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Whose Life Is It Anyway?

There are no pessimistic runners.

Yes, there are angry runners. There are sad runners, too. There are gleeful and voracious and brooding and quiet runners. There are runners who fly in planes just to run somewhere else, just to stay up all night running. These runners just run and run and run.

They’re out there scooting their rubber soles across dirt paths and looking up into the trees at the squirrels, thinking about what the little critters do come December. They are thinking “well, if that little creature can fight off hawks and buzzards and the gripping midnight winter, then I can finish this mile.”

That’s what a runner thinks about. Here’s a list of seven other things that runners think about:

1) Toenails painted with someone’s birthday in mind
2) Gandhi sitting down enjoying a glass of water
3) Their first crush Veronica whose last name reminds them of a large fish
4) And, subsequently, the day they learned what the word “crush” meant
5) The people who program traffic lights
6) The gentle scratch of a fifth grader’s violin bow
7) Just how odd it is that odd numbers make for more even lists

But never, ever will you find a runner who thinks:

1) Why bother?

Because the moment a runner entertains the poison thoughts like “why bother?” and “my feet hurt” and “I wish I had a lover” and “ten miles is impossible” and “I hate _____” and “you don’t deserve _____”, a runner becomes a walker.

And eventually a sitter.

But this isn’t about running. This is about living with intention.

In looking at the past ten years of my life, I see heaviness I’ve suffered brought on by living passively, by living without intention. Some of these events are as trivial as letting a friend decide dinner. Others: sharing my emotional wealth with girls who fumble in managing it. Even wearing clothing that a lover buys has subtle ramifications in becoming a person that hands the reins of their future over to anyone itching to steer.

All of these pivotal moments share one thing in common: a justification born out of embarrassment.

I wasn’t craving anything in particular, so I just told David to pick up a pizza.”

I’m needy. I don’t blame her for not giving me the attention.”

I love the color! You really know my style, don’t you?”

Paradoxically, we are swift to defend our lethargic choices. Our indifference. We are passive until we are challenged, and then we actively fortify the reasons for which we choose to sit.

Linguistically, the active voice is always stronger in writing. The passive is weak, accidental, weightless. Reflected grammatically in its form, the original subject of the verb becomes replaced by its direct object:

“Newton discovered calculus.” vs
“Calculus was discovered by Newton.”

Calculus wasn’t just found lying in a meadow offhand by a dude on an afternoon stroll. Einstein isn’t guessing, picking values from a hat until E has its sexy, balanced counterpart. Miyazaki doesn’t haphazardly make Totoro fly, a cute afterthought added just for kicks, right before post-production. Nobody accidentally runs a marathon (except the poor bastard who ran the first one).

Meanwhile, everyone is telling you shit like:

“You have to go with the flow, Sam  // Whatever happens is meant to happen // Come what may // Who knows?” etcetera.

These are lazy philosophies. Too often have I told myself to “snap out of it!” because I find myself floating along in a daze, without any trajectory, like a buoy in the deep. I start begrudging the success of everyone else out there running marathons and kissing the women of their wildest dreams and reinventing the wheel. I’m caught defending my dishonest choices and folding up the pair of jeans I thought I’d “try out” just to “see if I like them.” I sit around.

Stop it.

You know what you like. I promise. You know exactly who you want to be. You know who you want to wake up next to on a chilly Sunday morning. You know her name, the funny way she laughs too hard all at once, the color of her toenails at your surprise party. You know what you want to wear, even if its too androgynous or shows too much leg. You know all of these things. Stop sitting around at parties pretending to enjoy yourself. Be intentional: even when you’re ready to try something new. Be spontaneous on purpose. Don’t let it all just happen to you. Stop sitting around.

Stand up. Run.

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One thought on “Whose Life Is It Anyway?

  1. ash says:

    Mindful runners don’t run for exercise, they run because it helps them to teach themselves. Sure, anyone can learn as they sit (“students” do this all the time!), but they can’t teach themselves. Teaching requires a deliberate choice–or dare I say, “intention”–and a continually evolving goal, in all its abstraction, to participate in the world, rather than manage the world’s actions on the individual. Our backs weren’t made for sustaining the weight of the latter. Our feet, however, were made to move, and we were made to cover miles of physical and emotional distance–but we have to teach ourselves how to do so.

    It’s not about running at all–you’re absolutely right. Thank you for your post.

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