(Scooter demands I ride right meow).
It's been a busy week for me here in Lincoln, Nebraska. The end of the term has finally arrived. Campus smells of undergraduate fear, pending finals, and last-minute scholarship. Today marks the onset of final exams, evident in sights I saw as I approached my office:
Two students outside the chemistry building, giving each other high-fives
A lone student huddled in the shadow of the computer science building, smoking, staring off into the distance, muttering to himself
A female student sitting on a bench, crying into her cell phone, "My math class is such bullshit, Mom."
This reminded me of a song by Of Montreal, "Gronlandic Edit," and the line, physics makes us all its bitches. It does, so I smiled.
Though I'm tempted to write at length about the latest developments in the "War on Terror," I won't. All I can tell you is that the celebration of anyone's death makes me uneasy, as if I'm toeing a fine line between the soulfulness of faith and the soul-less nature of human hungers for vengeance. Instead, I prefer to think of the families missing their fathers, and mothers, sons and daughters, lost to war, lost to unspeakable violence, and try to hold their hearts in view, in mindful meditation. Words can never do justice to such loss - only love and respect can hold up the heartbroken. And the last decade has broken many hearts all over the globe.
On my mind today is how easy it is to treat love as a noun, as a thing to acquire or lose, instead of an imperative. "Love!" as a direction, an order ... can you imagine the chaos following such an order would create? Can you imagine the disruption you could unfold in your own life? What if we all followed the same imperative at the same time? What if love as a verb, as something we do, was unbound and released into the universe at the same time?
Whenever the world doesn't make sense to me, whenever I sense a current event is playing at the fringe of present and history at the same time, I think about love, about people as people ... regardless of origin, country, or creed. When it comes to love, just as when it comes to food, there's never enough to go around the world so that everyone feels full, sustained. People need both food for their bodies, minds and nurishment for their spirits. I believe love and respect will be what brings both to everyone. But that's just my sentimental waxing ...
While the world turned yesterday, I headed out to run without the Bucketeers. During our run last week, when a sudden downpour helped me to realize I could run a mile in one shot, I had a breakthrough. For weeks now, I've been holding back. I couldn't quite regulate my breathing, wouldn't let my body do what it wanted to do to support running: breathe on its own terms, its own rhythm.
This was, I concede, a matter of pride. I didn't want to sound like a wheezing accordian. I didn't want my labored breath to be the baseline for the tenor slapping of my thighs. I didn't want to sound like a "Huff, huff, slap, slap" sort of one-woman band. Worse, I wasted a lot of time wishing, to myself, that I could run like the ladies in my group. I denied myself encouragement in my inner-monologue, instead allowing my thoughts to be negative, judgmental.
That is, until the rainy afternoon. Head down, rain seeping into my clothes, blurring my vision, the crisp chill of spring raising goosebumps on my skin, I realized my body knows itself better than I, the mind atop it, do. I let go. I ran, focusing on the path, the rain, on getting to my car. I didn't try to breathe quietly, either. I flapped, slapped, puffed, and huffed all the way to my car where I stood in the rain, hands above my head like a champion boxer, and celebrated my arrival.
Fellow Bucketeer Kim jumped out of her car to join me. "Yay!" she yelled, "Nothing can motivate you like bad weather!" We then jumped in our cars to head our separate ways.
It could have been endorphins, but for at least fifteen minutes on a Wednesday afternoon, I loved myself deeply, respectful of my Self, its body, its possibilities. Chilled to the bone, shivering, I picked up some Indian spiced soup and naan, then headed home where I sat by candlelight, listening to music, marveling still at what I had done. I went to sleep Wednesday night grinning like a big dope.
Love. Such an interesting thing to apply inward, to hold to oneself warmly as if holding hands up to a fire. The warmth radiates, comforts. Yet, suspicious of its depth, by Sunday I wasn't so sure I could repeat my Wednesday success. My mind grew restless with doubt. What if it was just a fluke? What if it was the rain that pushed me? What if I can't do it again?
I suited up and headed for the trail, uncertain, doubting. Love. So hard to stoke, to protect. Love. Beginning anew even when doubt and self-loathing invite inertia, in settling down in the comfort of one's mediocrity - it turns out love as an imperative is a lot like other verbs: Run! Go! Try! Breathe!
As I hit the trail, I realized all I had to do was let my body drive. My mind would follow, catch up, and even fight, the trajectory of forward momentum. I put my head down, focusing on just making my feet move in a reliable, steady pace. For the first time since beginning training, I ran 3 of the 4 miles on our route. As I approached the turn-around spot, I felt my legs burning. I slowed. I realized I had run well beyond my imagination. I had outrun my head for the first time in my entire life.
Grateful, I hugged the stop sign at the trail's edge and ignored the curious stares I received by passersby. I headed back down the path, running taller, hands up in the air, joyful, strong. Love. It makes the impossible, possible.
When I woke today, morning sun held my room in a warm glow. With legs stiff from yesterday's work, I plodded to the kitchen to brew coffee and make breakfast. I made a point to thank my body for working hard by feeding it well with a bowl of oatmeal and dried fruit. As I sipped coffee and read a book, I felt Scooter's stare. I turned to see him sitting on my bicycle seat as if to remind me that I had made a committment to bike commute to work. I took his picture before packing up, donning my helmet, and heading out the door.
Love. In the bigness of internatinal terrorism, and compared to the losses others have endured and continue to bear, my discoveries and progress could seem small, unimportant. Yet, if I turn the lens just a bit, and one can see that in a world full of hate, madness, war, famine, and suffering, one can find love moving through a community, on a trail, on the labored breath, in the wind, and beating in the heart of someone who just passed by.
Looking through that lens, well, love seems like a pretty big deal.