Dawn happens around me.
It happens. It does not rise. I can understand how people, at times, can interpret dawn as something that rises but this morning I can say with authority that it does not.
I can say that because I am waiting for it. I am scanning the edges of the horizon waiting for the first creeping of lightish-purple. But the creeping does not come. It is not something that happens from the bottom up. It happens all at once. Like a dimmer switch.
I am something less than impressed and the disappointment doesn’t bode well.
I’m forcing my body to move and it is protesting. It’s the kind of run that I call Long and Slow. It is a just-keep-moving day. And it’s cold.
Fisherman’s Wharf smells like piss and garbage and the city workers have just begun to arrive with pressure washers and ride-on street cleaning machines. They will make sure that the tourists that visit Pier 39 today do not know that in the small hours these sidewalks become dumping sites for human waste. They are scrubbing our dark underbelly clean.
I have been forced unwillingly out of the bubble that is usually created by my portable music device. Three songs in it dies and I realize that, no, it actually wasn’t charging all night long.
And so it is the sound of my feet on pavement that will be my inspiration.
Just keep moving.
At Fort Mason I stop and watch the bridge, which is reluctant to turn off its lights. The bay is banked in low morning clouds and even when dawn happens the city will not seem awake.
My body is in full rebellion as I hit the four mile mark. As a cramp sets into my stomach I grit my teeth and hunker down knowing that the only option is to keep going. I dig my fingertips into my side and my face twists. I can hear my old running coach calling out to me, “Hey – don’t make that face! It’s terrible!”
Today I am alone and so I make the face.
It strikes me that I am accustomed to running in packs. These are the moments when I notice it. These are the moments when the companionship of another set of long legs falling rhythmically is the thing that makes the pain bearable. I can hear someone in my head, “C’Mon. We’re almost there. Keep going.”
A man passes me on the left and starts to pull away but I catch his stride and fall into step about 20 feet behind him. Close enough to hold on but not close enough to annoy him.
Maybe he knows I’m back there. Maybe he doesn’t.
It is all I can do to prevent myself from running up alongside him and begging him to get me back. I rehearse the lines in my head.
“Hey. Do you mind if I run with you? Just another half mile. That’s all I’ve got. I’m really suffering. It will really help… I’m sorry but do you mind?”
Instead I string a mental line between us and think of him as a tugboat. My unwilling tugboat. My oblivious tugboat.
He gets me home. And so starts my day.
I am preparing myself now for the fact that things can only get hard at this point. That the coming year or two will be full of hard decisions and harder sacrifices. There is an imbalance in my life that I cannot deny. I’m missing something and I know what it is.
Time has become a suddenly precious commodity and I find myself gripping to my morning routines with ferocity. I am performing mental evaluations of every thing I do. Worthwhile? Really worthwhile? If not it is getting tossed aside. Every workout now is an internal therapy session. Every run is an emotional minefield. Too many thoughts in this direction and kerplow something has become suddenly gory inside the walls of me. These are necessary explosions. This is necessary destruction.
But this isn’t easy.
The rebuilding will take time. The rebuilding will mean change. And change is a son of a bitch, even when you want it. Even when you’re instigating it.
At lunch I sit with a friend who really makes me think. Someone who has the capacity to bullshit for a while and then really looks at me and says, “But what about everything else? How are you?”
And his sincerity is piercing and startling. His ability to listen and really hear me isn’t matched by many people. His ability to call me on things is downright scary. And, truth be told, if we’re quantifying this thing, I don’t really even know him that well. I shouldn’t feel this close to him. But I do. And we are.
And I’ll take that for exactly what it’s worth.
Lunch feels like therapy. Except cheaper and with far less comfortable seating. I indulge and match his order of a Bacon Cheeseburger. We split the fries. And because on every other workday of my life I eat exactly 5 meals of no less than 240 calories and no more than 320, well, I feel ok about the cheeseburger.
It’s the conversation that makes me uneasy.
Because as I listen to myself it becomes more and more apparent that my so-called spiritual well is going dry. He knows it too but he is also smart enough to know that he doesn’t have to tell me.
So we eat cheeseburgers and share fries and his Coke is regular and mine is diet.
The wind is ripping through the city as we walk back to the office and we shiver under jackets that are very clearly too thin. It’s fall. The season has changed. Screw the Almanac because this shit is official.
I’m calling it.
And the fall always reminds me that life is about loving and living but then, at some point, life also has to be about getting shit done.
A cold wind blows and it’s time to get serious. It’s time to do the hard stuff.
I put my head down and keep moving.