F.E.A.R.

“I have observed many runners who are moving their arms and legs and going through the motions of running, but what is missing is the sense of integrity that comes from having a strong center” (Danny and Katherine Dreyer, Chi Running, 36).

What happened made me.

And then it made me.

I want to write about running up and down Campbell Ridge Road. What makes this possible are muscles that I imagine and (so experience) as two giant fists pistoning up and down from my lower abdomen into the center of my pelvis. This is where I understand (from the Dreyers, Chi Running) the bottomless, most sustainable, most powerful energy in my body resides. I am very new to this practice. But when I tuck my tail, lengthen my spine and drive out from this center, I find I can run stronger and faster.

I am running 3, 4, 5 miles a few times a week, beginning with a tough mile and a half up and over Campbell Ridge as it quickly inclines through 4 hairpin turns. In places this road is so steep, it seems I am climbing hand over fist. But I am running. And when I have made it through to where the road eases off a little, the rest of the hill feels…reasonable.

My dog, who normally runs like a deer all over the mountainside, has taken to running with me like a little coach. She meets me ahead, as if cheering me along.

With this running practice comes greater access to my core. And amazement at myself.

Great hands reach into the bowl of me, into my center, and lift me up the mountain.

There is pleasure in running from this place too. For moments I have felt like I am flying. I have felt super human. Running has become a kind of craving. Even now as I write, I am wanting, looking forward to the next run.

And this is still my body able to do this, the very body that in November of 2010 experienced such pain that I considered disk replacement surgery, the body in which I could not sit, nor lay flat. The body without a core, as I discovered in physical therapy. The body at first given giant rubber bands and tiny imperceptible movements. Then given strength building, yoga, manual therapy.

It is my body back. As I had requested, speaking over and over bath water, please give me my body back. Back from my life. Back from what made me.

And then made me even more.

There is a reason why, at age 44, I am learning how to run all over again, to run, as the Dreyers put it, like a kid.

I have just finished reading a novel about a man who survived a horrific childhood and who was so beautiful and so beloved, but who never recovered from the belief he had learned as a child that he deserved all the violence ever done to him.

“He rarely got angry about things that happened or had happened to him: his pains, past and present, were things he tried not to brood about, were not questions to which he spent his days searching for meaning. He already knew why they had happened: they had happened because he had deserved them” (Hanya Yanagihara,  A Little Life).

Before I was ten years old, I had learned to disconnect from the center of me. I had taught myself to leave, to go away from my skin. I had buried other people’s harms to me down deep in my core, in the place in me strong enough. I had owned them, incorporated them. They seemed fundamental. They were the secret truth about me.

And each time those great hands reach into the bowl of me, that shame is what I have known they will touch. Of course I had felt fear. It was to this that I knew I must return.

But shame is always a lie.

How can a person come to believe this? That the violence of others or their neglect, of a parent or a brother, of a perpetrator or a crowd of people holding signs that say God Hates Fags is not in some way deserved?

The first eighteen years of our lives: the first 6,570 days. That is 160,000 hours. 72 seasons. Whatever we learn surviving those hours and days and seasons is stored in our bodies. In our very cells. The whole of us learns to survive, right down to the cellular level. And as the cells die and are replaced, they teach the new cells what they know. They teach them how to be kidneys, how to be nerves, how to be marrow, how to be skin, how to be heart…

And how to survive.

Fuck Everything And Run.

The cells know and pass on and so remember. Sorrow. Shame. Fear. They know to flinch. To flush. To freeze. And to give up sensation. To deaden desire.

“He had all sorts of rules he’d constructed for himself over the decades, based on lessons someone must have taught him—what he wasn’t entitled to; what he mustn’t enjoy; what he mustn’t hope or wish for; what he mustn’t covet—and it took some years to figure out what these rules were, and longer still to try to convince him of their falsehood. But this was very difficult: they were rules by which he had survived his life, they were rules that made the world explicable to him. He was terrifically disciplined—he was in everything—and discipline, like vigilance, is a near-impossible quality to get someone to abandon.”

And yet, like me, the character in this novel is loved by incredible people who believe he is deserving, not of pain, but of love.

They have sat across tables from me. They have heard all my secrets. They have wept before me. They have believed me. In me. They have told me their secrets. They have shown me how to love. They loved me when I could not love myself. And I have done all of this now too. For others like me.

I have told you things that were so risky they could destroy you. They did a little. I could see it in your face. A long time ago, these things that happened to us, made us. Then surviving them made us even more. Now they heal us.

Face Everything And Recover.

What happened made me. And then it made me. And now it makes me.

Useful.

On my first long run a month ago, I had some moments of bliss, of the joy that comes of running on those Chi pistons. In those moments, I had risen up the hill on wings from the bowl of my pelvis, on the arrow of my spine, on light beaming out the crown of my head.

So when I was done, walking home through the pine woods and wildflowers at Toho Trail, I was suddenly flooded with memories, beautiful golden memories from when I was 4, 5, 6. All the hours embracing the rough oak tree out front of our house. Playing red light green light with the neighbor kids in the summer evening. Kittens born on my bed. My calico cat Psyche. Kicking a soccer ball against the garage. Halloween costumes. Learning how to make French toast. New shoes. Sitting at the sunny breakfast table. My sister on the phone talking to her imaginary friend Olive. Jumping in mud puddles. Riding my big wheel through the shady streets of Greenwood Drive. All in a flood of golden light. Beautiful memories, all of them.

And I was also crying as hard as a little kid who has fallen and is shocked at that sensation. I was beside myself. But I wasn’t surprised. I knew this could happen. I know why I have been afraid to draw from that powerful place.

I had buried other people’s harms to me down deep in my core, in the place in me strong enough. I had owned them, incorporated them. They seemed fundamental. They were the secret truth about me.

But that was a false belief.

And as I walked along, crying like a child, I told myself, you are safe now. I said, it wasn’t your fault. And I hugged myself.

I soon finished my crying.

And that same golden light now filled the woods.

The peace that came after everything. Because of everything.

I was beside myself.

F.E.A.R.

Face Everything And

Run.

Fistful of Love

annadidone

 

In the painting Anna embraces Dido.  Dido with her sword, Anna with her belly and navel exposed, they are a complimentary pair.  Together their singular breasts make a pair and remind the viewer to think of Amazons (a pair of Amazons) who were believed to have removed a breast in order to wield weapons in war.  Cupid and the dove, love and peace, devil and angel on their shoulders.  It is no use Anna.  Dido is looking out of the painting and I am thinking about the lyrics to Antony and the Johnson’s Fistful of Love:

I tell you I love you and I always will.  And I know you can’t tell me.  I know you can’t tell me.

So I’m left to pick up the hints, the little symbols of your devotion.  So I’m left to pick up the hints, the little symbols of your devotion.

And I feel your fists and I know it’s out of love.  And I feel the whip and I know it’s out of love.  And I feel your burning eyes burning holes straight through my heart.  It’s out of love.  It’s out of love.

I accept and I collect upon my body the memories of your devotion.  I accept and collect upon my body the memories of your devotion.

When I first heard this song, I thought it was a great song about unrequited love.  And it is.  But as I listened to its melancholy horns and the brave, gender bending voice of the singer, as I looked at her picture on the YouTube screen, I felt grateful for drag queens, for Antony and the Johnsons, for this perfect representation of love in the closet, of loving a person ashamed to commit to that love, who can’t tell you he loves you.  You’re left to pick up the hints, the little symbols, the hot glances, the innuendo, her “devotion.”

And it hurts.  The disavowal hurts.  But you think it’s enough, that it’s what you deserve.  Punishments for your desire.  You accept and collect upon your body, memories.  Bruises from fists.  Lashmarks from the whip.  Burns.

For me the song is also about coming up queer in a straight world.  It resonates with my determination, to love who I love.

Queer, you eroticize martyrdom.  You must.  And for the highest purpose, true love, you are willing to risk violence.  And you walk through violence, even when not one fist has struck you.  You bruise on the inside, you burn, you feel the lash.  As in the song, the violence comes from those you love who can’t declare their love.  From friends and family who need time to get used to the idea.  Who may disavow you.  From lovers struggling to find the courage to take the same brave walk out into the light.

So you have to have compassion and you have to be brave.  And as you watch your loved ones suffer for loving you, both allies and lovers, you may not notice the stigma, the scar, the deep secret shame that, proud, gay me.  I thought I had overcome.

It’s a political act to declare to the world who it is that you love.  Whether it’s easy or hard it’s a political act.  It was when I was twenty and it is still.  And it has shaped me as a person, being gay.  Knowing I was gay since I was a kid, 9, 10 years old.  Learning to hide that secret from my parents, from my sister, from my teachers, and friends.  For an entire decade (I came out when I was twenty).  And I kept the secret because I knew it was shameful.  So nobody knew me, at the core, I remained hidden.  It’s a hard habit to break.

And I feel your fists and I know it’s out of love.  And I feel the whip and I know it’s out of love.  And I feel your burning eyes burning holes straight through my heart.  It’s out of love.  It’s out of love.

I accept and I collect upon my body the memories of your devotion.  I accept and collect upon my body the memories of your devotion.

And in the very deepest sense, these are my fists.  It’s my whip.  It’s my eyes burning into the mirror.  I have embraced and disavowed myself for so much of my life.  It’s in the very cells of my body.  The memories of my devotion.

It’s a part of my writing process to recover from the idea that I deserved those punishments, all the hurts from a life of trying to love, but being secret at the very core of myself, ashamed behind the mask of pride.  Beneath the birth legend, all my characters must recover from the shame of their origins, from violence and abandonment.  From that fistful of love.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vgwp-iQenn4