I’m writing this on a Sunday morning, with A Boy Named Charlie Brown playing in the background, the ceiling fan causing the sheer curtains to billow slightly with the manufactured breeze. It’s a bright and sunny morning in October, and I’ve just finished putting away and washing the breakfast dishes. I’m grateful for this sliver of time and space to pause, reflect, and actually write in my cheery, sunny corner of the city.
There hasn’t been much time for anything else these days.
Ever since I entered the tech space early this year, my weekdays have been long and filled with nothing much else but work. My workday often starts at 7AM (which means waking up before 5AM so I can leave before rush hour hits at 6AM), and although I’m able to take a break and head home at about 4PM, I’m still often in calls while in my ride, and my laptop is back on the minute I get in. There are days when I’m able to spend a couple of quality after-dinner hours with family, but there have been many days (to their utter dismay and discontent) when I need to reopen my laptop after dinner and work ’till my brain can’t function much anymore. Sleep is just about five hours a night, and the cycle repeats itself through most of the week.
I’m grateful for Friday nights, when a movie with D is almost mandatory, and for weekends when family activities and obligations compel me to leave the laptop closed. I have to admit, though: there’s a tinge of guilt on weekends when I’m unable to at least peek into my work email or Slack notifications, but I have to remind myself: family beats work anytime, and I need to pour myself into my family just as much as I pour myself into my work. They deserve the very best of me, and I need to give them that.
But I realize, too, that what I really crave these days–and very, very hungrily–is quality alone time.
It’s time to take long naps (20-minute power naps don’t count) without feeling guilty for having slept for at least an hour. Or time to write like this, with absolutely no deadline or agenda, except to just reconnect with my personal writing voice. Or, best of all, time to lace up my shoes and go for a long run–those 12-to-16-kilometer runs that I used to take on weekends, that I haven’t done in three years.
It’s running time that I miss the most, actually.
* * *
When I run, there is nothing else in my world aside from me, my body, my thoughts, and the pavement. I’ve learned to enjoy running without music on (although I do enjoy music once in a while) because it’s while I’m running that I’m able to converse with myself, untangle the webby thoughts in my brain, and sort out whatever stuff is cluttering my mental space. My early years of running coincided with my years of being single again, so running became a way to deal with my loneliness and everything else that came with it.
Running also helped me to become more mindful of and attuned to my body’s unique signals. Through running, I got to familiarize myself with the pace and rhythm of my own breath. I knew when I still had space to push myself and when I was already reaching my maximum limit and had to slow down. I got to understand my body’s limitations and also be grateful for what I could do. I would experiment with different ways to run and step (and sway, sometimes), and I had a way of motivating myself and my body especially when I was approaching the final minutes of a race. Growing up, I was labeled “the bookworm” and was not really encouraged to get into sports (because I wasn’t good at it at all), so my love affair with running was pretty much a surprise to everyone–most especially to myself.
But running’s most precious gift to me, I think, was the self-understanding, self-acceptance, and self-love that came with being out there in the elements with just myself, my thoughts, and my body. Running literally allowed me to carry myself to different places and to great distances, and it helped me develop a healthy respect for what I couldn’t and couldn’t do. If I did well during a race, that was me. If I got injured even while training (and thank God, that has never happened yet), that was all me, too. If I was in danger of overheating, or if I got hit by those infamous bathroom attacks that hit most runners, that was all on me, too, and I needed to know what to do.
Running became my faithful companion during my Alone Years, and it’s ironic that I now feel lonely again without it.
* * *
I’m now rereading one of my favorite memoirs, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by best-selling author Haruki Murakami. It’s an honest revelation of his thoughts, questions, and babblings while and about running, which in many ways are parallel to his being a novelist, and it’s what’s inspiring me to write and run again. At the very least, it’s the inspiration for this blog entry.
Here’s an excerpt that I highlighted in the physical book, that jumps out at me again now:
I’m the kind of person who likes to be by himself. To put a finer point to it, I’m the type of person who doesn’t find it painful to be alone. I find spending an hour or two every day running alone, not speaking to anyone, as well as four or five hours alone at my desk, to be neither difficult nor boring. I’ve had this tendency ever since I was young, when, given a choice, I much preferred readhing books on my own or concentrating on listening to music over being with someone else. I could always think of things to do by myself. [Emphasis mine]
Don’t get me wrong: I am absolutely grateful for everything and everyone in my life now. I have a great job and great colleagues; I’m in love with a wonderful man whom I see to be my life partner, and who makes me feel safe and loved every single day; I treasure my relationship with my family and friends. And I would not trade my life now for anything else in the world–especially when it comes to the family life I’m building.
But I sorely miss my first girlfriend in the world–that girl who’s literally been with me since Day One, and who’s been always completely honest with me and who will call out my B.S. any effin’ time (even if she gets to be a bit emo and cray-cray inside sometimes). She’s quite frustrated that I’ve been neglecting her, and it’s about time that I give her space and time in my days again.
The first order of business, she says, is a running date with nobody else but me, her, our running shoes (which haven’t yet gotten the mileage they deserve!), and no distractions.
Take a deep breath.
Okay, Running Nines. Let’s do it. Just you, me, our running shoes, and no distractions.
Just one day at a time–we’ll take it from there.