What the hell am I doing?
I asked that question about 74 days ago, and answered: “running across the country.” I thought that might suffice, that answer might quiet my brain and my heart, but like a persistent toddler eventually the answer led to more, deeper questions, and the “what the hell am I doing” turned into “why the hell am I doing it?” At this point I ask myself that pretty regularly, and every time I go through the same answers and counters. It goes roughly like this:
Why the hell am I doing this?
To raise money and awareness! I tell myself that I’m doing this for the communities that have given so much to me. Then I counter with about 15 ways I could raise money and awareness without the pain of running (or walking) 2800 miles. I could be spending my waking hours organizing fundraisers, cocktail parties. I could be writing five OpEds a day to raise awareness of these great organizations. Try again Mags, why this?
To build communities! To inspire others to get involved! Yeah! I’m an inspiration! Again, I counter. There are thousands of people out there more inspirational than I. I could be working for them, mobilizing communities around their missions. Not buying it, why this?
For your own personal journey, because you love running and it makes you better, stronger, kinder.
The problem with that answer is that I’m not feeling more enlightened, better, or even stronger.
This journey doesn’t feel like progress; I see the icon moving, I know I’m moving forward in space and time, but I don’t feel like I get up every day to meet and vanquish a new obstacle, learn a lesson, and repeat. Physically and emotionally I feel like I get up every day and get pushed back down by the same big jerk, with a dull but painful thud. Sometimes for good fun the day (jerk) will punch me in the face, more of an acute pain to complement the persistent ache. I spent miles one day begging for the lesson through the tears. Frustrated and helpless against the pain, angry at my complete lack of ability to beat it back, to find peace, to find a lesson, searching for anything that made me feel like this was something more than a completely futile exercise in suffering and misery. But the only answer that’s made any sense comes from ultrarunner Scott Jurek.
Sometimes you just do things.
I hated this concept the first time I heard it. “You just do things?” What? That’s bull. You have to have purpose and intent. You don’t just go around “doing things.” Where’s the growth there? How are you bettering yourself or your community by just doing things, unexamined and directionless? How has that nonsense philosophy carried me through, the only thing that has worked, for the past month?
It works because it’s the perfect balance of humility and arrogance, humility that I don't understand the world, the effects of my deeds, that I can’t map it out, there are limits to logic (never thought I'd say that). It’s balanced by the arrogance of believing that I am doing something good, for myself and for others. I have to have the arrogant faith in 2016 Maggie and the October 29th Maggie. That pre-run Maggie knew what she was doing and that post-run Maggie will be a better person, that this pain will alchemize, that future Maggie will find the glory in the grind and make something out of it. She’ll be better, kinder, stronger.
So I'll keep going, not fully understanding why, but making the option of quitting as small as possible, as unattractive as possible. I’ll try and stick to my goals, keep my “why” in front of me for as long as possible and then keep faith that it’s there even as it recedes into pain and self-pity. I’ll go through the whole question and answer inner monologue as many times as I need to. I’ll just keep getting up. Sometimes quietly, clumsily, even angrily. Just keep getting up til I’m done. Because sometimes you just do things.