While researching a story about being too busy and the toll it can take on your health, I came across this insightful, truthful piece called The 'Busy' Trap by Tim Kreider. (And it's also quite funny. Check out this line: "if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary.")
I'd never heard of Tim Kreider before, but I liked the name of and contents in his latest book—We Learn Nothing: Essays and Cartoons—and put it on hold at the library. The waiting list was months long, and I promptly forgot about it until last week, when my email inbox let me know I was up. (I love those emails, btw.)
I don't know why we take our worst moods so much more seriously than our best, crediting depression with more clarity than euphoria. We dismiss peak moments and passionate love affairs as an ephemeral chemical buzz, just endorphins or hormones, but accept those 3 a.m. bouts of despair as unsentimental insights into the truth about our lives.
It's easy now to dimiss the year [after he'd survived a near-death experience] as nothing more than the same sort of shaky, hysterical high you'd feel after getting clipped by a taxi. But you could also try to think of it as a glimpse of reality, being jolted out of a lifelong stupor.
It's like the like the revelation I had the first time I ever flew in an airplane as a kid: when you break through the cloud cover you realize that above the passing squalls and doldrums there is a realm of eternal sunlight, so keen and brilliant you have to squint against it, a vision to hold onto when you descend once again beneath the clouds, under the oppressive, petty jurisdiction of the local weather.
Of course I immediately circled his writing back to running, and tried to reframe my sometimes intense, sometimes mild depression that I am forever hoping will one day just magically go away and leave me alone for good.
Barring that, maybe I can have more control over it than I believe I have. Maybe the way I feel after a run isn't just the concoction of endorphins and exhaustion; maybe the rock-star truth I feel after running is as much of my truth—if not more—as the sunken rock truth that drags me down without warning or reason.
I'm going to try to think of it more that way.
That keen, brilliant sunshine, that one that I always thought I artificially created with effort, is already within me. Sure, it takes a little prodding and a few miles to get the generator to start humming, but the whole dang machine is within me. In my legs, my brain, my moods, myself.
Although We Learn Nothing, I've already learned quite a bit from you, Mr. Kreider. Thank you.
And at the risk of sounding like a literary mother runner geek, are there any passages you've read recently that you circle back to your running?