Running, growing, and rap music

"rune" © Alessandro Pautasso, 2009. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
run” © Alessandro Pautasso, 2009. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

The past two weeks I’ve been only just functioning. December’s introduction left me incapacitated and stumbling. Wrapped in a blanket, curled up on the couch. This week I managed to pull myself from the apartment with unwashed hair and dirty fingernails. All hazy around the edges, my heart and my head were only half-way there. The kind of week I have trouble even remembering. My word. I know, I swear, I did things.

My exercise weeks start on Thursdays. Wednesday’s scheduled rest day has had a tendency to bleed into two or five days lately. My body has no idea how to go about sleeping these days. Running and trips to the gym get scrapped for sleeping in, cups of coffee, and promises to get it done this afternoon. There is always an excuse to find later. I know I have to trick myself to going outside before I even have a chance to think about it. Can’t fall for that, “Oh, come on, you have all day.” I know that isn’t true. Plus, I’ve always preferred the morning.

The quiet of the city just waking up, the still-dark morning that belongs just to us. I get to set my intention for the day. But the past fourteen days or so that intention seems to be decided upon waking: just keep breathing today, okay? Last night I was feeling better, though. Like maybe I could do something. So I wrestled myself into my shorts and shoes and headed out the door.

For the first time in close to year I decided to listen to music while covering my standard loop of concrete. I put on Astronautalis‘ “This is Our Science” and turned it up loud. I’m always so focused on the sound of my breathing, my footsteps. Always fixated on making corrections. “Land lighter, breathe smoother. Pull your arms back, keep your chest up.” But his voice piped through my headphones and all concerns of technique faded out.

I don’t know if I was even listening to him, not really. I just wasn’t listening to myself. I didn’t have any way to gauge how hard I was working other than how it felt. I couldn’t hear myself panting, couldn’t hear my quick foot falls. I just ran. Completely out of my body. I was mechanical. No feedback from the city, no feedback from my feet, no sound of pounding concrete. Just the feeling of my legs pumping and my head spinning. My first mile went by close to my 5K race pace without any conscious pushing.

My mind wandered off to reminisce about the first time I listened to this album on the night Mason and I met. I listened to it over and over again for the following three weeks. I lived in my headphones. Walked around Oakland for hours at a time, all full of fierce confidence and tinted with confusion. I wondered how I wasn’t terrified I was making a horrible decision. How I didn’t even question it. In those three weeks, I sold all my belongings and withdrew from UC Berkeley.

When Jorge and Jill dropped me off at the airport with big hugs, a backpack, and a one-way ticket I pulled my iPod back out and put my headphones back in. That album took me to Seattle. To Mason. It propelled me to the set of arms I’m going to wrap myself up in most every day for the rest of my life. It made sure I knew I was doing exactly what I should.

At our wedding reception our DJ put on the first track, “The River, The Woods”. I put my arms around Mason’s neck for our first dance, and I sang it to him. The final paragraph of the prologue to the rest of our life together.

That album always manages to both ground me and drive me forward. It reminds me who I am and what I’m made of, but it also tells me that those things are not set in concrete.

We are always growing, always changing. We are always progressing. I’ve never been where I am before and I am going to go somewhere else every time I’m in a place that feels similar. “This is Our Science” reminds me I can trust that decision.

It is so easy to feel stuck.

I read pieces I wrote in 2002 and I feel like I’m still talking about the same problems. Depression, anger, addiction, vulnerability. But even if the subject matter is the same, the conversation doesn’t have to be. And that’s the part I always forget.

Even if I feel like I’m fighting the same battles over and over again, it is never repetition. I am a completely different person than I once was. I don’t look, feel, or do anything the same as I used to. There is no way I could possibly think that isn’t true. I know it is. I know it is. It just doesn’t often feel that way. But every time I put Astronautalis back on and take a walk, go out for a run, I hear something new. And every time I put it on that first line becomes more and more true: “Wherever we go/We’ll never be lost”.

8 thoughts on “Running, growing, and rap music

  1. I stopped by your Twitter page to share a poem with you, one with a line that made me think of you, but saw that you had a new post up so here I am… I’ll leave it here for you instead.

    “Sometimes what’s wrong does not hurt at all, but rather shines like a new moon”

    from “Consequences” by Mary Oliver

    full poem:

    Thanks for the intro to Astronautalis. Listening to This is Our Science now. Starts so serene, was surprised (in a good way!) when he busted out rapping.


    1. That’s a great piece, Christy. Thank you so much for sharing it with me. I can see why it made you think of me. Those themes seem to be coming up a lot lately, don’t they?

      I’m so glad you’re checking out Astronautalis! All of his albums are fantastic in completely different ways. I love how that one in particular is like a surprise rap album. “Oh! Really? We’re doing this now?”


  2. I feel like I never have anything to say about your posts because you pulled them out of my brain and put them into cooler words than I ever could.

    I listened to this album last night and introduced a friend to it. When he expressed serious interest, I told him that y’all danced to the first song at your wedding, and he was like “oh shit, I gotta go back and listen to it again.” So. That’s a weird coincidence?!


  3. Hi , I read your post for the first time and it was a great start into knowing your style of writing. It’s very relatable stuff. P.s. I also love listening to music during my morning walks. A good song absolutely makes it worthwhile. 🙂



Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s