking my legs out in back of me while standing at the light on Moffett. “What are you doing?” I don’t know, runner stuff? “Do you have any idea what that’s for? No? Then just stop, please stop.” Don’t know if it is safe to leave my phone in the sweat pool that is my sports bra, but I need music. Even through the music I sounded like a pregnant, constipated giraffe. And WTF Pandora?!?! What kind of crap songs are on your pre-selected workout playlist? No, I don’t wanna “back that thing up,” thank you very much Busta Rhymes–in fact, currently trying quite hard to move that thing forward. I was surprised at how good I felt….for the first three minutes…
Day 2: Ow, ow, ow, I hurt, ow, ow. I thought I was in better shape. I feel like two days running is equivalent to two weeks of my ankles by my ears during sex. Ran in the rain today, that’s how committed I am to not be caught experimenting with this bad idea. I do like the fact that runner clothes seem to have slits in the sleeves where you can stick your thumbs, at least I think that’s what they are for. I don’t understand the purpose of this, but I do quite like sticking my thumbs through my sleeves…will consider tailoring all clothes to this end. Ran to my randomly chosen stopping point again. Have decided to run the same route every time until I am faster. The 30 seconds I allow myself at the drinking fountain is saving my life. The wildness of running in the rain is not all bad…
Day 3: Running in the daylight, no rain. Good news, I am maintaining the same pace every day. This means that if I have ruptured an internal organ, it hasn’t started to bleed into my abdominal cavity yet…internal bleeding does make you slower, right? Catherine had her baby last night and early into this morning, and so I witnessed my first birth. When I got home I couldn’t sleep, and the only thing that seemed right was to run–goddamnit I hate it sometimes when I am right!! The bad news though is that even when I feel like I’m doing okay, people are flying around me on the trail like I am 100 years old. Seriously, there were people running in pairs today and TALKING WHILE THEY RAN!! I know I shouldn’t say this after seeing the miracle of birth, but fuck those people–I really doubt our species needs them. Also, how is it possible I sweat so much in twenty five minutes? Catherine did not sweat this much in five hours of labor. I don’t know who I think I’m gonna win a prize from….
Day 4: Break day. Sat in hot water and saunas for two and a half hours at Lawrence Health Spa. I’m personally not much of a fan of break day, but reading about shin splints yesterday, Men’s Health Magazine online hinted at the fact that I may need one. They wanted me to take every other day off, but screw them, that’s no way to create a habit…
Day 5: I felt good today–until of course I realized, I left my house key in the apartment, not in my shoe–burgling my own place was way easier when I could lift my legs unimpeded. Being a weekend, there were multiple people out, and some looked as pained as me!! I even got a nod of hello from a dude bro runner. I can’t be sure he was a dude bro, but he was wearing a bandana, and he looked like you might find him playing beach volleyball. Since I have always been a non-entity to dude bros, this was fascinating. Apparently I am at least a little successful in infiltrating this world. Kudos to Men’s Health Magazine online–even though they want me to be a lazy habit builder, their advice on shortening my stride and concentrating on coming down mid-foot, did seem to help my shin pains. I find it interesting that I spent most of my life on my toes, just in the last five years started finding my heels, and now here comes the mid-foot, ready to engage. I will go get some insoles later today to see what that does. Probably still need new shoes…
Day 6: I was involved in a modern day parting of the Red Sea today. A runner couple ran around me, him on one side, her on the other, strides then perfectly synchronizing again, strong backs pulling away in tandem like some kind of mythical cheetahs. Does this make me all the Pharaoh’s men that then drowned in the receding sea? I don’t know, but it was so artfully choreographed that I couldn’t even be mad at them. I picture them not even talking about it as they strode up behind me, just the giving and receiving of head nods that all long term couples can do, and then, it was happening. I wonder if I will ever be that magic again…
Day 7: One minute faster today!!!! And maybe even two since I over shot my usual stopping place by a dozen strides or so. Good music really does make a mental difference, so I may have to create a playlist. Is anyone else running to “How Far I’ll Go,” from Moana? Seems unlikely. Today I noticed a moment that has repeated more than once this week. I picture myself stopping on the trail and just screaming my lungs out, absolutely rageful for no apparent reason. Historically, I haven’t been able to get very close to my anger about anything. It freaks me out a little to think that running may get me closer to this historical frozen spot. But, I am reading a book right now where one of the main characters says, “Where there is fear, there is power.” Hmmm. Maybe I will do some more night running so I have some latitude for anger practice. I wonder if screaming causes more or less sweat to pool, because really, it’s gross already…
Day 11: (couldn’t resist this one ladies) Running with PMS. What. The. Actual. Fuck!?!?!?!?!?!?! Why is that so hard? I felt like my new bouncy shoe insoles had melted, and my knees were on strike, refusing to do more than shuffle my feet forward, and only then by extreme measure of will. “I’m still breathing, I’m still breathing, I’m alive…” sang Sia. Oh really? Am I? Fuck you Sia, I can’t feel my neck. How much can a uterine lining weigh? I will tell you…27 million pounds!!!! And now I have to fucking run again tomorrow, because I can’t go to my next break day on that note…
I am an almost 40 book nerd. I am an impassioned dancer. I have no idea what I’m doing with my life. I am following something natural and silent as it grows. My legs currently hate me. I grabbed the horizon this morning and felt free.
Challenge accepted, me. Your turn.