Today’s Happy Note: The sky was a special color of blue today. It was blazing yet calm, somewhere between bright blue and midnight — the exact center. A perfectly stunning mix of bold and subdued. Made me yearn to fly.
I often envision my body as primal: I believe in the beauty of motion (graceful, powerful, rough, gentle, fierce, long) and see a fundamental humanity in a lurching person. Sometimes when I walk through my grandmother’s blueberry patch I have a sudden urge to arch my shoulders back and fling my pointed left leg into the sky. Or, here in New York, I want to run to the end of the island and then leap into the Hudson and swim and play. In my office, I excuse myself to the mail room every few hours, eight flights downstairs, just for an excuse to feel the way my legs bend up and down into perfect right angles. I like to count the steps.
Last winter, I read Born To Run. The segment about the Africans who ran and ran and ran left a special impression. Apparently, there is a tiny, dwindling tribe, somewhere in a giant desert, who simply run. This is their whole life: they run up to fifty miles at a time to hunt their prey – a gazelle or other sprinting mammal, perhaps. They simply run until their dinner dies of exhaustion.
I did not make it to the gym today, nor did I run alongside the river. I did not dance or sweat through an endless series of sun salutations in yoga class. I did not go swimming or diving or biking. And I have to reconcile this with the fact of my body and the fact that I know I was born to run – among other things, maybe. This is the hardest part of my life: to know when my body should or should not be moving. At my mother’s house, the front door mat is littered with running shoes; maybe there are sixteen pairs around the house. And maybe I strolled two or three miles in my daily activities today: ambling back and forth between my work desk and our archival collection, two flights below, or prancing into the grocery store in search of frozen blueberries (never as good as those from my grandmother’s wild patch).
It seems petty to think about my law school applications or when was the last time I called my sister or even the taste of wild blueberries when my body is still. I can’t honestly say that I have found a balance. I know that I have a kind heart and a solid head. I think on my feet; often I work from nine until nine. But that’s exactly it: I think on my feet. Movement gives my mind and body important clarity. A spinning body might be blurry, but something happens in the brain. This evening one of my high school students spilled a cup of water in the center of a crowd of all the students. In a split second, as I turned around for a pile of napkins, another student came running through and slipped. My body rushed to her. My mind was not on; it was all physical. I knew that the first thing I had to do was help her, physically. Was she bleeding or bruised or dazed? My body took me through the steps. And when it turned out she was fine, my body bent down and my quadriceps held me up while I wiped away the water.
L explained to me just the other day the importance of feeling things in the body. I quickly dismissed her. But deep down, in the crooked space where I can feel my spine descending into my pelvis, I know she is right. Right now, at this moment, I feel lazy. Unhuman. This is, of course, exaggerated – more a manifestation of my disordered body image than reality. Nonetheless, I can’t shake the image that my legs should be churning and my hips should feel exhausted. I want to move all the time.
I crave the soreness that comes after a long day playing on the beach. I want to sync my head, my heart, and my hips. I want to run after my food and catch butterflies in my mama’s backyard and climb willow trees with my sister. I want to toss my body into a handstand wherever I go. I want to find the balance between sitting and flying. Between being still and running through the desert after a gazelle.