She and I have spent the past few years talking about the middle ground in life, the space between extreme pleasure and extreme pain that the majority of the world lives in. She understands that for me to feel anything at all my emotions have to redline, and that the minutiae of daily life bores me so greatly that I would rather feel incredible discomfort than feel nothing at all. It's why I drift off in the middle of conversations about peoples food shopping or the yard work they did over the weekend, why I lose interest at work when things become too routine, why casual acquaintances seem superficial and useless. None of those things even register on my pleasure/pain scale. She and I both know that a life like this is unsustainable and will always have the potential to unravel quickly and with horrible results, so she's recommended that I practice mindfullness. I know what she means, I understand the concept of being in the moment but my thought patterns are the equivalent of a car scraping down a guardrail. To keep focused on one thought, one emotion, for even 30 seconds, is a Herculean task. I know I have to have moments where I let the detritus of the past and expectations of the future fall away, but most times it seems as far beyond my reach as trying to hold the moon in my hands.
Yesterday it was 60 degrees out and sunny. I cranked through my work so that I could head into the woods for an hour or so. Looking dapper in my new Salomon short sleeve and Drymax socks (courtesy of my friend Stacy at Wilderness Running Company. Did you get my email?) I headed out of the parking lot and into my Temple. I tried to practice some of what she and I talked about on Wednesday; I listened to my breathing, felt the rocks and soft earth beneath my feet, but the more I tried to think about nothing the more I thought about thinking about nothing. At some point I gave up and just let S. into my head, thought about thru-hiking the Appalachian trail, about doing some runs with a tent and sleeping bag to escape for a few days, thought about S. some more, and also let myself enjoy running on soft, dry trails for the first time in over a year. It didn't feel at all like failure.
This morning I ran the same loop after work. I tried once again to quiet the chatter, to focus on nothing but my breathing and the next footstep, but had little success. I believe part of the reason that I have such a difficult time being in the moment is because of something I mentioned in my last post. I use my time out there to sift through all of the insane thoughts and feelings I've stored up for the week. They run through my mind in a dizzying stream of conscience until I've exhausted them. The best part of thinking about these things while I'm running is that I don't have the ability to make sense of them and remain upright at the same time. I suppose when I start running long again I'll be able to quiet my mind and practice some of the mindfullness techniques I've learned over the years, but for now I'll just let my thoughts spill like mercury across a marble floor and be satisfied with that. This doesn't feel at all like failure.
The above photo is of me tempting the gods of thunder and lightning. You might be able to make out the metal baton I'm holding skyward, but what you can't see is the massive lightning storm racing across the Hudson in my direction. The gods blinked first.
"And I'll burn, like a roman fucking candle
Burn, like a chasm in the night
Burn, for a miniscule duration
Ecstatic immolation, incorrigible delight."
Bad Religion-Turn On The Light