Sunday, March 11, 2012


"In the middle of life it happens that death comes and measures man.  The visit is forgotten and life continues, but the suit is made, quietly" Tomas Transtromer.

Nothing should mean this much, not S., not running, nothing. Nothing should mean this much because sometimes the hinge gives way and the bottom has no bottom. I haven't taken a shower in three days, haven't changed my clothes since I left work Friday afternoon. I've left the house twice since then, both times for work. I worked 6:30 to 10:30 am yesterday and today, completely alone, the quiet hum of ventilation echoing down the bare walls of the hospital. I craved my bed and closed shades the way a junkie craves dope, and I was thankful that AMC has put season 1 of The Killing on Video On Demand. It offers 11 hours of solace. There are lessons to be learned on weekends like this, some less pleasant than others. If there is one lesson S. taught me, though, is that nothing lasts, nothing survives the barely visible fractures that this life inflicts upon us. Not relationships, not the flesh and bone that give shape to our bodies; nothing survives this life. So what's behind this spiral? How does the armor so quickly get stripped away? There is always, of course, the haunting, the bleach of our lives spilled into standing water. When I slow down, the haunting speeds up. Other than the haunting, it is a matter of anatomy and physiology, of a fucked up left foot that has left me running less than 20 miles in the last few weeks. The one thing that makes me feel so fucking alive is gone for now, and it's amazing how quickly the lie of invincibility comes undone. Nothing should matter this much.

 There are obvious reasons why running long distances makes me feel indomitable; the Endorphins, the pain as pleasure principle, the punk rock streak in me that says "I ran in the woods for 8 hours this weekend, what the fuck did you do?". These are all what we call in medicine incidental findings. They're not what I was looking for in the woods, but I stumbled upon them anyway. So what is it that I crave like a junkie? I found the answer while reading an article that ultramarathon runner Anton Krupicka wrote for Running Times magazine. He tried to find a way to answer the question "what do you think about when you're out there for so many hours?" and what he came up with was so simple and yet so profound. He said he didn't think, he listened. That simple statement explained to me so elegantly why I attempt to amass so many hours and miles alone in the woods every weekend. It is a time to let me listen through the chaos of my psyche, to shutter away the outside world and just breathe. It's a time for me to listen rather than speak, to give voice to what scares me, what makes me happy, what makes me so fucking sad sometimes, and allows me to heal from the pedestrian disappointments and sorrows of life as well as from the traumas of a life poorly lived. What's amazing is that the thoughts can't be corralled, can't be sorted or prioritized. When I stand in their way they reroute, like a river around a fallen tree. All I can do is let it flow, and it does. Sometimes sorting through the trash heap in my head takes a few minutes, sometimes a few hours, and other times the run ends before the excavating does. No matter the time it takes, it's a way to bring some sense of order to the chaos, to safely wrap and file away the wounds for another week, and on those transcendent days when I'm able to run for even a few minutes with a clear mind, it's the closest I'll ever come to finding god. Nothing should mean this much.

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