"We’ve all experienced feeling hopelessly lost, physically and mentally, in a very metaphorical or literal way. In those times, it is common to dig deeper and drive faster, rather than retrace our steps or seek higher ground to get perspective. This phenomena, as Laurence Gonzales describes in his book “Deep Survival”, is called “bending the map”. Our wishful thinking can make us search for light at the end of a black hole leading to nowhere. Momentary breathers can help us gather our bearings and clear away some of the dirt we’ve kicked up on the journey to the present moment." -- Boris Bachmann of SquatRx, from this article
Steadily I feel this riptide pull me along. I have to face facts. I've slackened in my discipline. My form has grown shoddy and it's almost everyday that I wake up angry at my own existence. I hate the fact that I've been putting on more weight. Partially because of the vanity aspect but mostly because I know it comes with decreased performance.
It started out little by little. Did it start after the marathon? Maybe during? When it quickly became apparent that I wasn't going to meet my expectations (4 hours? Don't be absurd.), when it quickly became clear that this time would be nothing short of atrocious, a little part of me continued to die. When the official pictures came back from the marathon and I saw what had become of my physique, pale and slack, I sank deeper into my grave. Afterwards, the plan was always to rest and heal.
Resting and healing have made me bitter and full of rage. While my tendons repaired themselves, or so they were supposed to, they still look swollen from time to time, my soul festered and turned gangrenous. I slacked my discipline. I ate things because they tasted good not because I was preparing for a race. I looked at the race calendar and how empty and wan it seemed this year. Syracuse. The Hamptons. NYC. Twice. Brooklyn. World Vision. The races became bigger, much bigger, but fewer and further in between. I didn't have the weekly excitement. More than that, I didn't have the daily pounding of the pavement that kept me joyous and vibrant.
Instead, I tried to maintain fitness by doing bodyweight exercise in my own apartment. And if you know me, you know that the word "trying" is a swear word to put a kind light on failure. I tried to maintain fitness. I did not maintain fitness. There's nothing wrong with bodyweight exercise. It has worked wonders for me before, it does great things for people now and will continue to do so in the future. The problem stares back at me in the mirror. It's hideous. I can't stand the image of what once was. What has laid me so low? Comfort.
When Stanley is comfortable, Stanley is doing something wrong. I am not a person that should ever have 'comfortable' things. This is not my life, not my narrative. My only home is in the midst of struggle and turbulence, my only peace is in waging endless war against the native entropic tendency of this world. Its gravity may grab and claw at me but I will break free.
This is my struggle to maintain my own sense of identity. Some people have no trouble doing so -- the word 'no' comes out of their mouth easily. But for others like myself, the quest to protect our own sense of self constitutes the fundamental agon of our lives. Parents, friends, culture -- anything and everything seems to have this uncanny ability to influence us. I'll be the first to admit that I was a ridiculous tool for most of my life. I had opinions on books I hadn't read, movies I hadn't seen and people I never met. I wore clothes because others wore them and spoke the way others spoke.
I wonder if it's any coincidence that so many like myself find themselves beginning to solidify their identities through the medium of physical activity. There's the repetitive and numerical element of it. I can't begin to describe the joy of seeing my mileage log climb and how it was so tranquil to count my breaths as I ran. And the pain, the glorious pain! For a slave to culture and opinion, the ache of the legs the searing of the lungs, I felt truly free only when the flesh truly hurt, in the endorphin rush ecstasy.