Running To Stand Still

Last weekend I wondered if I might be slowly losing my mind.

I had flown home to New Jersey to attend my godson’s third birthday party. I had carefully planned my outfit so that I would be able to join in a tree pose (his favorite) at his yoga party. I was so excited to give him the mini-monster trucks that I knew would cause his big blue eyes to light up and his smile to widen. I even scheduled a blowout so that my hair would look nice (because I was sure the three-year-olds would notice).

As I sat in the salon chair with dripping wet hair on Saturday afternoon, my best friend texted to ask if I was ok, and was I still coming to her son’s party? Because his party, the one I had so eagerly anticipated, was actually nearly over, and was not on Sunday as I had written down in my calendar.

I missed the whole thing, from an hour away, under a hairdryer in what now felt like the most ridiculous blowout ever.

I started crying while the blow dryer hummed and whirred around my head. Even with the facts right in front of me, I couldn’t believe I had screwed this up. I re-checked the invite, hoping it would tell me something different. I even asked my mom to help make sense of it for me. I texted a friend to explain what happened, and she wrote back, “that’s not like you.”

I wanted to insist, “you’re right! It’s not like me!” And I wanted to just let it go, to chalk it up as one scheduling mishap, maybe laugh about it in the story I would later tell (can you believe I did that? Haha!), and go on with my day. But instead I flashed to all of the ways in which this was exactly like me, the me who now does things like this frequently.

Going to the wrong location for yoga

Forgetting a friend’s birthday

Receiving a call from the dentist confirming my appointment the next day, an appointment I had not written down and could not remember making

Booking a vacation rental for the wrong dates

Buying two plane tickets to the same destination—both for myself, both for the same dates

Getting off at the wrong freeway exit—twice—on my way to the office I have worked at for four years

Tallied up, it was staggering to me. I could not recognize this person masquerading around as me. Where was the Type A Katie who lived by her perfectly organized calendar? I felt like putting a picture of myself, the me who didn’t didn’t do things like book the same plane ticket twice or get off at the wrong exit, on a milk carton with the slogan, “Have you seen this woman lately?”

This wasn’t one instance of calendar mishandling.

How do you know when it’s just a side effect of stress, or overscheduling, and not something more?

 

****

I wanted to write something perfect.

I hadn’t published anything new in four months, because I hadn’t really written anything in four months. Frankly, I hadn’t wanted to. The writing is hard; sitting in your feelings so that you can write about them is even harder. And things felt hard enough without examining them, so I just stopped.

I went to brunch with a friend who told me that running is her savior lately, the endorphins essential to her wellbeing during a chaotic time. I understood the chaos: a brain whose whirling thoughts I was unable to control, circumstances constantly changing around me that I could not control, people around me whose actions and reactions I could not control.

I wondered if she was really running for the endorphins, or if she was running in an attempt to outsmart her own brain. Breathe, breathe, left, right, left, right, stay on pace, control. All focus on the body, the thunder of feet pounding to drown out the internal chatter. I got that. I didn’t want to hear the noise echoing around in my head either.

I gave up on writing, and reading, and yoga, exchanged them for episodes of Teen Mom and Snickerdoodle cookies the size of my open hand. I have very big hands. I sat on my couch, eating cookies and observing my jeans growing tighter, while teenagers on the television argued and screamed at each other and cried. Chew, chew, chew, fast forward through commercials.

The last thing I wanted to do was think. So I didn’t. A murkiness settled over me like a haze, and even the tv grew foggy, like I suddenly needed glasses to make everything appear clear again.

There were moments of reprieve, from both the numbness of not thinking and the constantly scampering thoughts, just enough for me to think that maybe I was still normal. A rarely attended yoga class where I felt connected to my body. A book I could concentrate on, whose words penetrated through the haze surrounding me. A party where I could actually hear what people were saying, instead of their voices being muffled by the frequently whispered loop of don’t eat that cheese, you are too fat. A morning where I woke up feeling rested.

But I wonder: why are these only choices I see? Sitting on the couch, not writing, stuffing my face and watching teenagers fight, or being tortured by my own mind. Why aren’t there more moments of calm, of grace, of beauty? What caused me to arrive to this place where I don’t do the things I love and I know I’m not doing them, but it’s not enough to compel me into doing them again? Why did I feel like a stranger in my own life, as if watching from above and thinking, who is that girl in the tight jeans on the grey couch, sitting in front of the tv again, and why doesn’t she just do something different?

My home. My living room. My grey wraparound couch; at once familiar and foreign.

How could I know exactly where I was, and still feel lost?

 

*****

It’s stress, I think. I don’t want to allow for the possibility that it’s something more, some genetic mistake that was passed down and is waiting to take hold of me. I tell my mother, when she voices the same concerns, that it’s just a symptom of doing too many things at once. I tell myself this now.

I’m not a runner. It always feels like torture to me. I’m not going to outrun anything.  I can’t stare blindly at a screen anymore either. I turn the tv off, and I listen. I wait for what will come.

I still don’t really want to write. I know it’s not going to be perfect. It’s never going to be perfect. I don’t know if I can live with that.

The racing in my head continues on, unencumbered by fog for the moment. I have a headache, but maybe it’s just that the muscles are sore from all of the running they are doing. My brain is on a treadmill, logging mile after mile, loop after loop, slowing down when trudging up inclines, losing control and flailing on the downward slopes, but never really going anywhere. Just like a body running on a treadmill. But my body is still. Mind racing. Body still.

It will never be perfect. I will never be perfect.

And this is where the writing begins.

 

danishapiro

 

13 thoughts on “Running To Stand Still

  1. I’m a fairly new reader (hello!) and find myself instantly drawn to your writing – it reminds me of the voices in my head. I know that feeling of being a stranger in your own body. It’s quite bizarre and anxiety provoking. After having a morning of staring blankly at the tired woman in the mirror, I went on a tireless search to find the “real” me (aka the “perfect put together” me). I’m still trying to find that person – but writing helps and reading your writing helps to remind me I’m not alone. Thank you.

  2. I love reading your posts, especially this one as I struggle with something similar. Between reading you and Jennifer Pastiloff I realize I am ok. Someone else, someone fabulous that I respect, has felt this way. Thanks for writing today, even when you didn’t want to. I needed to hear what you had to say:-)

  3. This were my moments of calm, grace and beauty. Love that you put out what so many are thinking, feeling and afraid of expressing. We’re not alone? We are not alone. (Yay!)

  4. When I logged into my e-mail and saw your post entitled “Running to Stand Still” my mind went straight to the U2 song titled “Running to Stand Still” – a song I used to listen to and really haven’t heard in awhile. It caught my attention right away and i’m so glad it did. Everything you write about is so familiar to me. I call it my “funk” ….and I don’t know how to get out. I find myself telling my cousin Bella (whos closest to me and also going through this “funk”) that I don’t remember the last time I felt truly happy or excited about something. It’s so sad to say those words out loud. Life is beautiful and we’re lucky to be alive so why the hell am I in this “funk” and why can’t I get out?! I tell myself it’s probably because I’m bored and I need change. I’m not the type of person who likes routine! I actually can’t stand it. i see people traveling the world, getting married, having babies, and always happy! Or so I think! I’m sure my life looks all happy and shiny from the outside too. But either way we do we feel like this? it really sucks so I hear you loud and clear!!
    And what I want to say to you is THANK YOU! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting this out there. I’m not happy your feeling the funk too but it’s so comforting to know there are other people out there feeling the same way my cousin and i are!! We’re not the only ones!!!!! We’re not crazy…we’re not alone! My wish for you is that you find your way out, i find my way out and my cousin finds her way out. And that one day we can look back and maybe be thankful for something we just don’t quite understand yet…

    Have a great weekend…
    PS.I watch teen mom too!! lol

    Maria

  5. this is really good writing. Your mind reminds me of a stick-shift car that you can’t get into the right gear. Like you’re going 40 miles an hour and so should be in fourth gear but your car’s transmission is broken and so you have to get by driving either in third gear or fifth gear. You can function that way for awhile but your car is not functioning optimally and it’s a rough ride, for you and your passengers.

    If you’re forgetting things, the first thing you should assess is the quality and consistency of your sleep, which you briefly allude to. Poor sleep is known to cause memory and other problems. If one small part of a timepiece is malfunctioning you’re not going to be able to use it to keep time, though it still might be nice to look at

  6. Well said… Thank you for putting into words what so many of us are going through or have gone through. The rigors of the speed of life can be overwhelming. As writers there’s that idea that we must be perfect in order to move forward and be published. No one is perfect and as the old saying goes “you are perfect just as you are right now.” And you are… my guess is that you needed a break and your sub-conscious allowed that. As Pico Iyer said, “Writing would seldom be glamorous or prosperous or easy, but it could be the richest and most surprising adventure I’d ever known.”

  7. wow, katie. thank you so much for writing this. this happens to me from time to time… and when it happens, it reeeeeally happens. and i feel the same way. sometimes i even feel like i can’t tell my closest friends when it happens, for fear their image of me will crumble and I’ll have to earn that image back with consistency. thankfully, i have great friends who see through that. sounds like you do, too! your honesty and willingness to be vulnerable is admirable and helpful to all. you give intention and purpose to something I always identify as a problem… and maybe it is… but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an important part of the story that you can only begin to figure out if you’re willing to embrace it. you’re awesome. and your writing is always worth the wait! xo -lauren

  8. Pingback: I’m Running To Stand Perfectly Still | Thought Catalog

  9. Pingback: listen to you not me | firstdraftofanythingiscrap

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