With the completion of my last long run, I am officially in taper for the NYC marathon. As hard as the build up of miles is over the weeks and months preceding the marathon, taper can be even more difficult. Since this is my third marathon, I’m less fearful, less worried about being able to go the distance, more confident, relaxed, looking forward to the race as a day of fun dancing through the streets of New York. But still, the idea of doing little as the best preparation works against my natural inclinations. I like to be over-prepared, so the yearning to run more More MORE seems right even though my body is tired and needs to recover so it can show NYC my best dance moves.
I can sit my body down or rest it in bed or walk it when it wants to run, but my mind is less easily lassoed. This time, not plagued with fears and worries, my mind examines my days and weeks to see if I’ve managed the balance I’m striving for. It questions the past, asking if the decisions I’ve made have been right, especially those that seemed right at the time but now I’m not so sure. It looks to the future: I research other marathons, consider another half-Ironman, dream of a long distance relay, read of cross-country bicycle journeys. I scan through lists of writing residencies, remember Vermont, and concoct plans of having time off to write unburdened by real life. I imagine what my house would look like with an unlimited budget.
My mind avoids the reality of today. The truth is that I have more debt than ever: car loan and mortgage and student loans that will soon come due. I have an unsold car that was supposed to be a swap for my son’s car. Both my sons need me more financially now than ever, but this truth is the hardest: my younger son still needs me to lead him through these years, he may never be able to live independently, and I will never shirk my responsibility to him. I am tethered to this life of financial and emotional payments, with all its moments of greatness and despair and inescapable need, and it is only dreams of the future, and running, that get me through.
The wise advise to live in the present, eyes wide open, not gazing in the rear view mirror or glued to the windshield, but savoring the moments around us. It’s easy to do that in brief glimpses: the zesty colors of the leaves, the smell of frost, the inexplicable music of raking. But too much present wraps its tendrils around my ankles and pulls me into the muck and mire. What is life without dreams? Of marathons to be run, of smooth roads that roll everywhere, of essays yet to write, of sons who just might launch – the dreamless life is not for me. So now while my body rests, I make money and pay bills. I putter around on my book proposal. I clean the house. I knit coffee cup cozies. My mind renews itself for whatever is ahead because it has got to be good. I can’t imagine it any other way.