Some crazy year, this 2020.
I'm sat here looking at a blank white screen, admiring the silence of it, the truth of it, the possibility of it. It's one of the few things I can control in a world that's completely slid off its axis. You'd have to be a cartoon character, a fictional superhero, above and beyond all that is natural to not be desperately affected by this year. But the question that matters - the only thing that matters - is what are you doing about it?
Is there a point in looking back? In wrapping your brain around the things that have steered us into this day? Always. More often than not it hurts, but this hurt I am looking at is so positive in terms of what I have gained from it. A year starting with tenuous employment in a temporary role, finding renewed belief in myself and my truth. Speaking it to find support navigating my way into a next role that's completely reminded me I am genuine. My truth is not everyone's truth. I dance to my own drum. All I had to do was find the rest of the band. And that has added sparkle.
That awful lockdown, that gut-wrenching fear, that all consuming need for self preservation came in the midst of it all. We circled the collective wagons as a family, a community, a nation, a global population. In these (dare I use the overused) unprecedented times, there we set our own precedent. The one that looked back to Maslow's hierarchy and calmly stated 'you know what you need to do. Go do it.' And so we were home. For a long long long time.
Funny, for our family home has never been a prison, more of a place of refuge. To close that door to the outside world and get our game in order. Much of it completely screaming down an imaginary slope, eventually launching us into the atmosphere of panic, and worry, and anger, and fury and all those negative adjectives we try not to use if we mean to keep a positive outlook. I am only positive we kept an outlook because there is no other way to respond to change than to look ahead of it and go after the place in which you want to arrive when you manage to break out of the storm.
The storm raged. No education for our son at home because mum doesn't do school, mum plays and throws him in the air and plays ball and had no extensive input from school to deliver. That's been discussed and addressed and we are moving ahead now. That storm is a drizzle and we have the wellies on and brollies up and the team I thought was there really is. In the absence of the 70+ hour a week work rollercoaster to distract me from my number one, I am on it. And on it and on it. To that exit door we move and we'll get into the sun once again.
All the while, the ship of fools running this crazy world around us, failing to protect us all, failing to instruct us all, failing to support us all. The problem with politicians is they are people. They are human. And human beings are not faultless and are not flawless. People screw up. The trouble is we have to elect some of them. Choose badly and the **** is going to hit that fan and we'll be scraping it off for generations. I need not elaborate on the current state of affairs then. Go get in the shower. With a chisel. It's going to be a long time before you'll be clean again.
Me, I'd rather be caked in actual mud. Fortunately the global catastrophe delivered one particularly amazing gift in the sense that I had to do everything I could possibly do to avoid coming into contact with other people. But how do I run when there are so many people around? Because for me, if I don't run, I die a little inside every day. This is where I'm at with the sport. I run for freedom. I run for head space. I run for self actualisation. I run for pride in accomplishing something. I run to be able to have one small thing in life in which I can control every variable. Even when injury or pain comes in, I can decide what to do about it. I can take the action or I can sit still. I know which I'd choose until I'm six feet in the ground (or dust in a jar, or bony sand in the bottom of the sea). I certainly don't run for exercise. I don't run to lose weight. I don't run to look good. That said, these are all quite pleasant side effects. I certainly don't run to race other people. Life provides enough competition that I don't really need to add any more thankyouverymuch.
I looked on a map of some of my local running routes early on in the lockdown to see where I could go that was less people-y and soon found myself in another world, void of contact. Little-used bridleways, quiet back roads, snaking across hilly farmlands. Safe. Socially distant. It occurred to me over lockdown that I genuinely prefer social distancing. I'm not by nature a social person and deep down don't particularly care for the company of people. And that's ok. Me, I want to hang out with the wind screaming in my ears, reddening up my face, blowing my hair out of the elastic band. Me and the sky have a fantastic relationship, even when she is crying. Water that ground beneath me to mud, sis. Splatter it up the back of my legs, trip me up and pull me down into the long grasses, that is the only way I truly feel alive. While society was dying, I was living. I found a way to live after all.
On the cusp of a second national lockdown of sorts, I am not afraid of what that means because I am generally on lockdown anyway. It's a bit of a meh. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have that outlook. I also consider myself fortunate that my son is content with me out running, but also that he takes great interest in me out running. Who are you inspiring? This is everything. We will run together some day. I cannot bloody wait.
During the time frame between 1 May and 31 August I took the opportunity to sustain my sanity and realise some form of achievement by attempting to move myself forward 1000 miles as part of Lazarus Lake's Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee. It's a ludicrous distance for someone who normally runs and walks an average of 100 miles a month unless I'm training for something huge to up that monthly distance by 150%. But there wasn't much else going on, and there were those magic, new, tucked away, people-free routes. I pushed myself hard. I achieved something absolutely epic. In this year when life has been shaken to its core, and normality has been cancelled, I went out and kicked its ass. It's all I could do when time had come to a halt. It's all I could do to attempt to get the world turning again, to move along it's centre line (quite actually - some of my regular route was along the Greenwich Meridian Trail) and hope the momentum under me would help give it a push. When we feel most helpless it's only natural to find something to give. Even if it's just to ourselves. The pride I feel in this achievement is nothing compared to the gift that achievement has given me where it counts. I am so much stronger in the mind. In the heart.
Despite the fact that 2021 will usher in 50, this is not a mid-life crisis. What it really is, is self-actualisation. There's old Maslow again. Bit out of order, but...2020.
There is not the slightest indication as to what will happen next this year. Frankly I don't want to know. Like Tom Hanks in Castaway said we have to just keep breathing. Like Nemo has to just keep swimming. We too need to just keep moving. Forward. Relentlessly.
I've got a real, socially-distanced marathon coming up next month. I do hope it stays on because it takes me over one of my loves, the Seven Sisters on the south coast. Those blissful challenges before me, spending hours virtually alone with my thoughts, climbing up and careening down. Looking to one side to take in the rise and fall of the glorious countryside. Green entwined with full autumn brilliance. Maybe shining with sun, or belting with rain. To the other side, the sea kisses that mysterious line across the sky which whispers, taunts: 'you'll have to come this far if you mean to see what's further.' My friend the wind, pushing me back, pulling me forward, delivering its roar to my ears and its red to my face.
Through it all, we keep moving. However we do it. Whatever it takes.
No fear. Keep moving.
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