The running dreams have begun as NYC Marathon sneaks ever closer: I dreamed I was struggling to get to the start line, and when I ran I got lost in the basement of Central Perk cafe. Oi!
My feet were immeasurably heavy. Every step took concentrated effort. Every stride seemed to be weighted by a jell-o-like viscosity that wrapped around my legs with a resistance to motion that implied the inevitable failure that was taunting me from an unreachable distance beyond hope of completion.
I was running a race. A long run. A distance run. I don’t recall exactly the place or the time or the terrain, other than there were trails and city blocks and wide, expansive fields with uncertain paths through tall grasses. I ached to mark each footfall on the inconsistent course. I pushed through my lack of momentum with a force of will that drained my spirit and crushed my heart, knowing in my soul that the end of this unnamed race was beyond my grasp. Obstacles appeared with random purpose and unclear intention. And all around me the crowds shouted, my watch continued marking the passing seconds, and futility crept along in the shadows just out of reach of clarity and…
And then I woke up.
It happens whenever I start training for a race. I dream about running, and the dream always seems to be nearly the same theme: like those dreams I used to have about school, oh-so-long-ago, they brush at the edges of my fears about being perpetually underprepared, a test for a class I never took or laced up for a race I didn’t realize I had to run, arriving late, starting and slogging through the distance at an inexplicably slow pace, or facing down challenges that I have no context for, either asleep or awake. Frustration and futility abound.
Yet, I doubt I’m unique in my haunted sleep.
While I’ve never been one for random dream interpretation, I think a lot can be said about your state of mind from the insight that comes from critically reviewing your dreams. After all, it is the work of the brain to sort through and catalogue the stray memories and emotions that clutter through your mind over the course of each day, and from that effort flows the context-making and a kind of innate (if vague and hazy) understanding of how those things fit in among your more conscious thoughts. You experience things, and your mind stuffs those experiences away and blends them together with the notions and ideas, hopes, fears, and vast array of other feelings that often get shelved as you push through the reality of your life.
Do you dream about running?
Apparently my mind is taunting me with thoughts of general inadequacy, peppering my nightmares with the threat of an utter collapse of everything I’ve worked for when that moment comes. It’s odd, that. I don’t know if it says anything more than that I obviously have frustrations at my own physical limitations, magnified in the dreaming of it, but it is possible to think that this is perhaps a barrier to my training now and going forward.
Now… how do I deal with that?
For the entire month of June I’m planning on writing a series of blog-a-day posts based on a set series of open-ended questions to myself. This is one of those posts.
June 21st // Something You Want To Experience
If you have been following this blog’s June blog-a-day series, you may have noticed a theme. The first ten days are trying to be backward reflections on my life, the second ten days are intended to be timely, in-the-moment glimpses of my little world as it currently stands, and the last ten days are questions asking about some indeterminate point in my future existence or supposed state of being. Of course, these things are never so cut-and-dry, but the aforementioned theme does exist… however abstractly. And one might have also noticed that, given it is now June 21st, the third and final phase of that trio of themes kicks off today: The future. (*cue ominous music*) Which is a whole different thing to write about, now isn’t it?
Additionally, having asked something as vague as “what is something you want to experience” is not only making my brain hurt a little bit, but forcing me to consider where to even start: experiences — big, small or otherwise — can be intensely personal quips of life or insanely public bursts of whateverness, and everything or anything in between, of course. So, where do I even begin to get my head around this one?
In the past couple weeks I’ve written a lot on running, a lot of fatherhood, and a little bit about my professional efforts. And why is that? Well, it’s probably related to those efforts being mostly what I’ve been doing and thinking about lately. It was all relevant for those “past” and “present” posts: I’ve been running, lots. I’ve been doing daddy-type things constantly because, well, it’s hard to ignore that little nearly-four-year-old who lives in my house — hard to ignore her both for sentimental and legal reasons. And the professional bit has just sort of happened out of due course and routine responsibilities of that whole working-guy hat I wear. But as far as what I’ve been ignoring — what I have not been writing about much, let alone thinking about and working at — is my writing in itself, as the meta-type concept or topic it happens to be. And as far as bucket-list-life-experiences go, the whole vague idea of ‘Recognition for Accomplishments in the Field of Wordsmithery’ has been on that bucket-list for a very long time. So, it seems that I really should think about it more. Or, so I tell myself.
The thing is, my mild obsession with writing goes back to a definitive point in 1985. I was in, what at that time was called, a “Challenge” class, where — for kids silly enough to get their regular work done promptly and sit quietly and eagerly waiting for more — we were “challenged” with non-curriculum activities while everyone else struggled through the arithmetic and spelling lessons we brushed off as trifling inconveniences on the path to higher knowledge and social stigma. Sounds a little pretentious, doesn’t it? I’m not going to deny that, but hey… I was nine.
It was in this extra-curricular school-based group that I spent a whole semester during a very susceptible phase of my cognitive development (apparently) being trounced by the notion that every single one of us would, could and should aspire to greater things through the delicate and beautiful art of storytelling. We should all be writers. Novelists. Wordsmiths at age nine and forevermore. And for some reason, that selfish and pretentious little notion has stuck in my head and — despite my (current and acute) awareness of what that notion actually is and how it got there, the little muse-like parasite living in a dark, brooding corner of my mind — it refuses to dislodge and just go away, leaving me (I assume) in a less-broodful place. So here I am, nearly three decades later, pattering away on keyboards feeding that parasite and contemplating what destiny it has in mind for me.
Hence, something I want to experience is…? Well, what then?
For a long, long time that was very simple answer. The whole my-name-on-the-cover-of-a-novel seemed like the obvious way to go for someone seeking validation for the whole putting-words-on-paper craft. It was the only way to go, really. It was, despite the vast, uncounted collections of mixed quality novels filling the shelves of bookstores, libraries, and history itself, publication on pulp really was the measure of success. And maybe it still is. Maybe, well.. what do I know, really?
But as far as seeking experiences, looking out for that moment when I can check something tangible from my unwritten, mental bucket-list and get on with my life, I’m not exactly sure what that is anymore. Maybe it still is the my-words-in-pocket-book-format goal of yesteryear. Or maybe it is something else entirely. Maybe it is experiencing something other with the whole creative effort that doesn’t fit that easily-defined moment of time, that absolute, or that fixed paper-bound goal of my aged-nine-self. Maybe that experience is something I haven’t figured out yet. I just know that something I want to experience still seems to be something relating to words, writing, and something yet ill-defined that goes with it all. And is that so much to ask?