My coach tells me I am in a slump. For one thing, it is an athletic slump—that is, I’m running less and I’m suddenly a magnet for injuries. The left side of my body is deciding to fall apart. Hip, hamstring, and groin. I visited the physical therapist recently only to find out my pelvis is out of whack, perhaps due to all this staid treadmill running during the winter freeze, and somehow I need to get back out onto more adventurous terrain.
Perfect timing, you might say, for the January 22nd news of Minnesota’s new year “thaw”—however this also means a new January haze. The lady on the radio said, “get out your sun lamps all you people with Seasonal Affective Disorder.” She was basically speaking directly to me. If only we could make a grammatical flip flop to make that Seasonal Effective Disorder and all of us depressives could just get more positive and productive when the world turned into the grey mist of communist Russia all of a sudden.
Regardless, I am wearing the heck out of these new mu’umu’u’s.
I’m starting to wonder if finishing a project is like ending a relationship. It takes a certain number of months or even years before you can bounce back? There’s a grieving even, an emptiness or loss. I want to remember that this happens to me every time I finish a big project. I have a slump like this, and eventually I rebound into a new idea. The trouble here is that the new idea needs to be part and parcel of the old one. That is, while the four month relay is over, the cacophony generated by all that listening needs to step onto the next playing field and take shape.
I feel like both me and Tom are experiencing a sort of nostalgia for the four months we spent on the road this summer despite the many struggles experienced along the way. All I can remember now is the sunshine and the running and the conversations and new relationships.
If I try hard enough, I can remember the struggles too., but there’s something about the struggles that I can’t help but crave. Call me a masochist.
I greeted every two-day town where we’d scheduled a workshop with dread, but somehow, whether I ended up working with 60 kids or 6, things just worked out. I adapted, they responded, we moved through their stories even. Who knew!?
There were the arguments—late at night, tired, Tom not understanding the purpose of the project, questioning its merits. But every day we started over, we ran and we rode and we engaged with new people, and what didn’t make sense the night before, suddenly made sense in the moment it was becoming, yet still unknown what it would hold.
After the novelty of cabin, tent, and home stay wore off, sleeping in a different place every night grew to be a kind of bearable discomfort, like a pebble in your shoe. And yet our lives were unencumbered, packed in one bag each, never having a poor night’s sleep no matter where we were—even in the Emergency Center Bunkhouse. There’s something triumphant feeling about needing less and still feeling like yourself, or maybe more like yourself.
From sun up to sun down, we were always on, always inside the performance of everyday life, always working, and rarely getting to be just a married couple. And we had only been married two months before this all started. But as everyone kept telling us, if we could make it through that, we can make it through anything. Indeed, the lesson I think we’ve learned since disembarking from Relay, is that we still need to always be working when we’re together. We never watched TV on the road, and we’d be better off if we never did at home either.
The fried food was so good and so bad.
The saddle sores. I could do without these in general.
The overactive bladder… urgency, constant urgency—trying to pee in corn fields, on the side of the van mid-run, knocking on a farm house door to use their bathroom, that gas station bathroom in the dark in the middle of a storm, missing runs or rides because I had to pee so bad. Didn’t I botox my bladder so this wouldn’t be a problem? Obviously that didn’t work. It’s a little late in life to learn to laugh at yourself, but there it is. Lesson learned!
Looking back, at all of this, the good and the bad, we were listening out and listening in—whole body listening. The body, its emotions, its urgency, its interactions, these were primary day in and day out. We developed new actions, gestures, behaviors, rituals, rhythms and routines within the relay, and it was a very tight system, however uncomfortable at times. Now life is loose and disorganized. I’m listening, but no frequency is coming in clearly.
My own system, my own space has to be clear for me to listen out with focus. The data within that cacophony of voices can be organized, but I am still a blur myself. How do I get to that full presence, giving myself over, that empathetic listening to the data. Then I might find where to start. How to cull out the images like Mr. Earl’s wood bees, the house on a barge, his floating islands.
Then I might remember the feeling of shooting the gun, riding the combine, being out in the marsh, on the airboat, drinking the moonshine, riding the tow, walking the barge, picking the cotton, and going to church.