Archive for April, 2010

lightnesses and contradictions

It’s all Samantha’s fault — she convinced me to try C25K (Couch to 5K) and I did and I liked it. In a sort of S&M way. (The idea behind C25K, if you don’t know already, is that you download this little app on your iPhone and then it guides you through progressively more difficult workouts, alternating walking with running in a growing ratio so that after several weeks you could, theoretically, run 5K no probs.)

I’ve never been a runner. I always get a stitch in my side, the same place, every time. Various people at various times have attempted to convince me it’s just a question of mind over matter, that everyone gets a stitch, “just run through it” which I have given an honest go at yet never actually succeeded. More like it runs through me.

But the regular intervals of walking in this C25K business intrigued me. And warmer weather doth approacheth, and I would like to wear all those summer capris and tank tops stowed away in the attic without my flesh squeezing out the tops and bottoms of every fabric opening. Ok, I’d like to just be able to put them on.

Anyway, I thought to myself, it’s just a couple of bucks for the app, it’s not a monthly gym membership plus cancellation fees if/when I bail, so even if I don’t like it, no harm no foul. And so this morning I got the app, loaded it up with what seemed like a suitably energetic playlist, and, swallowing my pride, set off through the neighborhood.

First impressions:

  • I need running shoes. These things look vaguely sporty, but there is no cushion and with every jarring step I either crack my foot bones or the pavement. Or both.
  • I got a pace car! It was a bumble bee. Seriously, for like a whole block.
  • Every time the little chime sounded, I expected someone to hand me a glass of champagne and make a toast. The command RUN was a bit of a disappointment in this context.
  • I thought I Know What I Know from Graceland would be a great bouncy running song, but my reaction was more like UP YOURS PAUL SIMON, YOU SMUG SELF-SATISFIED PRICK. What? Gasping and jiggling my fats in front of my neighbors makes me a little defensive, ok?
  • For the first half, the thing seemed totally doable. But then the stitch appeared, and it didn’t go away even during the walking part, and so the running parts became sheer agony. I made myself do it, but my jog was so slow and my feet were dragging like I was trying to slough my soles off on the sidewalk, and I was breathing in through my nose and out through pursed lips like you’re supposed to (because it makes you sound like a teapot? why?) and I was clutching my side because it seemed just a little better if I pressed it in so my spleen didn’t bounce around so much.
  • All the dragging and pressing and whistling and lurching garnered me some concerned glances. I wondered if people thought I’d been stabbed, the way I was clutching my side. If I’d had any breath to spare I would have gasped “Out, out, brief candle” just for laffs.
  • I need some kind of high-tech shirt that can hold my housekey and iPhone, and that will be warm enough when I start out but that I won’t overheat in when I’ve worked up a sweat.
  • I need music suggestions. Please! Here’s my playlist so far :

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high up an awful staircase

So here’s the thing. Most minutes of most days I am fine, doing what needs to be done, thinking the random electrical pulses that cross the average hominid’s synapses in the usual way, and everything goes along as it ought. But, here and there, a moment sort of sparks, a little catch in time, like when you stumble briefly or catch yourself falling asleep, where this… this abyss yawns up at me and I am Aware.

They say the universe is infinite and if I don’t think about it too hard I am perfectly content to believe it thus. But in these little catches, I perceive a finite edge to things, and it is even worse than the idea of endlessness. Life ends. Time ends. Somewhere in the farthest reaches there are no longer stars, and the margins of darkness that surround are inarguable and absolute.

I’m not having an existential crisis, as mentioned above I mainly manage to go about my business without getting sidetracked by chasms or edges or a Hubble-like stare into the theoretical beyond. But when I am reminded of my grandmother, and her ninety-three years of a life lived earnestly and well in contrast to the vaguely familiar husk now residing underground, with its view of fields and mountains and the sound of rustling leaves and plastic flowers for eternal, absurd accompaniment, then the specter of the Finite rears its sharp head and I am, momentarily, stalled.

What this mutinous certitude does interfere with, however, is my desire to believe, if not in a supreme deity, then in a collective consciousness whose interest compounds with every departed soul, a sort of snowball of meaning that, following its natural trajectory, at some final point reveals to all contained within the purpose of the entire journey.

I want to believe, and even sometimes indulge in the tools of the trade. I pray the words I learned as a child and find comfort in their simple drone, I allow certain hymns to bring on tears, I tremble at and honor the craftsmanship of nature, its great and terrible beauty. Yet I cannot, try as I might, reconcile this desire for meaning and redemption with my occasional — but unblinkingly memorable — perception of the truth.

The trick, then, is to never mind the view, but to continue on, knowing that one day I simply will not, and to find purpose in the intervening span. To accept that I will never “be with” her again, but that her influence remains in my memory and informs my actions. To let go of the afterlife, and walk straight toward that blank and final wall anyway. To not just be in the moment, but join the series of moments that lead us all to the end, for it is in that great sweeping tide, the movement and the sway, that we feel most alive. The churning itself is the reward, until on the final shore we will surely be dashed to nothingness.

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