Monday, May 16, 2011

The View from my Bicycle [COLUMN]

Run With It - by Nick van der Leek

On Saturday morning, in the dark, I walked with a friend over a damp school field.  Ahead was a traffic jam of people chattering raucously.  It resembled a scene at a touristy bar, it should have been 7pm with everyone starting to get tipsy and uninhibited.  But we were all here for something quite different.  Running.

What you immediately notice, looking around you, is how good everyone looks.  Everyone is fit and chirpy and smiling, and it's infectious.  I remark to a friend of mine that a 20-something runner looks perfect.  Her hair and skin is shining, she is slim, her eyes shine, she has that cautious shyness of a gazelle.  Utter perfection.

When our bunch mobilises the bruised skies are a lighter gray at least.  My legs complain once again.  They're used to sitting, and the transition to running is asking too much.  Can we at least walk?  No.  My plan is to run 5km under 30 minutes.  Is that too much to ask?  Yes.  Shutup and move.

 I pull up alongside 'Utter perfection' and in the slightly more light of the morning now I see my mind was playing some elaborate tricks on me.  Her leotard is dark purple, not black, her legs are kind've bandy, like Zola Budd's, and she has slightly blotchy skin.  It's not a case that I am disappointed because she's not 'perfect', I'm somewhat miffed at myself for seeing things in the dark. 

When my feet scrunch onto the soggy pitch of the school once more about 24 minutes have passed.  Which means this race was about 1km short.  I sit down and watch the others come in.  A little girl of barely 8 years old.  A little boy says to someone next to me, "Let's run, come on let's run."  No one answers him so I say, "Do you see that treee?" (There are about twenty trees bordering the school fence).  "Run there and back quickly!"  Without a moments hesitation the little rascal sprints off - almost ploughing into the ground on his sixth step - but collects himself and runs in a great arc until I can't see him anymore.  We sometimes need to be more like that.  All of us.

This afternoon in the gym I was swimming in a triangle of sunlight.  The sun was catching on my blond arm hairs, swaying underwater.  My leg lit up when I kicked into this blue, glowing quadrant.  Bright rainbow lines traced the contours of my body.  Underwater, I became aware of the reality of life.  All of us, will die.  If we find happiness, perhaps it will be more painful to die.  If we are sad, perhaps we will welcome it.  But whatever we do, we're trapped in this story where we all face a tragic destiny.  Please don't tell me it isn't tragic!  Death for the dead is always tragic.  It is only those who are alive who will care to couch the whole affair in heroism or destiny or legend.  The dead don't care.  They're not there to care. 

What interests me, is that while we are alive, we may experience pain.  Sometimes, excruciating pain.  Especially involving unrequited love, and loss.  But what encourages me, for example, is a film like The Holiday, that reminds us to be the leading man or leading woman in our own story.  To not become infatuated with shadows in the dark that we can hardly see.  To be strong, assertive protagonists, living in absolute clarity, and in pursuit of something concrete within the context of a narrative that we are writing, and making up as we go along.  If you are in a narrative that you don't like, change it.  If your protagonist is weak, or vulnerable, or doomed to failure, rewrite yourself, change those aspects that you know are not part of what a leading man or woman should be.  Write your own story and be an active participant in it.  Don't just stand there.  Run along and catch up to the real you, before the write you can get ahead of your self.

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