I’m reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Knowing that I would love Diaz’s words (a few paragraphs in, you generally know), I took a pen along with me on my coffee shop/me time/ novel reading outing today. I was glum. If someone came up to me and said “hey!” I’d probably just say “hi.” That’s glum. That’s a no good funk.
Squeezed between two strangers on a picnic-table style bench, I hunched over my novel, attempting to embark on a journey of pleasure reading. Every few minutes I checked my phone. Slid my glasses up the bridge of my nose. Bent down, squinted at a spanish word. Pushed my glasses back up. Glum.
Two days ago I ran a half marathon. Six miles in I started to cry. I wasn’t in pain and I didn’t feel defeated. I felt glorious. I am fucking DOING this. This is going to happen. After spouts of shin splints, days of self-doubt, and Friday night second thoughts (spawned by the sight of all those runners at the packet pick-up: the fancy shoes! the compression leggings! the viking braids!)–I really didn’t know if I could run 13.1 miles. But I did. After the first two miles I found my pace–9:03 per mile. Not fast. But after about a month of averaging 9:40 per mile, I felt like I was really kicking it. I kept that pace ’til the finish line. I hugged my sister. “Imma cry!” she exclaimed. I laughed and smiled and basked in what I had just done.
And now I’m here, crouched on this bench. My back hurts and I keep looking around to see if a table opens up. It’s one of those coffee shops (yes, coffee shop, specifically–and if you’ve frequented enough you know what I’m talking about) that has huge storefront windows that let in all that sun. And white curtains act like they’re shielding anything, when in fact they are shielding nothing. And it’s hot as hell. And there’s nothing good on my phone. But I was here to read, anyway, right? To knock myself free of this funk? To dive into a world and come out refreshed, lucky to have known the characters within?
It’s pretty easy to understand why I’m in a no good mood. My weekend peaked on Saturday morning. And even then, even in that wondrous moment of strength, I still wondered what I could have done better. Wondered how I could have gone faster. Wondered if I could eat a big brunch, or if I hadn’t run quite enough to deserve that. Terrible, downward spiraling thoughts. This is, of course, the condition of existing, at 22, in the month of January. I accept that, and I will myself through, to the more bearable months of late spring. But, still, isn’t there a way to capture that moment of wonder, and extend it for at least a few more days?
I was about to give up on the “pleasure reading.” My iced coffee (there was something so special about it that it cost $3.50) was almost gone. My stomach was growling. And then I read:
Beli had the inchoate longings of nearly every adolescent escapist, of an entire generation, but I ask you: So fucking what?
Seizing my pen, I underlined the sentence. My shoulders dropped, I sighed, I tucked my phone back into my bag. I settled into the book. I’d found myself. I could continue.
So fucking what? Is the question of the day, and maybe of a few days before and after today. Because that is the source of my gloom and doom. Hand me a successful half marathon? I laugh in disbelief. Offer me a day, shiny and new, and watch me spit in its face. So. fucking. what. I’m still basically lonely, basically sore, basically anxious, basically poor. That rhymes and makes something else: frustrated as hell. I won’t even change it. I’ll wallow in it.
I went to yoga tonight. After a week’s hiatus, I could physically feel the gloominess of my day melt away. My body questioned the wisdom of my seizure of so fucking what. In all of its looseness, my limbs didn’t feel like upholding such a hostile modus operandi.
I got these compression sleeves for my race on Saturday. My good friend suggested them the day before (in response to “half marathon advice?”…she also talked about eating pasta, so overall it was an extremely enriching conversation), and if I wanted to continue being an asshole to myself, I could lament the fact that I hadn’t found them sooner. They help blood flow in your shins and calves. In layman’s terms: they’re miracle workers. They’re crucial to Connelly’s 4 step half-marathon plan:
Step 1. Think you can.
Step 2. Put on compression sleeves.
Step 3: Play Ludacris Pandora, specifically, “You can do it” by Ice Cube.
Step 4. Run.
The sleeves prevent the buildup of lactic acid, said the running store assistant. When I heard that, I almost fainted. Every time my shins start to ache, I just picture cement-y lactic acid being poured all over them. Ow. Ouch. No more of that? I wanted to hug her.
“Set an intention,” said my yoga teacher tonight. I closed my eyes. I was sick of the lactic acid of my glum thoughts. No one wants to drag their cement block of a body half a mile to a coffee shop (I guess that sentence would pack more punch if I hadn’t just made it clear that I could run a bit more than half a mile) in an attempt to shake shitty thoughts. No one deserves to give in to so fucking what. Not even if it feels so relatable. So good.
So, sitting here now, I will repeat my intention: strength. Physical, sure. But really–I’m talking about the strength to get over the woe-is-me of every day life. The strength to say back to my glumness: hey, so fucking what? You don’t feel so good after all. I see happiness and something that looks like wholeness waiting just around the corner. Move, please.
Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking. Doesn’t Diaz have some positive thoughts you can relate to and revel in? Glad you asked.
I felt like I always did at the last seconds of a race, when I was sure that I was going to explode…I was waiting to begin.
Sometimes I feel like I’m going to explode into a million terrible pieces of not-quite-there-yet. And then I close my eyes, take a deep breath, push through the heaviness as best I can. I can go days feeling just okay. Just “hi” (not “hey!”). But I don’t live for days. I live for moments. And in this moment, I intend to extend my strength until it almost explodes into a million wonderful pieces of looks-like-I made-it. Unlike Beli, I am not waiting to begin. I have begun (many, many times). I am beginning right now. I am beginning tomorrow. I am waiting to begin, again.