Actually rain run

On Saturday somehow I did not get woken up by Petra (who wakes up first, slamming into the room like a truck driver) until a little after 6. It wasn't until 6:30 that I remembered with a start that Alex had to leave at 7 to play soccer uptown. I jumped out of bed and started to get my running clothes on when Alex told me I didn't have enough time (he was probably right) and it wasn't going to get too hot so I could run later.

I felt slightly letdown, and knew my chances of running that day had plummeted. If I don't go running first thing, the hurdles just seem to start piling up as the day goes on. 

When Alex got home I had to run over to the garden to see what time I had signed up to help at our Ice Cream Social. I decided to drop some clothes off at Goodwill on the way and return a mini-soccer ball Petra had filched from the Toddler Room too. By that time I needed to get home to get Wally ready for a birthday party. Alex wouldn't know how to wrap the gift ("Where are the scissors? Where is the tape? Where is the wrapping paper?") plus Petra was napping so Alex couldn't bring Wally downstairs to meet the neighbors who had kindly offered to bring Wally to some remote location in Brooklyn so I had to linger around to do it. With kids these little nothing things can seem to take up hours until the whole day feels like it is getting away.

I was growing increasingly tense as the neighbors weren't here yet and I was slotted to be at the garden. Alex said I should go and that he would just ask them to come up to get Wally since Petra was still asleep but I felt that was overly demanding. So we argued a bit about it and I said I really needed to go and he said, "What do you want me to do, wake Petra up so they don't have to come up to the 10th floor?"  

So I waited...brought Wally down when they texted...dashed off late to the garden. The Ice Cream Social was cancelled because of the impending rain but I was carrying some library books to return by that point and when I returned them (ready to run?) I realized one I still needed for research so I needed to drop it off at home before I could do anything.

Back at home I fell into this sinkhole of straightening and cleaning sorting through piles of paper, reams of stuff Wally brought home from the end of first grade, most of which needs to go into the recycling bin or the house will be taken over by paper mache cats and giant red "Wild Things." It is easier to do this when Alex is home to entertain Petra and Wally is not home to say, "Don't throw that out!" so that was my rational of course for further postponing the run. And I was just losing momentum. It was dark and threatening outside and cozy in. And by 4 when you get up at 6 the day feels like it's getting toward evening. That sounds reasonable...doesn't it? Most people get up more like 8, so 4 would be 6, time to break out the corkscrews....

A little after 4 o'clock, I went down with Alex and Petra thinking I'd push myself finally to run (they were on the way to the store). But as soon as we got outside it started raining. 

"Should I go?" I asked Alex, hoping for permission not to.

"I wouldn't run in this." Alex said. Exactly what I wanted to hear. I turned around to duck back inside thinking I'd exercise to a video. That was my plan, but the minute I got in the building, I felt even more deflated than I had that morning, shoved halfway into my spandex pants. No, it would take too much mental energy to exercise inside. Petra & Alex would be back in a few minutes, and she would hang on me and bang on the keyboard and mess things up. The only way to get a real run in was to turn around and go back outside into the rain. To run with soaking wet heavy shoes, marine style. So that's what I decided to do, hesitating for a minute to text Alex. "Actually rain run."

And off I went over to the river. There were fewer people than usual out there, mostly groups running for shelter, but a couple bikers and runners who seemed happy enough to get drenched. Partway up the path I realized it was actually easier to run in that kind of rain (which was a good solid amount but certainly not a driving rain). It's quieter. You're less distracted by people, dogs, bikes, scooters. The water has a certain energy to it, not the crashing waves of the beach, but more like something pulsing underneath. For the first time in years I thought about the "training" I did as a child when my sister and I trained for a summer fun run. Out in the suburbs, even in our condominium complex, you feel more alone when you run than you do in Manhattan. In Manhattan whether you're inside or out, high noon or 3 in the morning, you're almost never alone. The never-aloneness changes how you think and feel about things. Ther'es something to me unbelievably exhausting about it. Obviously this is exacerbated by our 24-7 ADD digital age of hyperconnectivity. Even if you yourself are not checking your phone or email (and with kids when alone you kind of always have to check your phone, otherwise you get a call 6 hours late that Wally is in the nurse's office waiting for you), you still know so much is going on there in that parallel world, you know people might be trying to reach you there, things might be piling up that you were supposed to know about or answer. There is not that sense of aloneness that I used to love, rainy days up in my room, or out in the woods, or in high school, at the kitchen table, staring up from my homework and out the window in a daydream, listening to REM.

This past Saturday out by that gray pulsing river I saw a bunch of people coming in on their sailboats. I like to imagine when I pass those boats that I am not a mile from Times Square but instead out in some summer beach town. A few weeks earlier I'd run into some tourists in that spot early on Saturday morning. They asked me about a place to eat breakfast. I pointed them toward 10th Avenue and looked around to see if--other than Chelsea Piers--I was forgetting anything closer to where we were on the pier by the boats. 

"No, I think 10th ave is your best bet," I said, pointing the way along 23rd street. "There's nothing much out here," I said as they thanked me and took off. As I continued on, I repeated the last phrase to myself with a little bit of a thrill, "Nothing much out here." For good or bad, that is the one thing I feel like I can almost never say about my neighborhood, but it's something I at least fantasize about all the time, a lonely beach town, a few little sailboats coming in from the rain, nothing much else out here.

On this particular Saturday one boat caught my eye because of its Pride flag. I loved seeing the colors against the flat charcoal of the water and wished I could take a picture a good picture of it before they took the flag down. I have been infected with that instagram/FB/twitter habit -- this is only real if I capture it and post it. I tried snapping one with my little flip phone, but the feeling passed, and I moved on (easy to do when actually moving) and really thought about this amazing moment that we're in, this breakthrough for equality and what it meant and how this affirms what Obama said quoting--was it MLK?--in his acceptance speech in 2008: "The arc of history is long and bends toward justice."

It was only out there alone that I could really pause on and think about what this means. I had followed the news with interest, cheered, jumping up and down when I heard, "co-excited" with anyone I could. But it was only near the river by myself that I really felt the magnitude of this decision. 

I couldn't stay out too long. Just a half hour. I headed home, dreaming about a cup of tea and a shower, knowing a thousand little obstacles and have-to's would block my way. But I had already had this quiet moment out by the water to take things in. Writing, running, being separate from the world--those experiences are essential to me to process and integrate the kaleidoscopic rush of things. I was happy, heading home, to think I had not only continued in the rain I had deliberately headed into it. That felt tougher, in a ludicrously tiny way, more powerful.


  1. I know what you mean about exercising first so the day doesn't get away...if I'm going to bike, it seems to work out better if i do it first!

  2. It really does seem to be the case. Or else I guess a set time that it always happens. Like when you had your set walk in the evening - that seemed very wise (not sure how many times you actually managed to do it).


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