Against all odds I made it out for a run after work today, running at dusk the route I usually run at dawn. Eager to get home for the evening, I pushed a little harder than usual, zipping along the well-lit streets that I jog when the sun isn’t out. As I turned along the harbor I marveled at the deep navy blue sky and water, both the unreal color you see in paintings, not in real life. I was having a nice run, was feeling good, and started to really push myself. I don’t run to be fast, so that was an unusual thing for me. I’ve always been slow, and I have enough things in my life that I work hard at that it has never occurred to me to work hard at getting faster.
This evening, inspired by warmer temperatures than I expected and a strong desire to get home, I ran much faster than usual. For once I felt my recalcitrant little body shift from a canter to a gallop, and I was amazed. Yet as soon as I did that I became hyper-vigilant, watching each crack in the sidewalk, checking over my shoulder. My heart was racing, and not from exertion. I was afraid.
My reaction to my fear was not surprise - I’ve always been one to ease on the brakes while cycling downhill, not convinced I’d remember the exhilaration of speed while I was having my chin stitched up. As I thought more about it, though, I was mildly baffled. Longtime readers have been regaled with stories of the wages of my recklessness. What made today different from other days that I ran carelessly until I fell?
Caution can be thrown to the wind, not so with fear. There can be something deeply frightening about an accomplishment - we fear we’ll be punished for success, or we won’t know what to do with what we’ve learned. I remember one of the first times I really opened up my voice and let it out the big sound I had inside. I had two thoughts. 1. “Well, I guess I’m not a soubrette” and 2. “What the heck am I going to do with this voice?”
Doing something you didn’t think you could do changes the landscape of your life. The parameters you thought were there prove imaginary, and there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to set new ones. We lament that our boundaries limit us, but how many of us are secretly comforted by the security of those boundaries? For me, at least, freedom is terrifying. If I had fallen down today, it would have been another funny story about something I’m bad at. It would have fit the narrative of my life. I’m still willing myself to accept the uneasiness that results when things go well.