Tag Archives: California

How I became a runner and other meditative ramblings…

Running is the last thing I want to do today. My calves are loaded with petulant resistance, and the ache of 2,000 inexplicable miles ran in the past year and a half.
But, I push off like I always do, and it’s still a slight surprise every time. My feet drum down on a path that always seems to both elude and gratify me. The pace is arrhythmic and the strides are awkward. My torso shifts around on top of squat legs. No. My body is not like those lean Olympians in Runner’s World. My body is a Jenga tower, lopsided in action and eternally poised to topple.
But, the inertia of movement helps me to forget my apparent absurdity. On the 101, runners ribbed with muscle sprint ahead. Ponytails flick and tick past me like minute hands that clock a sometimes mediocre pace. The voice in my head says, “You’re not running fast enough,” or, worse, “You’re not good enough.”
But, I push on.
And, this is the single greatest thing I’ve discovered about myself as a runner: I push on. Past the literal pain of shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, and the sore calf muscles. And, also, past the painful abstractions: the self-doubt, the anger, and the depression.

The Beginning

I became a runner two winters ago in Catonsville, Maryland. At the time, I was unhealthy on several floors of myself. If the house of a “self” is constructed of mind, body and soul, all three floors were suffering the wear of time and poor choices.
My body was flabby, and I generally preferred not to think about it. Instead of acknowledging my dire need for major life changes, I routinely scarfed down Taco Bell enchiladas and Wendy’s cheeseburgers with my stoner ex-boyfriend.
I also had an appetite for a variety of illicit substances. Heroin ritually crawled through my blood veins. When I couldn’t have heroin, coke sufficed. Junkfood and opiates medicated my sadness. Heroin may not have cured my depression, but it did help me float off and away from the reality of it.

My scatterbrained psychiatrist at the time prescribed Xanax and Viibryd to treat my depression. When I came up on Viibryd, my legs flailed and flounced restlessly for hours at night. My brain felt like taut guitar strings (strung too tight) that were plucked painfully, and repeatedly. It took several weeks to adapt to the 40mg dosage, and once I had, I didn’t necessarily feel happy. Just wired. Jittery. Like so many bored, self-indulgent Americans, popping a pill in a dark room lit only by a television screen was much easier than attempting to discern the root of my sadness.

My relationship, like other facets of my life, was a tepid affair. It was comfortable, and altogether uninspired. My boyfriend was complacent and content to cohabitate forever in our attic of long-expired passion. Although, I wonder if it was ever even there? He wiled away the hours playing Wii U in a cloud of ever-present marijuana smoke. My resentment grew daily, but I never left. I was afraid. Of what?
But, if anyone was going to reach deep down into their deflated soul, and discover some sort of salvation, it was going to have to be me. I hadn’t realized all of this yet. And, as a sidenote to anyone reading, it’s delusory to think that you can manufacture or force love. True love may take courage, but it is organic. Love is effortless. Love, if it’s truly there, will perpetuate in its perfection long after you perish —with the right person.
“Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! It is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;”

Bottomline: You cannot TRY to love someone. You either love them of you don’t.

One Fateful Morning

One morning of “no particular consequence,” I went for my first run. I can’t explain why it happened other than to reason that I’d probably reached breaking point. After all, I’d slept for 14 hours the previous night, half of which was heroin induced. I was sick of my lethargic indifference, and incapable of watching myself slowly die (although my boyfriend seemed unfazed by this fate). He dozed on the beige sheets of our bed in a stained undershirt and boxers, also dreaming the dragon dreams of too much heroin.

I craved the organic – something that didn’t come in a neon green dime bag. I longed for trees and flowers and deeply-felt life.
So, I ran.
I ran for approximately 1.5 miles with split times of 16 minutes. Each stride left me panting in agony. The next day I ran 1.38 miles. The next, 3.86.
But, there was something coming to fruition inside of me beyond the reached threshold of my physical pain. In the beginning, running was like unearthing an old trunk of childhood toys in my parents’ attic. It was a flashback to July evenings, the sun still alive and drizzling its honey over the stained glass sky at 8:30 pm. The fireflies were alight on the evening breeze and drifting over my sweaty body. I remembered feeling both electric and exhausted after a day spent romping through backyards and wading through Columbia creeks.

After taking such a lengthy hiatus from exercise, the experience of running was like greeting an old friend. It was a reunion and reassembly of the scattered parts of myself. For over a decade, I’d done my best to cover the bulges and curves of my body. But, running was an act of reacquainting and wedding myself to my body’s capabilities.
At the suggestion of a friend, I fueled my runs with fresh vegetable juices and plant-based meals. Retiring the junkfood diet purged my body, and uncluttered my mind. As I ran, I harnessed a sort of clarity. Running and eating properly allowed me to squarely assess my life, and the changes I needed to make if I was ever going to be happy.
I stopped doing heroin, too, which was surprisingly easy despite its notoriously addictive reputation. Once I became a runner, heroin made me sick. I didn’t derive the same lukewarm numbness anymore. It made me reel and vomit. My body rejected the artificial high of heroin in favor of natural endorphins. This, of course, is only one more example of how running saved my life.

I didn’t know it at the time, and the events that would later transpire, in consequence, were entirely unanticipated. But, I suppose when I began to run, I changed. As I transformed, the gap between the life I was living and the life I hoped to live became bridgeable.

Shortly therafter, I met the love of my life. I think that I met him because I was finally ready to meet him. Running literally and figuratively trimmed the excess and the excuses. It filled me with confidence, and demonstrated to me my own remarkable resilience and strength. It was then that I let go of the empty relationship I’d clung to for security with my ex-boyfriend, and gleefully pursued my explosive passion for the incredibly brilliant, and handsome man who is now my fiancé (! Happiest girl in the whole damn world !). To quote Joseph Campbell, I “followed my bliss,” and I haven’t looked back since (unless you count this blog). My fiancé and I now both live (and run) in Southern California.

Running has come to represent freedom to me. I live for Sausalito mornings where the dirt path winds unending behind the emerald California hillsides. Like a yellow brick road, off into Oz. I live for the gold plated clouds as the Carlsbad sun sinks into the depths of ocean with my sneaker prints in the sand. I live to run past the city fairs and docked boats of Santa Barbara, and past the enchanted, seaside cottages of Carmel. I live for the feeling that I am exactly where I always wanted, hoped and dreamed I would be… Mind, body and soul.

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“If You’re Going to San Francisco…

be sure to wear some flowers in your hair…”

Life is exceptionally good right now. In fact, my quality of life is downright enviable. Just to rub it in (in case I haven’t adequately done that yet), I’m writing this blog from the deck of my apartment in Carlsbad, California, okay? The sun is resplendent and my skin is glittering with this beautiful, bronze sheen I haven’t had since I was a kid. I’m living out the kind of perfection that others spend their whole lives dreaming about, before dying without. But, what I’ve (miraculously) stumbled into is more than just the financial means to live in paradise for the coming year. My luck incurred a superior fortune because what I’ve found is not money. And, it can never be depleted. 

I won the life lottery.

Suffice it to say, this fortune was entirely unexpected, which is part of its wild beauty. It has also been quite secretive because there are (unfortunately) several people who would love to stomp out this beautiful fire. I don’t much enjoy the secrecy, but I think when life proffers some new, delicate bud, it’s your duty to nurture it and shelter it from harm (as mentioned in my first blog). This time in my life has opened my eyes to truths about myself that I somehow missed for the past 25 years. Opening my eyes has been involuntary though. Love unhinged each lid, and I exist in this divine daze. I bicycle around Carlsbad, and inhale the aroma of so many beautiful indigo and magenta flowers. Pigments explode, foods have never tasted better, and I don’t even recognize my reflection anymore. I’m a different person. After years of depression and darkness, it’s like I staggered, by accident, into the light. Into love– and, with a scientist of all people.

Falling in love with a scientist would be utter, artistic masochism were we not (and I don’t say this crap lightly) some cosmically ordained coupling. Fortunately, I’ve a penchant for light masochism, and so, as he put, we are this great “cosmic confluence.” His love is a steady mirror that elucidates all that I was missing before. He gives me everything I need to live and love my life completely. I hope I give that to him, too. And so, we share this perfect, untouchable love. With the lure of logical brilliance and calm, he calls me out of my poppy fields of poetic desire . With Hirsch funnels and Erlenmeyer flasks? It’s silly, I know. But, I think I shake and rattle him out of the rigidity of a black and white life. Together, we share the most profound love of the Pacific Ocean. Even if he is calculating the time between waves, and I’m devising metaphors for “the ebb and flow of my life,” we’re both adrift in our inextinguishable passion.

He undoes me.

I incite earthquakes of mass destruction, and he stands still. I fall back from all of that chaos. Right into him.

 

The Sandman and His Fickle Affections

Sleep is a mercurial lover who visits at his leisure. He seduces me in the dark of my empty bedroom. He plucks at my guitar body with calloused fingers, and plays me till he tires. The light comes in, and he’s gone. I’m worn, and out of tune with the sun and the moon.

The sloshy light of Baltimore plods out of the darkness. No sunshine again today, just a milky sky, and a clouded state of mind. Naturally, I’m battling a virus that has admirable tenacity. But: Mind. Body. Soul. I have to believe the three will all coalesce, eventually. I will not break. I cannot unravel when the future rides on my strength.

Ecstasy and sleep-deprivation apparently go hand in hand. While I am ecstatic to move to San Diego in a few short weeks, I also feel like I’m free-falling in delirium off of some great precipice. The kind of rapture I’m after doesn’t come by staying still or asleep. It comes by lunging off a California cliff, and praying the parachute deploys. I hope my definition of “ecstasy” changes as I transition into my new life in San Diego.

Since breaking up with my ex, the skeletal structure that gave form to my life disintegrated. The ribcage of our relationship snapped as he tried to resuscitate a passion that died years ago. He’s still there, hunkered over those bones, plunging the cracked sternum into the dirt. Suffice it to say, up until now I’ve kept little conscience in my life. Thus, the importance of sticking to a writing schedule, and an exercise regimen was never of greater consequence lest even those cardboard walls falter. 

What then? What is “letting go?” I’m learning. I’m falling in love even… But, more on that to come.

Last night i didn’t get back from the Route 40 laundromat until 1:30 AM. Who cares, though? Nobody. It’s beautiful. I drifted through the mostly empty Sudsville aisles, making eye contact with the occasional squint-eyed man in corner chairs. When it’s 1 AM at the laundromat, there’s a peculiar exchange that takes place between two souls. You share an implicit understanding, a hope, that life won’t always be this way. 

Chasing Literary Dreams to San Diego and the Metamorphosis

I spent the day boxing up the Victorian attic apartment I’ve inhabited for over a year with my now ex-boyfriend in Catonsville, Maryland. The prospect of moving to the west coast in only a month, especially because I’m doing it alone, should probably fill me with more trepidation than it does at the moment. It hasn’t all set in yet to be fair. But, my mind is consumed by the lure of an unplanned, emancipated future in San Diego. It’s all very Kerouac. The dream is sugar sweet, the air is salty, and the palm trees will explode like Fourth of July fireworks when my plane strikes down in LAX. Random House will solicit me for a book deal as soon as I set foot in the airport. Obviously. Every rip of tape along the U-Haul box tops, and every discarded relic from my former life is one step closer to California. A mountain of garbage bags now swallow the time and the life I had here.

It’s hard to say good-bye.

It took twenty-five years for desire to burn to the surface of my life. I unknowingly bottled it up. I bartered my freedom by catering to the guilt-inducing expectations of my Mother. And, no, I don’t fancy her some malevolent Disney villain who kills Dalmatians. Like most people, she is the product of her own fucked-up childhood. And, like most people, she is not beyond redemption either. I was fortunate enough to finally see my own imprisonment with some lucidity (more on how this happened in upcoming blogs). It’s now my MO to:

1) live my life without feeling entrapped and 2) to resist a selfish, innate compulsion to marginalize the lives of loved ones by demanding they stay close. Love on the top shelf is unconditional and selfless.

As of today, my life is full of infinite possibility. The swirling entropy of freedom is mine, heavy with oceanic sighs and a harrowing leap into sprawling oblivion. I’m trying to maintain a steady, snare drum breath as I pack up the shambles of my life in Maryland. I’m trying to keep the universe from knocking me over and engulfing me all at once. It is pivotal to fight an inborn tendency to desperately grasp at stability for a cheaper life, as I free-fall. But, I’ve got this feeling that if I just let myself go, I may find something unfathomably superior to any convenient anchor.

I’ve severed ties with both my Mother and men in recent weeks, which is the last thing I ever wanted to do to pursue a meaningful life. A worthwhile quest is not without its sacrifices.  However, knowing and doing exist on separate planes. It is one thing to enjoy Lord of the Rings, but it is another thing to be Frodo, and to wander away from the Shire into the great unknown, fraught with peril and intrigue. But, what kind of writer would I be if I stayed stuck and afraid?

One man I’ve split ways with in the last day is particularly troubling. We’ll call him “Jacob.” Jacob is the only man who has ever wielded any sexual sway over me, and no, he was not my boyfriend. Of course, he wasn’t my boyfriend (she says with a dismissive air of nonchalance). That would make sense, which my life seldom does! In my experience, most men my age are either emotionally, sexually or intellectually incompetent, which (sadly) makes them easy to control.

I’ve acknowledged by now that this insight into men my age prevents me from giving myself completely to them. I’ve never given myself completely in my life. I’ve always disavowed emotional vulnerability as a rule, probably because I’m my Mother’s daughter, and I learned to safeguard myself from being hurt at an early age… at the expense of truly living. A heavy price.

Being attuned to the primal (sadly anti-feminist) cries of my libido, Jacob doggedly buoyed along the tips of the tides of my life for years. Waiting, always, for the day I cave. Since he is the only man I’ve ever felt both sexually and intellectually susceptible to (they work in tandem in my life), I’ve long indulged the possibility that I could be his lover.

But, with his sexual dominance comes the most insufferable hubris. He would call it blunt candor, but this “candor” is ensconced in scathing condescension that bruises my late-blooming confidence. Confidence is already a delicate bud in my life that I’ve fiercely protected from drought and nourished independently. Even if our connection were to permit an existential liberation, I simply cannot allow his boots to trammel on my fucking, precious flowerbed. Too many artists’ voices were silenced this way, and so, he is one more sacrifice I made for myself, and for you, my reader. My art always come first.