Monthly Archives: July 2018

Time to make the coffee

Running is like making coffee. Or making coffee is like running. Take your pick.

You wake up tired and weighted. Gravity has become stronger and the kitchen is darkened by eyes that won’t open fully. You need coffee. And you know that once you have the coffee you’ll feel better. You’ll be alert and lightened and functioning, your biology will react to the chemicals and you’ll turn on, so you know you must have the coffee. But before you have the coffee, you feel terrible. You are lethargic and apathetic and the idea of making the coffee you need sounds impossible. It’s the catch 22 of every morning, that coffee will dilute your fatigue but you’re too fatigued to make the coffee that will dilute your fatigue.

Thank ingenuity for automatic coffee maker timers.

Running is rarely different when you’re emotionally struggling. You need to run, because you know it will make you feel better. You know that once the run is over you’ll feel alert and lightened and functioning, that your biology will react to the chemical release and you’ll turn on, so you need to run. The act of running, however, when you’re emotionally weighted, sounds like the most unconquerable obstacle known. You sit on the couch knowing that if you get to the end of your mileage you’ll be an emotionally stable and energetic person, but the idea of even getting to the door seems absurd. It’s the same catch 22 of making coffee. With running though, there is no automatic timer function. You have to metaphorically pour the water, grind the beans, and start the pot if you want the reward.

Still, the coffee needs to be made and the run needs to get finished, if you want to get yourself to that physical and emotional state you know lies at the bottom of the mug and the end of the mile. I have no secret insight for any of this. There are no shortcuts or, coffee makers aside, automatic timer functions. You just have to start running, knowing that it will be worth it in the end. You have to somehow transcend the temporary emotional weight of your current moment and look ahead to the transformed emotional state that will come with the act of putting one foot in front of the other. That’s it. It sucks to start, but it never sucks to finish. That’s the “secret”.

Oh, sometimes a cup of coffee can help.

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Dead Signal

I bought 15 black t-shirts. I went through my drawers and closet, removing every shirt with a printed image or statement, meticulously folded them and put them in a crate for storage. They are in my basement, waiting for a use as dust rags or some other sense of purpose. I’m not Steve Jobs. I just feel increasingly uncomfortable with a society of strangers that can’t stop signaling to each other. Every social media post. Every statement on a t-shirt. Every bumper sticker. It’s part of our very genetic makeup…to signal. And for some reason I want to get away from it, maybe not completely, but at least less openly. It’s a ridiculous attempt, I know, to transcend our genetic lineage. We are communicative and cooperative beings, motivated by the dual functions of survival and self-interest. So to live above our signaling motives is to become, in a way, suicidal. Still, it feels so silly, to project ourselves out into a society of strangers, seeking a useless sense of validation. Every Facebook post. Every instagram photo. Every blog essay (this one especially). Every t-shirt is a signal to others for that desperate validation, that desperate cooperation, or at least the sense thereof, because in a society of strangers and fleeting communication, the projections and signals flicker like dying lights.

I bought 15 black t-shirts, which is funny because even they are signals. They are signals that I’m the type of person that doesn’t want to be a part of signaling, which is a signal. Everything speaks. Silence is deafening they say. There is something, however, about signaling less blatantly. It’s harder to be pigeonholed, to be assumed. You can leave people guessing.

A woman walked by this morning, “Lift” written on her shirt, as if the butthugger tights painted over her bulging thighs didn’t say it already. I was in a black t-shirt, saying nothing. As the sun rose, however, I was throwing down 8 x 3 minutes hard and 1 minute easy for 10 miles. When I was done, I was in a black shirt, drinking coffee poured into a protein laced smoothie for breakfast. I could have just woken up as far as anyone could tell.

One of the founders of Patagonia is still a climber in his old age. In the documentary 180 degrees south he is going to climb a certain route and is asked, “What do you want to name it?”

“Nothing. I don’t want to name it. I just want to climb it and let that be it.”

His disavowal of owning the climb, of putting his human expression on it, signals nothing and signals so much at the same time. There is something in that which speaks to me deeply. I love the idea of signaling in the act. When I run my body says so much, my movement conveys all it needs to convey. When I stop running, the signal turns off. I shower, put on my clothing that hides the abilities, says nothing to no one, and then go about the day.

I’m not above signaling. No one is. It is a part of our very biology into behavior, but I do enjoy the game of understanding it, recognizing it’s motivations, suppressing it’s useless exaggerations, and using it to it’s most effective outcomes. When it comes to running though, there is something pure and satisfying about letting the run be the signal, then killing the switch the moment the effort stops.

If the new age phrase “Just be” has any value, it’s not in the signal of the phrase, but the literal, physical act. Outside of running, a black t-shirt is the closest I can get to killing the signal.