This morning I learned that if you jump up and down while holding your breath, the snot that is lodged in the top of your nasal cavity falls down like an avalanche into your mouth and makes it a lot easier to hawk a loogie. This is not something that works all the time, but if you have bronchitis or pneumonia, or some other kind of respiratory condition like I seem to have right now, it really does the trick.
It took me getting this sick in order to actually lay down on this couch, and cover myself up with a blanket and get down to writing. It's been a couple months since my last blog. I've just been busy. When I say that I'm busy, I mean that every waking second of every day I feel simultaneously that I am being chased and I am chasing something. I no longer know if I am the hunted or the hunter. All I know is that I am driven towards my goals in a way that could be described as maniacal.
The sand is filling the bottom chamber of the hourglass, and it seems to be falling quicker as the days go by.
I just coughed up some more blood.
Lately, I feel like my time and my body no longer belong to me. I am constantly striving, talking, organizing, running, stretching, talking, e-mailing, more talking, filming, refilming, programming, designing, connecting, delegating. Thoughts and connections are coming at increasingly rapid speeds. It is exhilarating. It is what you read about.
This process has been completely transformative and I haven't even started my journey yet.
My spiritual beliefs have changed. I have come to an understanding with the Alpha and the Omega, with the piles of lotus flowers that erupt in my dreams, with the intuition that flips my stomach head over tail when it is time to make a judgment, with the tears of gratitude that come at the most
unexpected times-- when I am on the phone with the lead designer Nike, when I have an impromptu connection with a stranger in public, when I witness something beautiful and profound and fleeting, when I come to terms with the person I once was, and the person that I have become. I have relinquished control and have begun to see myself as tool, as something to be of service to others and the world at large.
I am humbled.
I am not afraid of failure. I am not afraid of injury. This is not to say that I have a sense of invincibility, that I am untouchable. I used to feel this way, but I have learned that I am fragile and mortal the hard way. I am learning this lesson now, as I struggle to breathe, as I continue coughing, and coughing, and coughing. I understand the possibility of being injured, and I understand how difficult it will be when it happens. I do know that no matter what happens-- broken bones, pneumonia, sickness, tendinitis, mental breakdowns, difficult people, I will finish the run. If I have to do it on crutches. If I have to do it in a wheelchair. Whatever it takes.
In the beginning, this run was a selfish idea. When I say selfish, I mean that it was all about my own gratification. Experiencing the country, getting bragging rights, proving something to myself and others. I decided to run for veterans, to learn about what they have gone through, to use the run as an opportunity to help others. This is when everything changed. Even as I write this, I am overwhelmed with emotion and my heart swells with pride. I feel that I have no place in this world which I have intruded-- the world of war, the world of the military, of sacrifice, of destruction, of brotherhood, of valor. Incrementally and over the course of the last year, I have begun to understand it. I am still outside of it, and I think I am supposed to be there. I do not know if I am strong enough to see it from the inside, to truly empathize. I am probably not.
I have seen that the heroes I have idolized my entire life--the ancient Greeks, the Odysseuses and the Joan of Arks-- exist. The people that have shown up in my life in the last year are extraordinary examples of human beings. I am meeting them everywhere, all at different stages of their evolution. They are seeds waiting to be germinated by some unknown catalyst, they are green shoots jutting up through the earth and facing the sun for the first time, they are in full bloom. They are all around me. I see it in the eyes of veterans. They have known it--that lost love. That nostalgia. The bitter, slighted feeling that was once self-actualization, but has progressed into disillusionment. To know your greatest self, but have no way to express it in the context of your culture. That is torture.
And then I think about what it takes to go into battle, something that I may never be able to fathom, and I wonder what makes that kind of bravery possible. And I see that it can maybe happen by embracing the principle that love is greater than fear. Something I never understood about the military before I started this project was the brotherhood that exists between soldiers in combat. I have been privileged enough to learn about it from the interviews we have conducted over the course of the last year. And it seems that this principle is that which drives us as human beings to do that which terrifies us. Out of love for our brothers, out of love for ourselves, out of love for the people around us. When that much love exists, nothing is impossible.
I asked one veteran recently whether he thought that this kid of brotherhood would be possible outside of combat. He said no. We talked about it for while. I asked if he thought that you needed a common enemy in order to unite people. He said yes.
I have found my enemy, and it is apathy. All of the worlds problems can be traced back to apathy towards our fellow man and toward our planet. It shows up as carelessness, it shows up as laziness, it shows up as nonchalance, it shows up as "cool". So often we extinguish our desire to show compassion or care for another, to shut ourselves off to our emotional responses, to connect with others. Apathy is learned, and it is a protective device. But it can be unlearned. We can move past apathy and into empathy, into compassion, into love, but you cannot fight against a negative idea and turn it into a positive one. You can only starve it. Starve fear and apathy of your attention, and give that attention to love instead and see what happens. I am trying it. It is working.
My greatest battle will be conquering the apathy I have for myself. It is my cyclops, my Medusa, my fire-breathing dragon.
I have a lot to be afraid of. I don't have the money I need to get across the country. I have an RV, but no gas to put in the tank. I have Superfood shakes and supplements and workout snacks, but no food to eat. I have a team of people who are helping me for free, and I don't know how I will feed them. I don't know where we will stay.
But I am not afraid. I have faith in God, or the Universe, or the ultimate, or whatever you want to call it. I have faith that I will get exactly what I need. My job is simply to do the very best that I can.
I have been lucky enough to find people who are willing to be generous. People who have no reason to help me except that they believe in what I am doing, and for that I am eternally grateful. Every day I am given gifts, whether they are lessons that are difficult to learn, or amazing things that fall into my lap. I don't know if I deserve them, and I feel that I must continually improve and make myself better as a human being so that if I don't deserve them now, maybe I will in the future. Maybe I am getting these blessings on credit.
I went through a phase of tremendous guilt last week. A hard look at my past. At the apathy I used to feel for everything and everyone around me, including myself. I saw how my actions were like stones dropped into a pond, with the ripples extending out farther than I could imagine. I committed myself to act more cautiously, more presently, and with more kindness. I know that I have a long way to go.
Maybe it is the sickness or the cold medicine that is prompting this kind of honesty, or maybe this what they call the unbearable lightness of being…?