Tis the season for list-making, and it’s only appropriate to record what’s really important this time of the year: stress. Because if you can’t stress at Christmas, when can you?
Things that have been weighing heavily on my mind lately [mainly during my track workout yesterday]:
One: Health. My achilles is sore. Well, not sore— it’s tight. Just a slight pinch. It’s really not a big deal. It will go away. But what do I do? I’ve never had achilles problems. How do I fix it? Can I just ignore it? See— there. I felt it there. What the fuck? This is freaking me out.
I can’t get hurt right now. They’ll cut my contract. I won’t make the Olympic team. Is that pain, or just a twinge? It’s just sore. The damn mushy muddy trails. I’ve been running on a slip-and-slide all week. How long has it been sore? Fuck, I’m going to lose my contract. I’m in such good shape! Stop stressing, stress only makes injury worse. Just breath. Just ignore it. Ice it when you get home. Give it a week, you won’t notice it. See, your hip is sore too— your hip is more sore. You don’t even notice that achilles anymore. Breath, breath, breath.
Two: Money Ah. Of course. For someone who lives (and will continue to live) paycheck to paycheck, what greater stress at the holidays than money?
—It’s not about presents. It’s not about how much you spend. It’s about the sentiment behind it, the thought, the gesture.
Yeah. But who wants a shitty present?
As I warm up for my track workout, keeping my focus on my achilles, my lower leg, my feet, my panic rose in an overwhelming crescendo.
—My leg feels weird, what am I going to do if it doesn’t go away, how am I going to afford Christmas gifts and groceries?
My face scrunched with the effort to hold back tears, suddenly stinging at my eyes. My heart rate rose exponentially, completely unrelated to my physical activity. Do you know that feeling, when your heart feels like it’s being squeezed within your chest? Thanks money. No one needs you to pile on my body stress at the most inconvenient time.
Three: What’s it all for, anyway? As we walked up to the track entrance, bags slung over shoulders, breath fogging the air as we laughed and teased and ignored the workout looming over us, I glanced at the cemetery across the street and quickly averted my gaze. Ten, maybe twelve people stood around a casket, a hole in the ground ready and waiting to embrace its next resident. I didn’t stare long enough to count how many people mourned; it was an uncomfortable moment already, why add my gawking to the mix?
I can’t listen to the Arcade Fire song “Afterlife” without bursting into tears— mainly because it represents the breakdown of my marriage, but also because of the more literal interpretation of the song’s title. Where do we go? And, more importantly, who do we meet when we get there?
The workout ended up fine; in fact, it was one of my best efforts ever for this early in the year. After two repetitions, I forgot about my achilles, forgot about my bank account, forgot about my husband. I ran and I ran well. Thriving on emotional chaos must be what I do best.