I've been daydreaming about running.
They’re romantic daydreams. And since I actually used to run, I know they’re totally implausible. Daydreams forget the way your knees creak after a few weeks. How you can feel the ligaments around them groan as they start to disintegrate. Daydreams make you forget that one of the biggest reasons why you ever liked running in the first place had nothing at ALL to do with the running (which sux) but with the control. No matter how much it hurts, you can push through the pain. You: master of your body. Daydreams forget that it's a deception, that mastery. It's a way to celebrate the fact that you have puked your lunch into a bush. Yay me! My bones hurt and I puked in a bush! I'm the MASTER! Daydreams also forget about how running makes pain a part of your life. Every muscle in your body hurts. And not just the first day. All the time. You smile to people about "how much energy!" you have. But, really, you just want to be in bed eating carbs. Running, in reality, isn't all that romantic.
But there’s something about not being able to run right now--even if I wanted to. Friction is the number one enemy of the skin graft. Graft survival depends utterly upon the developing of new capillaries, upon them forming a solid network between your graft and your body. Friction destroys tiny capillaries. So until the graft is completely healed and strengthened, friction has to be avoided. I absolutely, 100%, cannot, should not, will not run.
Which is why I want so desperately to do it.
Maybe it's something about the wondering if I’ll ever be able to run again.
Because inside that wondering I feel the running rhythm. Lifting up a foot, feeling the pavement shock its way up my body with each step. Runners feel the texture of the pavement in their face, in the way that cheeks and mouths are wont to bounce this way or that way. You can feel the pebbles under your feet, feel the ground change in your ankles. But most of all, there’s the rhythm. Breath in, breath out, step, step, arms swinging in counterbalance. It’s like music. Only it’s hypnotic. Before I was a runner I thought people who said running was “zen” were basically sickos. Masochists. And, yanno. A lot of them are. But after I started running--it took about three weeks of running every single day to get here, BTW--I started to understand it. It’s meditation. Breath in. Rhythm. No room for thoughts because you’re in motion. It’s calm.
It seems so paradoxical to me that lying in bed for hours upon hours does the absolute opposite of make you calm. It makes you itchy. Thousands of thoughts in your head, gushes of unpleasant emotion in your blood. (Almost never pleasant emotions.)
But when you’re running, you’re calm. The voices in your head (“most people call them thoughts, Kerry!” protested an old boyfriend of mine) learn to wind down, turn off. And then there’s just air and breath and movement. A rhythm that seems to mimic the rhythm of the stars dancing around the earth. Just motion. That transcendental sense that you are not simply alive, but a part of the universe. A universe where every speck of sand is numbered, and every breathing thing matters, and every particle of matter is moving.
You want to go running now, right?
But, see, this is all the fantasy of someone who can’t.
And it’s not like I don’t know the truth, either.
During the second marathon I ran, I slipped at mile 18 on some gravel and fell down the side of a mountain. Tore the ligament that held my kneecap in place. Then, because I was “a runner” I finished the race hopping. Took six hours. People would pull cars over on the side of the road to see if I was okay. Cuz I was hopping. And sobbing.
For eight miles.
Never was able to really run after that. Not like I did when I was training for and/or running marathons. I'd get a jog here or there. And a jog here or there is nice, but you really have to do the consistency thing to find the zen again. Xanax would be a lot more efficient for most people (except for me cuz it makes me hallucinate about blood and guts; ew). Especially when you have small children whose general activities preclude your ability to be entirely consistent.
I’m not sure if/when I’ll be able to run after all these skin grafts, either. The surgeon says my graft will be “somewhat functional” when it's fully healed. But what does that mean? It doesn’t mean it won’t hurt. That there won’t be movement-restricting contractures. That I won't be permanently deformed. That I'll be able to move my legs in a rhythm without tearing my skin, causing more contractures and less function. There's absolutely no way to know until they're finished cutting off my skin (since they have to remove from my knees to back, this could be awhile) and it has all finished healing. In other words: years.
I feel that rhythm when I close my eyes.
And I have this image in my head. Me: showing up to a marathon in really short shorts. Skin graft healed, skin supple and massive scars displayed for all to see. Here are my battle wounds. And Lord how I have battled.
I always love the images you see of people who conquer things. And, yanno, maybe I’ll be that image someday. In five years. Or ten. I'm not sure.
Maybe I'll just do a half marathon, though. The whole one sux.