July 12, 2019

Leaving Earth

By Daniel

It was 107 degrees today, and this evening I had the closest thing to a spiritual experience I’ve had in at least 15 years.

My weight as of late has been yo-yoing between “almost there” and “good lord, put the burrito down you absolute unit.” The triggers on both sides of the yo-yo have been really consistent. I will diet, exercise, do all of the stuff you need to do, and make awesome progress. Better than a pound a week in general. This has managed to proceed all the way to about 147 pounds (my first weight goal is 142, the second is 135, and the third is 128, each time stopping to see how I feel at that weight or if I should keep going). Somewhere along the way, I will either get sick or injured. Ankles, knees, shin splints, calf strains, flu bugs; whatever the culprit, I put things on hold. Then the yo-yo starts back up until some thing makes me realize I’ve let it get away from me again.

This time, it was those hard-fought belt loops. I’ve had the same belt for a decade, and this year for the first time I totally ran it out of holes and had it still feel loose. Now, I’ve legitimately been dealing with tendonitis in my right ankle, initially brought on by running for my life after Dad died despite not knowing how to run. That was two years ago now, maybe to the day. It still flares up every few months and then any little aggravation really weakens the stability of the ankle and also hurts like hell. One of those flare-ups put a stop to my newfound, still fledgling interest in distance running. It drove me absolutely crazy, and then it just annoyed me, and then it was the way it was, and then the comfortable complacency kicked in and the yo-yo started it’s ascent. The belt loop went from loose to okay, to tight, to having to move to the next one. That’s about an inch and a half between holes.

This Tuesday I reaffirmed everything, four weeks from the reinjuring of the ankle and a week cleared from the podiatrist. Committing to a lot of changes. New ergonomics in the office. A new commitment to bodyweight workouts in addition to just the walking and running. I told myself that day to do as many push-ups as I could physically do in one go without totally losing form. That number was only 20. That’s “poor” by most measures. So the next day, I did 21. Yesterday, 22. Today, 23 and it felt easier than ever.

Since I last wrote here, I started a podcast that is managing over a thousand plays a week and is on popular charts in a dozen countries any given week. Those are recorded Fridays from about 4:30 to 7:00. I committed tonight, about an hour ago, to eliminating one loophole I’d been leaving myself. Exercise on recording days. Do the shit you’re supposed to be doing on recording days. So, after eating, 8:20 at night, I’m still short about 6,500 steps from my step goal of 11,111.

Let’s get after it.

This was supposed to just be a walk, getting the steps in, making the habit feel natural again. Go do it outside now that it’s cooled off to about 80. So out I go, these summer nights are incredibly well-lit even that late in the evening. I don’t really have a set idea of where I’m even going. Left, right, right, left again, straight, whatever. It’s a small neighborhood, I’m not gonna get lost anywhere in it.

Spotify has other ideas regarding this “walk” and the generated playlist I’ve chosen due to the artists listed is instead more of a running playlist, hitting BPM ranges that normally work pretty well. The first song is perfect.

This has been perhaps my single favorite song Spotify’s ever discovered for me. By a minute ten, I’m running at 170 steps a minute. I feel awesome. I’m not really distance running yet, more going for a minute, 90 seconds, and getting back into a walk until I can go again in a few more minutes.

I find myself on the outside edge of the neighborhood, a long straight stretch of a little over a quarter mile.

I’ve never had this song come up in the context of running before. The long, ethereal build-up occured as I look out to the west. There are mesas, yellow-brown grass, green cholla dotting the landscape near and far. A splash of color from the 8:35 sunset. The warmth still radiating from the asphalt.

I am, for a fleeting moment, moved nearly to tears.

You see, this is a moment I’d envisioned somewhere around the age of 16.

That song, with it’s arpeggiated synthesizer, simple acoustic line and native-inspired vocals had given me a visceral, implacable compulsion to live in the desert, drive its roads, see it at speed, too hot to think. Now, there are a few differences. I know now that the exact sort of desert I’d envisioned is more of an Arizona or Nevada desert than New Mexico. And the mental image, which I can recall as viscerally as though I had actually lived it, was during the day, probably close to 1 in the afternoon.

But the other side of that vision, that compulsion, was that I’d live alone. Not so much as an acquaintance for a thousand miles in any direction. And the reality of the situation, of this little town in the middle of New Mexico, and this scene with its heat and cholla and mesas and storm clouds in the distance, and the unmistakable parallax of it going on for a hundred miles with nothing but a raven or coyote to break it up, and that I’d feel so absolutely loved and cared for that the timid teenager that originally envisioned it would call me a spiteful liar…

It was very nearly more than I could bear, the sheer exuberant joy. And off I ran, 186 steps a minute, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3. Breathe in 2 3, out 2 3, in 2 3, out 2 3. Do you have any idea how good you’ve got it, how many people have killed for a chance at a situation that still wouldn’t even compare?

Even thinking about it now, over an hour later, with the same song playing, has me almost hyperventilating with the sheer feeling of it.

I only hope that if there’s any justice, that my memory which admittedly isn’t as good as I’d like it to be will hold this small, visceral moment as tightly as any formative memory I’ve ever held. My father’s laugh, the smell of incense and cake in the basement of Diana’s house, the regretful mistakes and accidents and triumphs that shaped my being, this brief moment was as important as any of them. It felt like an affirmation in return. That this moment was a reward for making the right decisions when they were most pivotal.

That song now has a meaning, an emotion attached to it that few have. I’ve dumped a lot of emotions into one other song.

Good times and bad have both had that song as the soundtrack. Losing my job and the death of my father. My 5-year wedding anniversary, 10-year anniversary of the relationship, new cars, new house, new job.

I am utterly drained. Heh. I was so compelled to sit down and write this, here, the first thing in almost 18 months. It’s just me, and that’s okay.