Monday, June 29, 2015

The summer of our discontent

June has been an interesting month in this world of ours, to say the least, and yet I’ve struggled to come up with a good subject for a new blog post. I’ve focused my blog largely on running because it’s something I feel comfortable writing about, whereas the Big Subjects of the world tend to leave me flailing. A poet friend once told me that big things made her “want to die,” which was why she favored poems that celebrated smallness and tranquility. She showed me one of her favorites, in which slices of lemon are compared to wagon wheels. It was rather lovely, but I still wouldn’t say I quite have the same general feelings she does; smallness and tranquility in poems can sometimes veer too far into preciousness for my taste, and it isn’t the big things in life that make me want to die so much as the really, really annoying things. I want to garrote myself whenever I get embroiled in a pointless facebook debate—which is every facebook debate—but that still wouldn’t give me much of a blog post.

June, oddly, has been a reminder to me of human mortality. The pet phrase that tends to follow such a statement is “the fragility of life,” but the funny thing is life does not often seem fragile in June. It seems fightin’ mad, thrusting claw-like weeds out of cracks in sidewalks to climb out of the earth and battle the storms. The air itself is alive, choked with legs and wings and bodies in motion. Makes the running challenging, to say the least, when you lose as much fluids spitting out bugs as sweating.

Even in the ICU of the hospital, where I went to visit a friend this month, life does not necessarily seem fragile. You hear a lot of sounds in the hospital. You don’t want to know what they mean. You hear what could be sobbing or shouting, which could simply be someone speaking too loudly on a cellphone or could be something else, wonderful or terrible, too close to call. It’s loud, in any case. You hear a man throwing up for what seems like hours, though it was probably only 20 minutes, but then 20 continuous minutes of throwing up is a ghastly long time. You hear violent human noise everywhere because life really wants to keep living and it damn well isn’t going down without a really raucous fight.

I also went to the visitation of a friend’s father, recently deceased after battling pancreatic cancer. I admit I was initially a little freaked out about the prospect of seeing the open casket, but once there, it was strangely a non-issue. Death isn’t just quiet and still; it’s simply nothing at all like life. There is no mistaking dead for anything else; it almost doesn’t seem possible to think of what’s in that coffin as something that used to be alive. It’s like looking at a chair and imagining it once was alive. No, it never was; that’s impossible and ridiculous. It isn’t scary so much as unfathomable.

I guess this is the point where I’m supposed to encourage us all to get out and live life to the fullest, except of course there’s no way in hell I’m going to do that and you know it, given that you’re probably familiar with my disdain for bland aphorisms. Besides, I do not think “living life to the fullest” means going out and doing crazy shit all the time. Life can be small and tranquil and calm and still be full to bursting. For all that I’ve pushed to go faster and farther in my running, the thing I enjoy the most is that moment when the run feels really, really good, regardless of how fast or slow I’m going, how short or far the distance. Thing is, I don’t always get that moment. I’ve had some runs that felt lousy the whole way, and the next time I get ready to run I wonder, is it going to be one of those times again? You just never know which it will be, but you’re still alive, so you get moving and find out.

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