During my past three runs, my mind has kept returning to one thing: failure.
Not in a dark, "you will fail at this" sort of way, but in a broad scope.
The past week has revealed, as some weeks inevitably do, my own failures. Some very small, some much more pressing. Think, for example, I forgot to do the laundry and also missed a deadline.
Failure, or the acknowledgement of it, did not used to be an option I entertained. It's important to note that I have failed a spectacular number of times. Really, it's impressive. But when faced with a failure of any size, I would power on through it with my eyes closed; a manic child covering my ears and diving into the bushes.
When I used to run, failure was the kitten right on my heels. It would run around my ankles, nipping at my socks. I would go faster. It took on different personalities. Sometimes it would work in tandem with the monster in my head to convince me that juice cleanses were a totally sane way to treat my body. Most often it would mewl at my feet, you disappointed someone, you forgot a birthday party, do you remember the time when you got an F in precalculus?
I never knew what to do with this stupid little thing. I hated it. It knew me so well, and most of the time it didn't seem to want to berate me. It just wanted me to listen for a minute. Unacceptable. I ran faster to get rid of it. I ran until my lungs burned and stretched like latex balloons. The kitten gave up and waited by my door, because it knew I always had to stop. And I did. And it followed me inside, and got louder.
I have taken that stupid thing on three more runs with me, and on the last and longest it howled at me as I quickened my pace down Olympic, the view of the bay obscured by the cries, how could you fail at that, how could you let that happen, you don't deserve this pretty view, you don't deserve anything, also have you noticed that you're heavier than you've ever bee...
I had stopped running at a comfortable pace and had begun sprinting like a mad woman. I stopped quickly and bent over to breathe.
The day was warm and breezy, and there was a teenage couple coming out of Parsons Garden holding hands. They both had terrible acne, and I had a feeling neither of them noticed it on their partner's face. I felt the sun on my arms and stretched my calves; they were burning.
Look, you stupid stupid thing. I fucked up. I am, in many ways, a fuck up.
It was pretty low of you to comment on my weight. That's an old trick. You're better than that.
How about this; I won't run away from you, you won't be an asshole, and we can run together and figure out some happy medium?
It was quiet. The next 1.5 miles I slowed it down. I thought about my failures - I felt them. I felt them, and even though I was terrified, I did not become them. I stayed me. The tiny crying creature was silent, padding next to my feet.
My breathing was easy, I waved to my neighbors. My dog took a huge shit in someone's driveway, he was thrilled about it.
With all the silence in my head, with my failures sitting comfortably and quietly after being acknowledged, I felt my body. My lungs burned a little less than they did the past few runs. My legs had fallen into their muscle memory and my strides felt even, measured, and sure.
When I got home, I felt as though I could run another 2 miles. But I didn't. I stretched, took a shower, sat down and wrote down my failures on a piece of paper. They were awful. They scared me. Running couldn't fix them.
But it helped me name them and learn them and know them, and that's not so bad for the first week back out.
PS: I have discovered I like running with some music. This week:
The Human League - Dare
Ra Ra Riot - Need Your Light
Taylor Swift - In particular, a 1989 outtake "New Romantics"