on running and outrunning
"I Wish You Were a Girl" by 12 RODS [idk who tf this band is, but this song is pretty good, except for when it isn't. know what i mean?]
September 14, 2021 Tuesday 6:23 PM [Halfway through September—the thought makes my stomach drop]
1. So. If we are admitting things, we shall admit that we are fully, irrevocably, stuck in the past. As I was slathering a bunch of lotion on my legs post-shower just now, I was thinking—and idk how I got here—about this short story Melvin published. His writing is generally not for me, because it's all melancholy and spare in a way that seems so... literary.
But this story got to me a little, less to do with its content, but more with my perception of the writer himself. Only, today, I am much more interested in the story.
I have a great memory for things that catch my eye, so I can summarize the entirety of the story pretty well even though I only read it once two years ago.
The main character is a casual runner. The story doesn't involve a lot of running—it's more about feelings of impotence if I remember correctly (tied mainly to the image of pinned butterflies, which one of the secondary characters—doubling as a plot catalyst—collects) His lack of agency gets him so frustrated that eventually it sort of bubbles over and he ends up punching the aforementioned butterfly guy in the face (irrelevant, but Nadiya calls the guy I dated a couple summers ago "butterfly guy" because of the way he pinned me to the wall haha). He then flees and the story ends with him running, imagining being followed by footsteps...
(Quick aside: this part was really good. It's this idea that he could be followed by someone whose footsteps are exactly in sync with him, and he ends up imagining it so vividly that he's afraid to turn around to check—I guess I like this because I have the same sort of irrational spikes of fear at the smallest noises, or even at my own noises; it also reminds me of the panic I felt whenever I raced in track, lmao!!! I liked sprinting because it was concentrated anxiety, a shot of it, and so afterward I felt kind of euphoric. Whenever I got into the starting stance, I felt myself shaking, and I took off at the sound of the gun but only because I was so terrified that the noise startled me into moving; and then I'd keep running hoping I'd stop seeing the other racers at either side of me, trying my best to not disappoint anyone, to not disappoint myself, to not let them see me lose too badly, to get to the finish line and get it over with; a lot of feelings!!! In short: sprinting felt good because it ended quickly; it exhausts the mind and the body.)
...And I think also he's thinking about running forever or something. Running away from everything? Very Shinji Ikari energy, amirite. "Don't run away," he says, proceeding immediately to run away.
I've been running a lot lately as a way to cope with my anxiety. Back when I read that story for the first time, I remember not quite understanding the way someone could stand to run like that, as a coping mechanism. I went to the gym and stuff, I did track, but running always felt like a grim necessity. I was driven more by competition and pride, yanno? In track, I couldn't stop running because I refused to be the one who stopped running, I refused to quit. At the gym—where I went only irregularly—I ran determined to compete against the person I wanted to be. If that makes sense.
It sounds so serious—anyway, I never liked running, lmao. It sucks and it hurts and I still stand by that.
However. However, I have been running now on a regular basis for a few months and I can empathize with that character a bit more. I started it partly as a health thing. I hadn't been exercising and I figured it could also help me with my sleep. Plus, I want to be strong and I'm tired of strength exercises. Running felt more—meditative in a way that strength exercises are not. Also, it was a good excuse to go outside.
I had to tamp down the competitive side of myself and firmly establish that, if I wanted to start walking in the middle of a run, that'd be fine. As long as I was getting out of the house, on a regular basis, that was all that mattered. Too many times, I give up on running because I can't run as far as I want, or it hurts too much, and eventually the idea of doing it makes me so anxious and ashamed that I stop altogether.
That didn't happen this time because I guess I stopped doing it for my pride, so that's good.
Still, every single time I go to get ready for a run, I don't want to do it. I viscerally don't want to. I take my time getting dressed and putting my hair up. I fill my water bottle and put it in the fridge. I sit on the porch, spray my legs with tick deterrent, and take my sweet time tightening and tying my laces. But somehow, every time, I end up running anyways. It always begins with the thought, "Just for a bit and then I can go home if I'm too tired."
It's not like me to keep habits, so I'm happy about it. I can't even eat the same things for more than a couple weeks! A couple months ago, I got obsessed with yogurt and granola, but, like, overnight the thought of eating it made me feel a little repulsed. This happens a lot, lmao. I have the stomach of a child.
Running has become somewhat of a way to work out my anxiety. When I'm feeling better, it's just a nice opportunity to feel the sun, to breathe (I really, really like the way the air bottoms out in my lungs), to think about writing. When I'm anxious, it's— I don't know. I can't stop myself from thinking when I'm running, but somehow, dwelling on bad shit doesn't feel as bad when I'm moving my body. I can have all kinds of bad memories, but as long as I'm counting my breaths and double-checking my form, it feels okay. Half my attention is on cursing the uneven ground.
Running sucks, but I've acquired a taste for that? Just a little farther. Another half a mile and I'll stop.
(I did run past a group of cross-country girls today in the woods. It really startled me, there were a ton of them—like 20. I think they were high schoolers. I had a tough time breathing for a couple minutes after that. I had these tight bolts of fear shooting through me every once in a while, and that sort of automatically makes your body hyperventilate a little, which is kind of the opposite of helpful when you're tryna run uphill for half a mile, yanno?)
I wonder if it's partly a nice way to hurt. I used to bruise myself and I liked the long ache. I don't really mind when the different parts of my body hurt as I'm running. I do have shin splints, but they're not bad because my form's pretty good and I've been doing stretches/exercises. I don't even have to wear my knee brace or calf sleeve very often anymore!!! Anyway, I like the pain a little. I've said this before, but I like that pain draws you into reality, kind of narrows your awareness down to a point.
Today, I once again had the sort of anxiety that was shooting through my hands, so I went on my run earlier than I normally do. I still feel it simmering in my stomach, the perpetual jiggle of my knee.
So yeah. I had that thought about Melvin's story and the way that guy was physically trying to outrun himself and his self-hatred, his reality, whatever it is. Who knows how accurate my interpretation is—it's been a long time. I remember the publication had some pen-and-ink stippled drawing of a crawfish. I think it took place at a seaside town in, like... Idk. Somewhere between New Jersey and Maryland? Lol. And all the houses were all pinkish.
I don't think I'm like that character or anything. It just occurred to me, lightning-quick thought. Pulled the loose thread of memory and everything else came tumbling out after. I'm not necessarily outrunning things—I feel more like I'm using my body to work out the messy physical part of it. And running also gives me the space to nonjudgmentally assess some of my fears; I was thinking about how I seemed to feel kind of guilty for enjoying the weird limbo my life is in right now. While also hating it.
I'm still quite anxious, but my mood has lifted a little. I'm planning on drawing a bit tonight, studying, maybe backing up my fanfiction bookmarks, and also working on my music spreadsheet, which I've been neglecting for too long. If I feel like it, I'll play my sweet sweet Genshin Impact :,) or actually, I just downloaded Honkai Impact so I might check that out instead.
What if... I got really good at Mandarin and learned some game design and then got to work as a writer at Mihoyo??.... That would be so fucking cool. I've always been interested in collaborative writing, like for video games or shows or something, but I think my social anxiety is kind of a huge hurdle to that, LMAO. But!!!! Guess what!!! The future is weird and malleable and I'm only 22 :)
2. Shit I was going to talk about Horimiya, Rascal does not dream etc., and Neon Genesis Evangelion. But I'm out of energy and I have to pee and I think my mom made dinner and I'm excited to do my hobbies n stuff! I was going to do some quick research on plot exercises, because I've realized my plot-development skills are reaaaallly holding me back lately.
See you :)