I’m getting back into running. I recently recovered from a long stint of back pain, and I can’t begin to express with words the gratitude I possess to feel mobile enough to jog to the park, around and back. It’s not too far and it’s never for too long, but it’s enough. This round of running is less about weight loss and more about moving my body for the sake of it; to extend my energy while noticing the world around me. My entire existence has been about weight loss hitherto, so I’m a little relieved to finally be releasing myself from that battle, since even at my thinnest I was still never “winning”. I could never quite find - or appreciate - or achieve - thin “enough”. So I finally surrendered, or perhaps I'm currently surrendering, which only means I'm paying closer attention to how something feels VS how it looks - or "should" look.
For me, this newfound practice doesn’t require the constant recording and comparing it once used to. I don’t track my runs anymore. I don’t really care how far I went or for how long. I just enjoy listening to music; today, specifically, Thom York, and running. Lately, I even tend to cry when I run. Something, the pairing of lyrics with a pulsing heart aligning with a pulsing world, perhaps, lets me feel and possess my own power. My aliveness becomes present to me, and it’s overwhelmingly wonderful. For a run to bring me to tears with how alive I am - for even only a brief, fleeting moment - is a high I feel good about chasing.
I’ve chased many highs all of my life: alcohol, uppers, downers, men, women - all in an attempt to become something, or maybe someone, hopefully anyone other than who I was. I would obey others; I’d silently ask them, as if by telekinesis, please! somebody, anybody, tell me who I am so I can know exactly who I’m supposed to be. I created myself as others would have me. Perhaps I didn't want to take on the bold task of consciously inventing myself, but we invent ourselves whether we're aware of it or not, so we may as well pay attention to the details. Perhaps though, this avoidance of my conscious creation wasn't so much an act of laziness, as much as I simply did not know I could have my own say. But now I do know. Which also helps me realize that the shame and disgust over one’s own self is the most destructive force there is on the planet. It can give you a high though I tell you, by sending you out of yourself on a constant pursuit of something... anything.
I've come down from that high, or perhaps, I'm coming down still. In place of that high I’m learning to chase other highs. More mellow and more accessible ones that don’t inherently kill me. Running for instance. It becomes a practice of presence when you pay attention to it (which you could say that of anything I suppose):
Feet pounding on the pavement, a rhythm being formed. Manhattan glistening to my left across the river, I feel my heart in my chest as much as I do in my head. The ground and my body are in synchronous harmony, one allowing for the other. The lyrics from my headphones suddenly chime in, “I don’t belong here…. I don’t care if it hurts. I want to have control. I want a perfect body, I want a perfect soul”.... It dawns on me, my constant striving is not just mine, but everyone’s. As I look around, I see it is, in fact, every-things. Every single thing, large and small, seems to be reaching for something. The plants growing up from the Earth. The flower blooming out of its stem, another bloom growing from its bright red core. The buildings tall and towering up towards the sky. The trees and the branches, all reaching outward and upward, grasping for something I cannot fully know or understand. What are we all reaching for?
I could list 300,000 things that we are all reaching for. But what exactly are we all reaching for? Is it Life? I mean, we know, but maybe we don’t really know why we reach for what we reach for, or maybe we do, but then to what avail? My mind has left the symphony we created, causing a disruption. So instead, I let the question remain rhetorical. I'm running, and I don't have all the answers in this moment, or really, at any moment. Can I just be with the question without needing an answer?
Life will spin us in circles the more we try to understand her, so sometimes, nowadays, I just have to step back from the dizzying anxiety of freedom (as Kierkegaard would more or less say) and let my jaw drop, and gasp, and stand in awe of her before becoming so ill with overwhelm I vomit my avocado toast at her feet. And you know Life, she’ll just wink at you and dance right through your entrails that fell to the cosmic disco stage, and off into the void she'll go. And she'll never even look back.
Life is like that. Life is just like that, is sometimes all I can say. As if I know. As if I know anything at all. I know some, but not much, and I get so dizzy. And then I don't want to be dizzy. But sometimes I just have to let myself be dizzy with how small and mighty I am. With how much power I possess; with how insignificant it is on the scale of the cosmos; with how little Earth time I get with it - and how this makes me feel robbed. But the only one robbing me of anything is myself, because Life is dancing in my stomach, and maybe I ought to join the hokey pokey and turn myself about. Maybe to be dizzy is to be alive, and to be sick is to be alive, and to be happy, and sad, and regretful, and in awe, and brilliant... and maybe to be alive is, well, just to be alive in all of its messy, chaotic forms.
“Run, run, runnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn,” the lyrics chime back in. And I am running, and Thom Yorke is singing his own guts out, which are singing to mine, and I am not alone, and yet I am all alone. I break free, I surrender, I let myself not know. I let myself be okay with not knowing. Not much, maybe not anything. There is nothing to reach for, there is nothing to strive for, I’ve done it. I did it. I am doing it. I exist. The same as the flower that grows, as if from nowhere, out of the cement sidewalk; which I have stopped running for so I could notice and appreciate. Delicate and relentless, standing only a few feet tall, its petals couldn’t weigh more than my eyelashes. They don’t blink. They don’t waver, they don’t quiver or feel remorse over their own tiny existence. And I thank them for bringing tears to my eyes, for soaking my lashes in my own salty sea, and reminding me that to feel shame over one's own being is the worst high you can chase, because it will lead you towards everything that isn’t you in an attempt to destroy yourself.
Is this flower as destroyed as I am, as I once was, as I can be again? I want to ask the flower how did you get here? How did something so tiny and pristine come out of solid cement? What gave you the strength for such a task? But the flower doesn’t know, all it can say is, the same thing that allowed you to do the same. The flower doesn’t know anymore than I do. Together we know about the same, not much. And together we exist in a world that exists for no reason we can tell. And maybe that’s enough to belong, to be, to become, to un-become. We all live and we will all die. But not forever, just over and over. We, as components of Life, will always find the cracks that allow us to come into being. It’s nothing personal or special. It’s just what we are: A life. Alive. For now.