It might be a little silly for someone getting to be my age to put this into words, but I’d like to make sure that I get the facts down clearly: I’m the type of person that doesn’t mind being himself. To write it with a finer point, I’m the type who doesn’t find it painful to be alone. Well, not most of the time. Find is a funny word once you’ve finally found it.
But now I find that spending an hour or two every day running alone, not speaking to any one, as well as a few hours amusing these blank sheets of paper, to be either difficult, or far from boring. I have held onto this tendency since my youth.
Of course, throughout life, it gradually grew on me living with someone else. And being a chef, I know the importance of teamwork, and by being around other people, I’ve learned the obvious point that we can’t survive on our own. Gradually, then, or though perhaps, in putting my own sort of spin on it, through personal experience, I discovered how to blend in with my surroundings.
So I guess, by sticking my nose into all sorts of places I didn’t always belong, I acquired the practical, street smart skills I needed to thrive. Is this right or wrong of me? Who knows? But if there is a line between right or wrong, I probably crossed it or snorted it years ago.
Yet, the desire in me to be alone, when I need to be, hasn’t changed. Which is why the hour plus that I spend running, maintaining my own silence, is important to my overall well-being, more so than writing. When I run I don’t have to talk to anyone, nor to anyone must I listen, not even myself. All I need to do is gander at the scenery passing me by. This is a part of my day, that once again, I cannot do without.
I was asked once, what I thought about when I run. The person inquiring, may have, or not, been familiar with running long distances themselves. But ever since that question, I now, always ponder it. What exactly do I think about when I’m running? In all honesty, I don’t have a clue.
On cloudy days, I suppose I wonder whether or not it’s going to rain. And on sunny days, how bright it is. And on smoky days, how close is the fire? When I am sad I think about gloomy things. When I’m happy I think about sunny things. Sometimes random memories do come to mind also. And occasionally, hardly ever, really, do I come up with any ideas to write about. So really as I run, I don’t think of anything worth mentioning.
FILLING A VOID
I just run. I run in a void. Or maybe I should spin it another way: I run to acquire a void. But as anyone should expect, an occasional twisted thought will slip into this void. People’s minds cannot be a complete blank canvas. Human beings’ emotions are not strong enough, or consistent enough, to remain sustainable within a vacuum.
What I mean is, the kinds of thoughts and ideas that invade my emotions as I run remain subordinate to that void. Lacking any clever content, they are just random thoughts that fix themselves upon that central void, and then they project and disperse.
The thoughts that occur to me while I’m running are like thousands of clouds in the sky. Clouds of all sorts of different shapes and sizes. Some come and some go, while the sky remains the same sky as it always was. The clouds are nothing but guests in the sky that pass away and disappear, leaving behind nothing but the blue sky. The sky both exists and doesn’t exist. It has so much substance and at the same time it doesn’t. And I can merely accept the vast expanse for what it is and drink it all in.
And now here I am running through this unimaginable wild, or void, if you’d rather. Some days it feels really strange, and I can’t tell if I am happy, sad, or what. Probably, in the long run, it doesn’t matter. For me—and everyone else—this is just another experience as we grow older, and the emotions we’re having, too, are but first time feelings for all of us.
YET TO BE EXPERIENCED
If things in their current state were something I’d experienced before, then I would be able to understand it more clearly, but this is the first time, so I can’t yet. For now all I can do is refrain from making any over detailed judgments and just accept things as they are—out of my control.
Just like I accept the sky, the clouds, and the river I’m running next to. There is also something quite comically contradicting about it all, something you don’t want to discard completely.
And as I have mentioned in the past, competing against other people, whether in my personal life, or in my field of work, is just not the sort of lifestyle that I am into. Forgive me in advance for stating the obvious, but the world is made up all kinds of people. Other people have their own sort of certain values to live by, and the same holds true to me.
These differences though, more so than ever, have given rise to disagreements, and the combination of these disagreements can give rise to even, far greater misunderstandings. As a result, sometimes people are unfairly criticized, and sometimes people unfairly criticize. This goes without saying, and we are all guilty of it. It’s not much fun to be misunderstood or criticized, but rather a painful experience that sometimes gets the best of people in a deeper sense.
As I’ve gotten older, though, I’m gradually coming to the harsh reality that this kind of pain and hurt is a necessity of life. If you think about it, it’s precisely because people are different from others that they’re able to create their own independent selves.
Take me as an example. It’s precisely my ability to describe some aspects of a landscape that some others cannot, to feel differently about things than others do and to choose words that differ from theirs. This alone has allowed me to write words that are mine alone. And because of this I have found myself in an extraordinary situation in which some people like to read what I’ve written. This, in itself, is a miracle, and one I am thankful for. But yet some don’t like to read what I write and that’s perfectly fine too.
So the fact that I am me and no one else—the freedom to be me—is, my most essential quality. And freedom can be very a painful and sometimes, confusing thing. It shouldn’t be. But it is—plain and simple. Yet, pain is the price a person has to pay in order to be emotionally and—now it seems—socially independent.
That’s what I believe, and I’ve “tried” to live my life accordingly to me. In certain areas, I actively seek out solitude. And in some areas I’ve sought to be the life of the party. Though, as I’m older now, and especially for someone in my creative style of work, solitude is, more or less, an inevitable circumstance. Sometimes, however, this circumstance of isolation, like acid spilling through a sieve, can unconsciously eat away at a person’s heart and soul, only to dissolve them both away.
You could see it also, as a kind of double-edged sword. It protects me, but at the same time it steadily slices away at me from the inside. I think, in my own way I’m aware of said impeding danger—most likely from experience—and that’s why I’ve had to constantly keep something in motion, whether my body, my creativity, my mind, or my kitchen, something always has to be running. This is the business of running through a void, to escape the burden of things you can’t control.
In some cases you could say, that by pushing myself to certain limits—in order to heal from the creeping aggravation I feel inside at times—helps me to put myself in perspective. Not so much as an intentional act, but as an instinctive reaction.
ALLOW ME TO BE MORE SPECIFIC
When I’m criticized unjustly (from my viewpoint, at least), or when someone I’m sure will understand me doesn’t, I go running a little farther than usual. By doing this it’s like I am physically exhausting my discontent. It also makes me realize how weak I really am. How limited my abilities are. I become aware, physically, of my low points. And one of the positive results to running a little harder than normal is that I become that much stronger moving forward.
If I’m angry, I direct that anger towards myself. If I have a frustrating experience that frustrates the hell out me, I use that to push myself a little more. I silently absorb what feelings I’m able to when running, releasing them later, spinning them in a different way, in as changed a form as possible. Maybe perhaps, as if to give personality to the narrative of a story.
But I think for most people, my personality takes a minute, or two, to warm up too. As it typically takes me a minute, or two, to warm up to you. There might be a few—very few, mind you, I’d imagine—who are really impressed immediately by me, and I by you, but only rarely would anyone in their right mind warm right up to each other so quickly.
And is it ever in the realm of possibility for a creative mind to be liked by everyone? I haven’t the slightest idea, maybe somewhere in the world there is. It’s hard to generalize. So I try not to. Truth is, people aren’t going to like me, or agree with me. And that’s the truth to the point as to why I write.
THE BUSINESS OF RUNNING
But that’s another story. Let’s get back to running. I’ve gotten back into a running lifestyle again, I started nonchalantly a year ago, rigorously five months ago, now I almost feel as if I’m obsessively running through the pain, all the happiness, the confusion, all the while setting the pace, until the time comes to cross that finish line of solution.
What that might mean for me, now that I’m approaching my mid-forties, I don’t know yet. But I have to think that it means something, maybe nothing profound whatsoever, but there has to be something of significance to it.
Anyways, right now I must run at a full sprint, as if my creative process depended on it. I’ll wait till later to think about what it all means. (Putting off thinking about something is one of my strongest suits, a skill I’ve sharpened as I’ve gotten more creative and older).
I situate my shoes upon my feet, set my playlist, and get ready to hit the road. With the trade winds wafting at my back, white clouds up above, dutifully aligned like a cross in the sky, and me listening to an old favorite, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.
As I get ready to run I am struck by a premeditated thought: even if my creative approach doesn’t improve, there’s not much I can do about it. I’ve gotten older, and time has taken its toll. It’s nobody’s fault, not even my own. That’s the way it goes. It’s just the rules of the game. Do I know where I’m going? Not necessarily. No, actually. No, not at all.
Just as a river flows to the sea, growing older and slowing down are just part of the natural scene. And I’ve got to accept it. It might not be the most enjoyable process, and what I discover as a result might not be all that pleasant, or could be everything I’ve ever dreamed of. But what choice do I have, anyway? I have only my own choices to make. And in my own way, yes, I’ve enjoyed my life to the fullest, even if I can’t always say I’ve fully enjoyed my life.
So as I run today, I tell myself to think of clouds. But essentially I’m not thinking of anything but what I should be, and that is becoming a better me. See, all I can do today is keep on running in my own cozy, homemade void, in my own creative way. And this freedom to be me is a pretty wonderfully essential thing, to run straight into the hazy wild burning all around me, and just as well, the dream burning deeper within me.
At the end of the day, all I can be is me. And no matter what anyone says or does, it’s not going to stop me.