Running marathons

On Sunday night, when I’m on my game, I sit down at my laptop and figure out what’s what for the week ahead and try to fit in the work things and life things and parenting things and things that are just for me. In the mornings, I open up my calendar and scan the day and so many times I have this impulse to reach out and hit the pause button, like I’m watching YouTube and I could just pause it for a minute, could go get a drink or have a conversation and come back when I’m ready. I want to do that with time, I want to pause it and get some shit done and then come back and hit Play when I’m ready.

Time is weird, it moves through you and around you in different ways. When you’re in pain, time feels so slow. When you’re forced to listen to a song you hate, time feels slow. When you’re running uphill, time feels slow. When you’re waiting for something you’re excited about, time feels slow. You can get up in the morning and brew some coffee or tea and while you’re staring at the tea bag in the water or waiting for the coffee to percolate it can feel like a week, a month, a lifetime, the seconds ticking slow and heavy, the weight of your own body pulling you down, those few minutes wrapping you in exhaustion like you ran a marathon.

We feel that way because we are running marathons, all kinds of them, all the time. The parenting marathon, the career marathon, the relationship marathon, the social marathon, the existential crisis marathon, the money marathon, the who-am-I marathon, the health/sickness marathon. You can opt out of some but you don’t get a choice on others.

Sometimes the marathon turns into a gauntlet: the trauma marathon.

And we go and we do and we move and we work and we talk and we play and we drink and we smoke and we sleep and we wake up and do it again. Sometimes in those pauses, the tiniest breaks, the in-between still moments—when it’s just you alone in a kitchen or you alone driving down the road or you with a dead phone in your hand and nothing to distract you—we feel it, all the work we’ve been doing, all the soreness and tiredness.

I sound like I’m sad and tired and overwhelmed today, but that’s not how I feel. I feel grateful, and pretty energized, and mostly happy. Mondays are good for me. I like the fresh-start feel of them. I’m always optimistic on a Monday.

I like it when my phone or social media throws an old photo at me, Hey here’s a memory, Hey remember this?

The photos I love most are the stupid ones, the half-blurred, candid everyday moments. Some of these hit my chest with a sharp dagger of pain because they represent something lost, they carry grief in their colors and edges.

But I also see photos that show me times I was so worried about something or other. I can backpedal into memories and see the crisis, the trial, the source of anxiety or pain, the dread. The exhaustion, the effort to keep going, the uncertainty. Marathon miles when time was slow, stretched-out like taffy, when the weight of an hour was a mountain, when one foot in front of another was asking too much, when a moment of stillness was unbearable agony.

I see those stretches of time, I remember them, I feel their echo, but I see the rest of life around, the faces, the moments of exhilaration or peace. I see us doing things. I see the experience of life with people I love that kept happening even when I felt the heaviest, the worst. Time keeps going, and that’s a gift really—because it means we keep going whether we’re able to put one foot in front of another or not.

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