It’s a bright, crisp morning. They’ve all been this week. Cloudless sky. Desert bite. The sun breaks along the seams of our window covers—foam insulation cutouts stuck to Velcro against the metal pane—and pulls me out of the vivid dreaming you get with cold nights and just enough covers. There’s no better sleep.
The alarm goes off. Yoav is working with A today. An extra hand for a neighbor to help with some physical projects on his property. I think staining a deck, among other jobs. Some labor to get a bit of money. Nothing official.
These gigs are opportune right now. There’s setbacks to being in an international relationship, but thankfully, we don’t notice the suffering as acutely as others in a more conventional situation, with houses and kids with specific and plenty expectations to support. We don’t have to worry about rent or mortgage, house insurance policies or HOA membership fees, wifi/cable, daycare expenses, new school clothes, a daughter’s birthday present, the fridge repair, new laundry machines, the summer’s exorbitant water bill, a gym membership, healthy food for an entire family.
I can’t imagine the desperation that must come from not being able to have a job during the entire green card application process—a process that can easily take up to six months—yet still having to make all those ends meet somehow. Yoav and I are lucky to be somewhat on the outside of things. We can survive off our shared savings and my seasonal or sparse income without real struggle or definitive fear. But why should you ever be expected to survive amid the demands of our social expectations/culture, how can you ensure the contentment of your family, how can you even begin to establish yourself in a new space, if you aren’t allowed to pursue income, to prove you’re willingness and ability to contribute to a system?
Here I go having opinions and voicing them again. I’ll leave it at this: I have a far-reaching sympathy for the struggle of those who try to immigrate here, lawfully or not. It isn’t as easy as those who spew opinions think. You don’t just go get your green card. Immigration doesn’t care about your suffering; your tenacity to live a better life or change the trajectory of your family; your good intentions; your unexpected love; your desire to be with your family; whether or not you’re loyal to the point of dying for this nation, or are hard-working, law-abiding, or objectively decent human. It’s about how much money you’ve got. If you don’t have enough, too bad. If you have enough, pay up. And that’s weeding out the good (well-behaved) people from the other good (well-behaved) people. That seems to be about how it goes.
It’s a privilege to love someone from far away, to even get the chance to meet and mingle. And then it’s a separate privilege to have the stability or external support to make that relationship a lasting reality. Yoav and I are very, very lucky.
I’m sitting crouched in my van outside the Sister’s Library. Crouched because I’m once again too lazy to pull the table out from behind the cooler and set myself up in a proper seat. My elbows are starting to hurt against our linoleum floor. I got here at 9:30 not realizing it doesn’t open until ten. It’s now 10:09. I’ve fortified myself with the final crumbs of a seedy granola in a homemade milk I tried for the first time. Yoav’s recommendation: Tahini mixed with water. It’s surprisingly delicious. I shouldn’t tell him, but I have to. I’ll do it again, even without the motivation of morning hunger pangs.
Time to go inside and work.
Later. It’s 7:10. Yoav and I just finished a run. Why do we put two spaces after every period? Now that I’m transcribing enough hours a week for my contacts to dry out and my mind to start visualizing the text of every conversation, I’m having a hard time doing two spaces each time. Especially after nearly four hours of transcribing in the library. Thank you, Rev, for the freedom to earn a sad excuse of a wage whenever I’d like. And to inspire this battle: One ingrained habit against a rapidly usurping one.
I’m getting faster though, which means less time to make enough.
My legs feel tingly satisfied, the kind that follows a run that’s not too hard but not too short, where they’ve just started to tire and it’s over. Now they’re curled up beneath the heat of my laptop, happy to have been taken out for a stroll, not pissed it ended up as training. I’m sliding into the stride of runs for fun again.
The sun’s still setting, but the chill comes in quick out here in September.
It was the perfect temperature for what we could call “maintenance mileage.” Six, around a gently rolling hillside. We swapped climbing out for trail running last year. Now it seems we’re swapping back, at least for the next couple weeks we’re here at Smith. It’s too hard to maintain both at a performance level, or anything that requires diligent training—it’s how epic burnout happens. Overstressing about things you felt belonged in your life and you made space for because they provided release.
Then addiction sets in. You realize one morning you’re waking up at 6 to fit in a long run and river dip before work at 9, cuddles in bed be damned, then ride your bike to work and stay moving on your feet all day making smoothies and sandwiches and running dirty dishes through and ringing up orders and attitudes, then you get off at 4:30, exhausted, only to tell yourself in a patient-less hiss you have thirty minutes of downtime, which is mostly just driving, maybe shoving a piece of peanut butter toast in your face, before a boulder sesh at the Happies. You only have an hour until sunset, so you make it work. You get on every problem you now hate because it’s not any easier and you’re not any stronger, probably because you’ve started hating everything, and you do it twice because you think it’s the only way to prove to yourself you’re worthy of the sport at all. Dedication = worthiness.
It’s silly. Silly as I type it, silly as I think it, all embarrassingly silly. But it’s honest, inner dialogue I’ve had often enough and probably will have for a good chunk of my remaining life. Perhaps different wording—more logic-friendly, more convincing, more approachable—but always positively damaging to my psych and psyche.
There’s significance to intention we often forget or shrug off when mixed up in those serious versions of our very serious passions. We’re sucked into numbers, in the form of miles or dollars or grades, or any calculation we can stick on the actions we take as we spin through the hours, rather than the way our bodies are presently experiencing a sensation, a stimulus, a shift in space or position, the wind, the smooth skin of polished limestone, the soft encasement of each foot on a sandy farm road as you stride, the way sweat collects behind the ears, how soaked bangs feel tucked inside a baseball cap. We miss all the nuance for what we think is the bigger picture, only to eventually zoom out and, when enough distance is there, realize we’ve been staring at the back of a cereal box.
I enjoy hard work when I enjoy hard work. Which is often. But I need to stop when it becomes a chore. Seriously. What’s the point? The fulfillment is relative and I can decide what to be fulfilled by. I can’t, if honest with myself, continue these pursuits for some gratification awaiting me at the end of some grand achievement. I have a pretty solid understanding there’s no end, no matter the route or pace or mileage or dance or asana I pocket. Achievement begets desire for another. This is human.
The more leash I toss out for slack, the more at peace I become with attempts that end in mixed results, inconsistency, surprise. The more I am at peace with not reliving my past. The less often I come up against my own ridiculous, impossible expectations for whatever I define as progress in any given speck of time.
One day I’d like to stop superimposing my past self over my breathing body. Stop letting the future self I've decided is just perfect for me delegate the soundtrack and lighting. Write words without deleting them.