You Can Run…

I used to run all over town until I fucked my knees up, then I’d run some more. For all my irresponsible self-injurious behavior, you’d think I would have been doing marathons, but I ate way too much and pushed myself too hard too quickly. Most of my runs were six to eight miles, and I think my longest ever was almost ten miles, which is not even a half marathon.

I’m not going to give myself zero credit here. I peaked in mid-to-late summer when the temperatures were regularly over 90° F. Sometimes I’d weigh myself before and after the run and I’d drop five or six pounds of water weight in a couple of hours. One time it was more like eight. I didn’t know that was possible, but next time someone tries to sell you one of those miracle weight loss contraptions, rest assured they’ve found a way to sweat some water out of you, which you’ll add back next time you take a sip.

I also ran up and down Crowley’s Ridge, through the Craighead Lake Park, and down into town. I’d often cross one of the treacherous overpasses and cruise by Wal-Mart and the Mall at Turtle Creek. This city has few sidewalks, so I’d bolt across parking lots, empty plots, and ditches. I’d return home with swollen knees and go to work barely able to squat, or walk for that matter.

I’d often picture myself talking to Dad, but I never felt any sort of presence other than my own futile straining. I’d try to force it, to dig my nails into something in my brain, but it never clicked. I was alone, myself and the trail or the road, and I did find the elusive runner’s high a handful of times. It felt like I was riding a motorcycle, just elation, cruising, and the world humming past me. There were other moments when I screamed and cursed my way up steep hills, which is difficult to convey without making it sound funny.

These days I look for reasons to avoid cardio. I’m thrilled to no end when I pick up a resistance exercise workbook and part of the intro has been written by some wise dude who proclaims, “Cardio is a gigantic waste of time!” He’s wrong, but I love the comfort of confirmation bias.

If you want to lose weight, eat less and exercise more, of course, but if you want to look good with your clothes off, you gotta lift. You also might want to do a bit of cardio lest your heart violently explode, but that’s up to you. I feel like I get enough being on my feet at the bookstore forty hours a week. Your Mileage May Vary.

Please don’t misread this as your life goals prescribed by your new unsolicited fitness guru. This is my experience and it doesn’t have to match yours. If you have different plans, by all means follow your dreams whether it means running ultramarathons in Arizona or having your living room wall removed by firemen. We all gotta die sometime.

I see lots of you struggling with things, and it’s hard sometimes to do anything other than click sadface when you say your life is being destroyed, or that you hate the way you look, or that you’ve gone in for another surgery. I don’t want you to feel alone, especially when it encompasses your body, because I’ve had all sorts of struggles in that arena. Still, though, when yours include almost dying, repeatedly, I don’t know what there is left for me to say other than, “Holy shit.”

Maybe, “I see you.”

When your struggle is that you are objectively more beautiful than me but you hate yourself, all I can say is, well, I’ve been there. I used to be young and attractive and I hated myself. I still do, inside and out. No one hates Bob Talbot as much as I do, and because of this I know no quantity of compliments will fill that hole. I could have billions of screaming, undulating fans and the moment I went home and it got quiet I’d taste dirt again. I can’t run from the CPU sitting atop this meat machine. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Yesterday I stood at the customer service desk and looked at the Nook sign fifteen feet in front of me. I gazed, unblinking, until my vision got blurry and I thought, “I bet if I stared hard enough I could jump through that O.”

I don’t know what I look like or sound like when I’m trapped there, and I do mean trapped. I feel imprisoned, and I vacillate between strange silence and animated preaching about socialism. Sometimes I’ll come up with a decent shitposty idea and chuckle to myself, then I’ll wonder if I have time to hammer it out on my lunchbreak. On a day like today, when I’ve gotten up early to lift weights and write, I use that precious hour for study.

I hope sadface is enough for you. Sometimes when I see bad news, I want to launch into a screed about the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune but then I realize I’m making it a bit about myself. If I’m lucky, I embarrass myself so badly even thinking about it that I clamp my mouth and my hands shut and go on with my day. I don’t think my message about how that must have been terrible and one time, at band camp, I got a flute stuck in my pussy, is going to help anyone when your entire family just got marched over by the “Spirit of Troy” Marching Band from the University of Southern California.

We all know that’s not my job, though. Half the battle is that you shared a feeling, and the other half is that someone said, “Hey, I hear you,” because these are often situations money can’t fix. Hell, if money will fix it, suck up that pride and fire up a GoFundMe. I’ve given plenty of people I’ve never met a few bucks because someone I do know said it was important to them.

Otherwise, we’re here. I’m here. I hate to say, “We’re all in this together,” because it’s certainly closer to, “Everyone dies alone,” but while we’re breathing, give me a holler. I hope that next time I yell into the void, you throw me a sadface. I’ll return the favor. I can spare the 1.42 calories (not kilocalories) per click.

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