Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dial 911

Eleven years ago, I was a missionary, tracting out the town of Winston-Salem, NC. It was hot, we were tired, we'd had little luck in the area, and suddenly people came to the door and said, "Don't you know what's going on?"

Throughout the day, we watched way more TV than we ever had as missionaries, and I saw the planes hit the towers over and over. The bigness of it all didn't register.

I suppo
se there were some people who saw Pearl Harbor as just a thing that happened on the way to other things. There was war and trouble in the world, and it got worse. Business as usual. That was me.

I wish I'd been more mindful. Not until the Bush administration decided to lump Iraq in with Afghanistan did the whole business appear like a serious global crisis. It had been hijacked by an old desire to deal with Saddam, oilmongering and just plain overreaching.

By that point I was ensconced in school, and then the minute I finished I had a pregnant wife, and there was grad school to think of, and all I could think was that the whole business stank. The tragedy stank, but so did the unnecessary war piled on top of the other one, and it continued to stink while the deaths mounted.

If I could, I would go back and ask myself what my responsibility to my nation was. It could have been something as simple as more volunteer work, or perhaps something as big as military service. It could have been more active protesting of the war. It could have been more support for the troops. Instead, I lived my life with little thought of it all. I tried to be a good person, have some fun, and raise my family.

Now I see in myself the same flaw I cursed in the Bush administration. The tragedy changed the world, but it didn't change me.

I don't want to post this because, other than some increased political activism, I still haven't changed much. I want to. I hope you do too. Whether it's volunteer work, maybe with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America or the Red Cross, or it's activism to bring the troops home and stop the endless war, or your own military service, we can choose to honor the tragedy in the twenty-teens in a way we didn't in the oughties.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Real Boy At Last

Hello, people. It has been a while.

I've done several types of writing in the last few months, from an ultimately futile attempt to pressure-cook a novel, to a lot of short story revision, to what I did tonight, which was make up three writers who will critique my work. (In case you are wondering, they are named Neville Future, James Darkness, and Sister Mary Wisteria.) (I've given this story out for a lot of critiques. We'll see if made-up writers make more sense. Don't let me down, Neville, James, Sister Mary.)

But I've also done other things. Notably, I recorded with my band Pawnbroker and we have some new tracks up. The full album will be up soon, and I hope you will love it with a thousand loves.

I worked a whole lot, and I gardened, oh how I did garden, which will be the subject of a new post. BUT FIRST...

I've written lately about depression here and elsewhere, and this is important only for the moment insofar that it relates to exercise. Running. Which is our subject today. Cuz I like it.

Why? It's sweaty and painful and hurts and makes you feel every inch of your limitations. So kind of like any creative endeavor, except there's no clunky physical metaphor. You actually are suffering, physically.

(This is why I was never a good Christian. Who needs a savior to suffer for you when you enjoy your own suffering? Let me climb on that cross for a few hours. It'll be good for me.)

I started running in 2007-ish, and have never really stopped. This explains 1) why bears haven't caught me and 2) what I need to do when I'm cranky.

You never really lose the feeling that it's impossible. I don't think that I ever think about running as something I can do. When I'm crossing the street and a car is waiting impatiently, I half-heartedly shamble, my arms dangling and my feet shuffling to the other side. Where I gasp for air. I try to avoid going up the stairs more than a few times a day.

But somehow, every other day I drag myself out for 3.5 miles, and have for five years now. Something weird happens when I get going. I just keep going.

Yesterday I ran the Fairhaven Runners Waterfront 15k. This is an amazing run, and if you have any interest at all in racing you should do it. It's cheap, there's food and massage afterward, it's a pretty decent starting length for a distance runner (9.3 miles) and it's gorgeous. It starts in Fairhaven and goes along the water to the Bellingham Bay and Marina, then back along a trail and boardwalk. The entire run overlooks beautiful Bellingham Bay.

The first time I ran it, my time was relatively lousy for a 9+ race. I made it in about an hour and forty-five minutes, which puts me over the ten-minute miles. I had been training by running a huge hill, but it probably didn't add up to more than 3 miles all told, so I was unprepared for serious distance running.

My second time was in 2010, and I did much better. I pushed and pushed myself to make 1:25. It was my worst run physically and mentally because it was such a push. But I made 1:25. And they gave me this free baby!

Come 2012, I knew I wouldn't do too well. I had run seven miles my practice run the week before in an astonishingly slow hour and forty minutes.

Racing is different than running alone, and I knew that would influence me. I am a competitive person, and I can't help being a little more focused on BEATING THE PANTS OFF all those FOOLS who idle along ON MY STREET. Uh... But as with any performance, training is the racing, etc. Plus, I am mumblemumble twenty pounds heavier than I mumblemumble was in 2010. Carrying around extra weight can really wear you out.

In 2010, all nine miles were pain, worry over my time, and PUSH PUSH PUSH IT'S CROWNING I CAN PRACTICALLY TASTE THE PLACENTA PUSH.

I didn't want to do that again. For one, I am training for the Bellingham Bay Half Marathon, and pushing here could lead to a bad race there. But running works out a lot of spiritual and intellectual shtuff, and I am not in the mood to push myself lately. Notably (this is another blog post, too), I wanted to talk to the muse about the relationship between different creative loves. Last week I resigned (effective November) from Takes All Kinds, which is a fantastic band. I had sacrificed TAK, mostly, because I really wasn't writing or getting passionate about writing like I wanted to. For the last year, I have wanted to want to write. But I have rarely wanted to Story, knowhumsayin?

I felt like I could give the muse a little bit of a sacrifice in those nine miles. Here is the band on the altar, here is nine miles of madness, now please put me in touch with the Story Self again, that guy I knew so well at nine years old.

That was the deal. Off I went.

It wasn't an introspective run after all. I stayed focused on the present. But it was a good one. I felt that nervous energy that I knew I could use, a bzz-bzz-rattle-roll at the back of my brainpan. I held it back for a long time. I ran at a comfortable pace, pushed myself to get up the hills, then went all-out for about the last mile, sucking up lots of buzz-rattle juice to get me going.

That was insane, because by that point I was indeed tired. But I still pushed it. The adrenaline high, the transition to a state of euphoria, felt just beyond my reach the whole time, and I got it by pushing on that last mile. The run, in the end, felt effortless save for the one deliberate, planned, conscious effort.

And my time was... 1:27. Two minutes off the big push two years ago.

There's a lesson here about something, and possibly even relating to the writing stuff: Know What You're Pushing Before You Decide To Push It, or something that someone should cross-stitch on my running shorts-butt, and also I Can Practically Taste The (Metaphorical) Placenta. I doubt I have absorbed the full lesson yet, though. I'll have to keep running.