1/20/2009

Songs have a shelf life: A running story

My iPod Touch is terminally ill, so I borrowed my roommate's iPod this morning for my run at the gym. I was determined to run 6 miles in under an hour. That was my goal for the day.

My routine is taking shape. I run three days a week, lift weights three days a week, and rest on the Saturday. I may be overdoing it, but if I don't go to the gym, I feel incredibly sluggish and unhappy with myself. I can't afford right now to be unhappy with myself.

The television screens were filled with glimpses of the Mall in Washington. I feel so disconnected from this historic moment because the recent unpleasantness in my own life in part dates back to Election Night. That's when I first had a glimpse of what I was about to lose.

Now, the loss has happened and it will always have happened. There's no turning back. There's just me at the gym six days a week working hard to find the meaning of it all. On the treadmill I have the chance to decide how I'm going to deal with it. Do I go easy to let myself have the simple path? Or, do I push myself harder in order to expand my body and mind?

I was feeling sluggish this morning. I had actually gotten more than seven hours of sleep in a row, something that hasn't happened for quite a while. I'd taken an hour to wake up and have my cup of tea. The cold didn't seem worth wading through. I took my sweet time unraveling the headphones.

But, once my legs started moving, I sped up quickly. I warmed up for two minutes and kept increasing the pace slowly. I listened to new songs from the iPod on random. My roommate's tastes in music are a little more mainstream than my own, and I enjoyed listening to the new variety. After all, at some point I'm going to need to start dancing!

However, I prefer listening to podcasts and by about 30 minutes in, I was getting pretty bored. FOX, CBS and NBC all showed the same image of Blair House as we all waited for Obama to drive somewhere. I seriously considering just stopping and maybe actually getting to work on time for a change.

Yet, I did not. I had a goal I was going to stick to it. I concentrated on the songs that streamed at me randomly. I ran hard when a song I liked came on. I skipped over the ones I didn't care for. And, I kept going, and I beat Sunday's goal of running 5 miles in 50 minutes. I kept going, running towards my new life, running towards whatever it is that hopefully is coming my way. Running towards a glimpse of possible happiness. Running towards hope that maybe I'm not the awful person I can sometimes feel like.

At 55 minutes I slowed down as 6 miles was within site and I thought it was a good time to begin cooling down.

But then, the song came on. On an iPod with only 340 songs, Maps by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs came on. When I was falling in love the last time around, I used this song to woo her. I put it on a mix CD, and somehow it summed up what I was feeling at that time. I'd never been in love so passionately before, to the point where I did very awful things in order to satisfy a craving I didn't fully deserve.

Now, I'm on the other side of that life experience, looking back and wondering how to go forward. Of course, I've answered that wonder in part by seeking the answers within. But, there are so many uncertainties swirling around in front of me.

I wasn't ready to hear the song, but there it was in my ears. It starts with the sound of a vulnerable string trembling, a solitary note that pierces through to my heart. I heard it, and wondered for a second what I should do. If I wasn't careful I would end up hurting myself. I'm prone to sudden collapses these days, sudden emotional shifts triggered by a memory here or a memory there.

I could have clicked off and moved on to the next song. Instead, I pumped up the speed to a level I've not hit yet. Even though I had been running for an hour by this point, I kicked it up and ran as fast as I could. The drums began pounding, followed by the rhythm guitar, and when the sultry voice hit, I was in this fugue-like state of madness and anger and pain and sorrow and grief and I just kept running faster.

The lyrics have a very different meaning now, and as my legs moved faster and faster I fought back the tears. It's a very simple track, and the lyrics aren't exactly poetry. But, hearing it conjured up a picture of the last four years. I ran and ran and ran, imagining myself as an engine. If I could just move fast through the song, faster than ever before, maybe I would generate some vision of how I was going to make it through all of this.

But before the song ended, my body kicked in, and told me I really should stop. I got the urge to throw up, and immediately slowed the speed back down to something manageable. My body sent my mind a telegram that it is time to move on, that I couldn't kill myself for the sake of a song. It's just a song. It's no more magical then my last relationship was. I was deluded then, and I'm not deluded now.

Love is a delusion, a magical one that has the power to create beauty in the wake of its destruction. My life has been ripped apart twice now because of this love, and I'm older and wiser as a result. I had wished the love could have been sustained, but it turns out it had been gone for a very long time. A house built on a fragmented foundation is destined to fall apart, no matter how many Herculean the repair effort.

Life is not a delusion. Life is this amazing gift from the universe that is challenging, puzzling, and not always fair. Inside of ourselves there is much strength, much power, much beauty. I'm now opening my eyes to a whole new world, and I'm training my body and mind to respond to the challenges in a different way.

The pain fades a little more every day. The sadness earthquakes are receding in power and duration. I'm finding joy in small things, such as the magnificent beauty of the night sky and the feeling of the sun on my face every morning as I walk out of the gym. I am going to write up new maps to guide me through the rest of my life, and may I be fortunate enough that I have many more footfalls ahead of me.

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