33 things I love
In honor of this palindrome birthday, in no particular order
The swell of emotion watching a musical - reminded at rewatching Dear Evan Hansen in Philly with friends last week
Crying at movies
Dancing with the twins
Singing ‘90s music
Reading a book that I know my mom will like
Text threads about shows/movies/links with my best friends that reach 100 unread when I am sleeping
My husband’s variations on books during bedtime reading for the kids. He recently made up an entire story about a bear named “Bear” who has social anxiety and fears the spontaneity of his neighbor (named “Neighbor Cat”) coming over, and so ends up deflecting plans Neighbor Cat keeps trying to make with him, until Neighbor Cat stops trying, and Bear then realizes he is sad and lonely without anyone coming over, and he spontaneously shows up at Neighbor Cat’s house, and they are both happy and….well he told it so much better, and I had tears in my eyes making dinner, not even cutting onions. Really, someone make a book deal with him!
(The best part of this story is that the reason he had to make up the whole story was that he only had the first page of the original book, showing a bear and a cat, because the kids had ripped it apart and the remaining pages were nowhere to be found)
Reading very old writing
Discovering old photographs
Unexpectedly funny patient encounters
When a patient gets better
Rereading a book and remembering where and/or who I was when I first read it, or last read it (this month, I’ve been rereading Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk about When I Talk About Running, and thinking about how I first read it nearly ten years ago, and wrote about it then*). I’ve been thinking about how my running and writing have changed since then, how my life has squeezed through other corners and tunnels and filters and come out changed but still the same. About how writing captures essence and how running’s essence, according to Murakami, is not the body, but the mind.
Coincidences that lead to happy things
Having a catchphrase I can’t get rid of. (eg. an “Indeed” period)
The music at the finale of a sitcom when the main “will-they-or-won’t-they” characters are about to kiss (See: New Girl; Never Have I Ever)
Old people who say whatever is on their mind. Really whatever
Kids who say whatever is on their mind. I mean really whatever
When I’m with my brothers and it’s like having two mirrors of my speech patterns. (see: “Cool!” “Hallo”)
Watching my parents with my kids and realizing how they must have been with us as toddlers
A really really good creme brûlée
A book that changes my internal monologue style of speech for a month
Biking downhill (not too steep, of course)
A really good pun
Being impulsive! It’s true, I do enjoy it. Which is confusing, because I also hate making decisions
Being in water
Watching S&L experience something new
When someone is comfortably expressing vulnerability
Feeling seen as a complex person and not a trope
Visiting a new place
Being on a train, especially in a new country
The deep deep sleep of jet lag
Putting my writing out into the world
*copying below my old piece on running, no longer on my personal website since I revised it to make most of my old writing private…though now it will live on here anyway! :
Written in Feb 2013 - Titled “Why the Long Run?”
When you do a really long run, try not to go around telling people about it.
I say this because, from personal experience, when you train for something like a marathon you become a slave to perspective, but you forget what’s normal to people not in marathon training.
If you tell people, “I ran 8 miles today,” they might say, “Wow! That’s really far.” But once you hit the double digits—when you tell people, “I ran 16 miles today,” the general response is “Urgh, now you’re making me feel bad for running only 5” or “All I did was eat chocolate,” or “Ew, why would you do that to yourself?” Unless it’s someone in marathon training, disgust is the general response. This is understandable, because when I’m not training for anything, if you suggested that I go outside and run 16 miles, I would laugh in your face (while consuming chocolate). And before I started running in 7th grade, I thought running was only for fast people, and I have never been or wanted to be fast. I love that each year, more of my friends discover that running slowly—not even as fast as jogging, but what I call plodding—is acceptable and enjoyable. "Running, Slow and Slower" is a book I would like to publish with Daniel Kahneman.
My friend and I “trained” for the marathon last fall. I insert the quotes because despite our best intentions, we pushed running away from our minds during the week, banking on the weekend long runs to settle our debts.
You can’t really settle your debts or procrastinate in running, though. That’s both the appeal and the problem.
Our long run schedule went from 8 miles on a Saturday through perfect increments each week thereafter, to 10, to 11, to 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 20 (yes, 20!) and tapering back down. We didn’t hit every target, but our legs would still resent us every weekend. Legs have short memories.
Every distance, in your mind, is relative to the last one you ran and the next one you are going to run. There is no isolated rule that 10 miles is long, because 10 miles is less than half of the distance that you will eventually run. And because there is a schedule on your fridge with an expiration date, and a sense of inevitability, your mind can’t protest as much as your legs do. My friend and I mutually agreed that our most difficult run was the 8-miler. Yes, out of all the runs we did, the 8 miles were the hardest.
Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami has written an amazing non-fiction book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, about the intertwined nature of his running, writing, and personality. The Charles River in Boston is coincidentally one of his favorite places to run. He writes:
“In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.”
I like this idea—that every Saturday there is a shadow of my last Saturday’s self running alongside me, but this Saturday I leave the shadow behind at mile X, and go on two more miles. Incrementally ahead, but still ahead of where I once was.
Murakami also writes:
“I just run. I run in a void. Or maybe I should put it the other way: I run in order to acquire a void….The kinds of thoughts and ideas that invade my emotions as I run remain subordinate to that void. Lacking content, they are just random thoughts that gather around that central void.”
Typically the word “void” has a negative connotation, indicating the absence of something, and implying something is always better than nothing. But maybe you need nothing sometimes. The best part of a run is when you forget that you are running, and forget that you are thinking. Usually that only happens to me 2 miles into a run, and sometimes the void itself runs away from me, and I am back out of breath. My strategy for acquiring the “void” is to run at the same, slow, 10-12 min/mile pace. That is why I want to tell people, when they think I’m “intense,” that no—far from it. I run slow and meditatively, to feel like I’m not running at all. Often I trip and fall out of my reverie and onto the sidewalk. Chins hit, palms bloodied, knees scraped. Apart from the physical injury, being rudely jolted out of the “void” is similar, ironically, to having a dream about running and your twitching feet eventually jolting you back to wakefulness.
Before the Disney marathon a few weeks ago, tired of all the long practice runs and the anticipation of such a long event, I told myself not to train for anything of that distance again. I even went so far as to wonder if I should switch from running to something else.
But this week, when the ellipticals at the gym were full and I gingerly stepped on a treadmill, I realized that I can’t make a blanket decision like that. Running propels me like nothing else does—literally and figuratively. I won’t be like Murakami and run a marathon every single year, that’s for sure—and I may never have the time or desire to hit marathon #3. But I hope to keep up my voidful, self-competitive sport of plodding: whether for one minute, one mile, or many.