NYC Week Eight: Wake-up run, or Running with strangers

Read last week’s post here or view all other New York City posts.

Can we scrap the rest of this week and just look at today? Because today, I feel alive.

Not that the rest of this week was worthless — it wasn’t. I worked, read the Bible (1 Samuel 1-13), interviewed an FDNY historian, found out I’m still in the running for a yearlong media fellowship, joined the contributor list of a publication I read regularly, and started reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame (which I love so far, by the way). But today . . .

I couldn’t fall asleep last night, because of my excitement for today. I’d decided at the last minute to look into running groups, ended up stumbling upon these guys, and decided — because, why not? — to forego sleeping in, take the bus and train into Manhattan, and run with a group of total strangers.

The result:

  • Walking through the 34th Street station on a quiet Saturday morning and hearing a man play Agnus Dei on the pan flute.
  • Three-plus miles of calf-soring goodness with this group of super friendly strangers.

The Most Informal Running Club, Ever

  • Hearing not one, but two musical groups on the trains (one for each) back to Queens, and reading more of Hunchback than I would have had I stayed home.

There’s something about running (or physical exertion, in general) that wakes me up to life, to the fact that I have it, and makes everything that follows — subway musicians, books, conversations, rain on the roof or the street — seem vibrant, interesting, and unique.

There always seems to be a battle for my attention: to write or to exercise; to string words together, bring others understanding and realization, or to work out, push my physical abilities to the limit. I enjoy and highly value both, so I find myself in a servant-of-two-masters sort of situation, where if I’m regularly doing one, I’m typically not consistent with the other.

This week, I remembered myself as an artist. Through Hunchback and the endless online debates about Noah (I recommend this review), I remembered why I love writing and what it is as a writer that makes me tick. Christian artists are not just called to make art for other Christians, I thought repeatedly, ruminating again on my college professor‘s oft-repeated point that, “A Christian carpenter doesn’t only make churches.”

But as I remembered my inner artist, I neglected my fitness, and every day without running or doing a push-up or jumping jack, I grew increasingly lethargic and unexcited about life.

Alarm goes off. I drag myself out of bed, miss the button several times before successfully shutting off the buzzer. Stare at my phone, the time, trying to calculate. Do I have to get up now? Can’t I have ten more minutes? Try to shake it off. Go to the bathroom; burn a whole ten minutes when it should take me two. Back to my room. What do I have to wear? Shoulders drooping, back curling, whole body sluggish, feeling like a load of lead or bricks or both. Breakfast: eggs and tasteless oatmeal, even if I add peanut butter. To the bus, to the subway. On the train: sleep. I feel myself becoming your stereotypical jaded New Yorker: People are those things that get in your way, step on your toes, and have loud conversations or make-out sessions next to you on the train, when all you want to do is sleep.

Sinking toward grumpiness, nothing is as interesting as my pillow — at least in the morning, when I should be most excited about the day and the potential it holds.

Finding life dull and colorless is detrimental to the writer, especially one who wants to write about exciting and colorful parts of life found in ordinary places. But it makes sense that life seems dull and colorless when it’s being lived that way, the writer has three physical positions and no more: laying down to sleep, standing up to work, sitting down to travel, eat, or write.

I believe our bodies were made for more. Not merely vessels carrying our souls from this existence to eternity, our bodies are part of us, given to enjoy by climbing trees, turning cartwheels, doing push-ups, lunges, burpees. And when their potentials are tapped into, our blood pumps faster, our senses sharpen, and we awaken to the world around us. 

For most people, this means elevated spirits, bigger smiles, and more energy. For the writer, this means noticing more color, uniqueness, and excitement everywhere. For me, it means all of the above, plus bigger laughs, better posture, and stronger confidence which cuts down my awkwardness, makes way for more natural, genuine conversations, and renews my excitement for life and writing.

The whole way back to Queens, I was holding back grins. On the train, when a trio of singers started singing a ragtime tune, I let it break from ear to ear, despite the pinched mouth and wrinkled nose of the man sitting across from me. When a kid threw a fit on the 7 train, I couldn’t help but chuckle, while most others grimaced or stared.

What is life if it is not experienced, appreciated, enjoyed? Not anything to write about, that’s for sure. Every story needs conflict, but if conflict has no meaning or resolution, there’s no story. Even on the pages of the tragic Hunchback, you find shards of joy (one that made me laugh early on: “They had been waiting since morning for three things: noon, the Flemish ambassadors and the play. Noon was the only one to arrive on time.”). And if a writer (that is, I) neglects to experience, appreciate, and enjoy life (that is, exercise), her writing will suffer from lack of life.

Smile Big

Bringing you up-to-date:

Sunday: Church.

Monday: Internship.

Tuesday: Work. Signed Hunchback out from the library. Talked to my oldest brother over the phone. Got the good news about my media fellowship application status and my addition to a contributor list. Time to go story-hunting.

Wednesday: Internship. Choir practice and church.

Thursday: Work.

Friday: Brief phone interview for internship. Work. Decided to run with a group of random strangers.

Saturday: Ran with a group of random strangers. Talked running with a guy at church before choir practice. Got Italian ice and a meal, courtesy of my landlady (who, by the way, is not in her seventies, as previously stated, but in her sixties. Same for her husband, who she refers to as “hubby”). Set up interviews for a piece I’m going to try to pitch. No details, because that would be counting my eggs before they hatch.

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