“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” ― Søren Kierkegaard
(Morning view where Liz and Marley like to run…okay, walk usually)
It had to happen. I had to do it.
I’m talking about running. It’s been too long. You know when it’s time? When the earth’s gravitational force suddenly doubles.
You look in the mirror and see the pudge you’ve been avoiding. Tired eyes. A face that could use a lift. An attitude that often hovers between exhaustion and who cares? Shabby clothes accessorized with a heavy dose of apathy.
I was just about to take a nap. After all, I’d earned it. Moments earlier I had daftly slid dinner out of a box and into the oven and had just plopped onto the couch after another repetitious day of exhaustion battling the minute by minute necessary chores and emergencies called life. You know what I’m talking about. You have those days too.
But instead, a rare divine moment of alchemy overtake me. That inner whisper that says, “GET UP (you sloth)!” That and the soft sadness of my dog’s whimpering. Oh, the not-so-subtle guilt of my lab’s droopy eyes and hopeful but pouty mouth.
Fine then! I exerted a small amount of supernatural strength and laced up my running shoes. These suck. They hurt my feet and need replacing. Anyway.
Grab the poopy bags. In my case, it’s a minimum of a dozen; running with labs requires a bit of extra preparation. Collar. Leash. Quick sips of water. Tunes. Keys. Lock door. Check. Slam door. Go!
Put something on with 4/4 beat and start pounding. It hurts. I don’t seem to have a regular rhythm or routine to running these days. It was the 2nd time in a week, but also in about six months as well.
So consistency is not my strong suit. What can I say? Keep going Liz I tell myself.
A few houses later I drift past my neighbor’s house. Her daughter will marry this weekend. Bless them I think. So busy I bet. Time to keep going. A few seconds later I float past another neighbor’s home with two dogs who speak in the language that only dogs know. They announce loudly, “HEY! IT’S MARLEY AND LIZ! DOES ANYONE IN THE HOUSE HEAR ME? IT’S MARLEY AND LIZ!” I’m tempted to stop and go pet them. Better not. That’d be the end of tonight’s workout.
Huffing and puffing, I make it to the end of block one. YES! The next ten houses is straight down hill. I’m cruising to a little John Reuben singing Bobble Head.
“Let me see your neck neck bobbing with the vertical fist. You put the two together and it goes like this.”
Christian rap. It’s the only kind I can tolerate. I feel kind of like a bada** listening to it. When I was running, I knew I would have to write about it later. I knew right then and there I would at some point use the substitute word bada** because I don’t have the literary courage to say well…you know the real word.
I’ve now gone straight down the vertical hill bobbing with my horizontal fist pulling my dog who also doubles as my resistance trainer. Ok, now I’m getting into it a tiny bit. Just keep going I tell myself. Like the wise Clownfish sage Dory who is forever embedded into our collective subconscience with her exuberant message:
Just Keep Swimming
Because that’s what I’m doing, metaphorically speaking. I’m swimming against the tides of life most days it seems.
Technology that overwhelms us with it’s incessant “reply ASAP” feeling. Or more frustratingly frequent: websites that give me the FREEZE OUT. Passwords that I know by heart suddenly don’t work. Pages don’t load. Email I don’t have time for or read. People I should but don’t reply to. News doesn’t ring true. Trolls say mean things. Things disappear. And then fall apart. Yeah, and that’s just my digital life.
So I keep going. Running. I’m playing a mental game I played in my early twenties when my first son had incredible colic. I used to run with a Walkman CD player on my hand like a pizza delivery man so it wouldn’t skip.
I’d run away. I’d run away from the noise.
I’d run from the responsibilities I didn’t think I could handle for one more day.
I’d run far, far away from the stress and go to the imaginary place in my head where everything is copacetic and cool. In this place in my head, people agree and life isn’t determined by income, time constraints, or other people’s desires. In fact there aren’t even voices, just faces. And music. And animals. And just this peacefulness. I admit, it’s kind of a selfish utopia. And though I always knew it didn’t really exist, it always felt so good to be running towards it, striving, endlessly striving to find it.
I’m about ¾ of a mile now. Not that far, but I’ve already thought more thoughts then steps travelled. This much I know is true.
I’m running away again. I’m running away from Hillary. I’m running away from Donald. I’m running away from ALL THAT because I’m so tired of hearing about it, thinking about it, and in shreds as what to do about it.
I run thinking if I just run far enough and hard enough I might possibly be able to run out of this spare tire that is causing serious bladder inconvenience. I mean really. You throw a tire on a water balloon and see which object survives.
I’m running away from my bullet-point two-page To Do List that I still haven’t gotten through from Monday. I’m running from all the responsibilities and future things I don’t know if I can handle. I’m trying not to run while amoritizing the remainder of my mortgage while simultaneously figuring out our emergency equity thanks to rising home values. Still, worry thoughts creep in. I shoo these thoughts away with my hand while flying down hill again. My dog is so lucky. He thinks of none of this. He just breathes the cool air and keeps running.
A weird thing happens next. As I literally swat away my pesky thoughts, a small missile hits me in the forehead. At least that’s what it feels like. It’s a bug; who knows what kind? Clearly an armor-shelled kind like a beetle or something. I silently thank God for not allowing him to fly into my open mouth. That would’ve scarred me for life.
Still stepping out. Next stop. A teenage girl is melded into her boyfriend against a car under the street light in an intimate embrace. Oh yeah. I remember. I was young once. Slow down sweetheart I think. It only gets harder from here. Then harder still. Enjoy. Don’t rush. You’ll be grown sooner than you think.
Soon, I’m by the house that always dries their clothes at night. My goodness! They use the best dryer sheets! It pours out of their dryer vent and perfumes at least three yards. It smells so clean and pure. At this moment I’m listening to U2’s “Lady With The Spinning Head” at top volume, an absolute running favorite of mine. I smell this and close my eyes and suddenly I’m six years old again. I’m running through sheets in a clothes line in a little dress with my wavy hair blowing and shoeless feet. I’m not really here I imagine. We are all just whispers in someone else’s dream. I’m breathing better. I feel the rope of anxiety releasing a bit from my neck. It’s all going to be okay I think. At least I hope it will be.
It’s totally dark now. I always run at night since my first free moment from responsibility rarely falls before sunset. Anyway, I hit a dark patch for a while, and then I find myself under a tree arched over the sidewalk. A man with a jet black dog has suddenly appeared. I yank out my earphones as I realize he’s been talking to me for a while. I catch the end of his sentence: “We’ve been waiting for a while for you.”
I’m not alarmed. It’s not the way it sounds, but I had to quickly transition from the music-lined utopia in my head to absorb and comprehend what he meant. Then I got it. His dog was as excited to meet my dog and I, as much as my dog was jazzed about meeting the two of them.
Anytime I come to a complete HALT after running hard, I sort of feel like my heart might explode, but mostly I was trying to just be cool as I didn’t want this neighbor I’ve not met yet to have to call 911 and deal with two rambunctious dogs.
We chat and laugh a bit over the crazy antics of excited dogs. Now I’m glad it’s nearly pitch dark. Like I said earlier, spare tire issues are seriously annoying me here! I need to get home to make the round-the-block bathroom trip again.
Home again and quick pit stop then it’s out the door to make another neighborhood orbit. It’s easier this time. Every house left behind is another step towards victory, another step in the right direction. I’m about to complete my second lap. I’m looking down focused on breathing mesmerized by my tall shadows under the streetlights. I’m skinnier when I’m fifteen feet tall. I like it like this and…..
JESUS! I look up. Just standing there is a skeleton in a hoodie with a scythe in his hand. Seriously, I said JESUS when I saw this because that is the quickest best prayer you can ever pray when you have your wits scared out of you.
It was only a few feet from the sidewalk. Out of the corner of one eye, I saw a glimpse of something as I was chasing after my own shadow. So I looked up. As I approached the darkened house with porch lights turned off, the dark shadowy figure seemed to come out of nowhere. Don’t panic! It’s just a skelly with a scythe–but it’s not real! The not real part took a nanosecond or two to click in. It was just a life-size Halloween decoration a few feet away from their front porch..a few days early.
See, Liz? I told you it was a good idea that you learn to run faster. Besides it was just a decoration. I did a double take. It hadn’t moved…. yet. But we live in a weird world these days. I double checked with my dog. He wasn’t alarmed. He was still pacing himself one dog’s length ahead of me, so it must be okay.
Life and death. Love and loss. Alone, yet not. Cool breeze mixed with hot sweat. Fear and hope and faith. Reality and dreamland. Our only true constant we navigate by is change. Time passed and time still to go. Miles still to run and words still to write, I press on. Ever onward.