I went on a run in the rain yesterday. It was coming down hard, and windy too—the ground was slippery, the sky was dark, and very few people were out braving the streets of Berkeley. Descending Euclid Avenue at the end of the run, the wind picked up and I started to get worried. What if my hands go numb? What if I slip? What if it gets colder? Luckily, I cut this line of inquiry short with another question: am I in pain right now? And honestly, the answer was no.
I ask myself this a lot when I’m running, usually when the conditions are fine and I’m just bored. Is there anything wrong with how I’m feeling right this very moment? Occasionally the answer is yes—like the time I was running intervals around the track and I felt the soul-crushing sensation of localized tenderness in my foot that every runner dreads. But far more often, the answer is no. Most of the time, running feels just fine, and I just have to remind myself that I’m okay.
It’s a practice of genuine self-awareness—not some quasi-self-awareness based on external cues like the weather or what I ate for breakfast. Those things can have an effect, but feeling defies reason. Sometimes it’s sunny and I feel shitty. And on this particular run, it was pouring out and I felt better than ever.
* * *
Sometimes I get jealous of myself. I’ll be sitting at home alone, remembering that night a few weeks ago when I was happily romping around between the sheets with so-and-so. How lucky I was! To have all that unmitigated contact with skin! And kissing! And ear-nibbling! Why didn’t I appreciate it more? And oh, to be doing that right now…
Then I’ll stop myself because, hey, he didn’t call me today. Maybe that means he doesn’t like me. Maybe I was just a conquest, a rebound, a drunken mistake. I shouldn’t set myself up for disappointment. I should pick up a book, cook a meal, go on a run—anything to stop thinking about this.
The tension between the reverie and the worry is enough to make anyone woozy. I can never seem to remember the little trick that comes in handy when I’m running: how do I really feel about this person? When I stop to consider this question, I often find that my memories are more powerful than the experiences they seek to recreate. That it was more about uncertainty than ecstasy. That I looked at him sideways and thought his feet smelled funny and he was too blonde and he talked too much. Or not enough. The point is: I don’t know you very well. And may or may not want to get to know you better.
And why all this anxiety over someone who I might not even like? Why am I thinking so hard about what he wants, and wanting that to be me, when actually maybe I don’t even want him? When you merge too quickly, it’s easy to disappear.
Because when two realities merge, it can be quite jolting. One minute I was complimenting you on your shoes and the next minute you were asking me if I had come. Yes, thank you, but wait, what? Do I know you from somewhere?
That’s pretty much how I always do it, and I’m not very well-practiced in the alternative, whatever it is. Getting to know each other slowly, over time? Like dating, or courtship, or something? It all seems so antiquated. Maybe I should just accept that that’s not how things are done in this day and age.
But the way they are done feels like the time I crashed into a walker when I was running fast on the track. He didn't move out of the way, and he didn't acknowledge what had happened. It was weird. But then, why didn't I acknowledge it either? Because it is really weird, isn’t it? It can’t be just me.