Wednesday, October 19, 2016


                I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: 5:30am is an unholy hour. The season doesn’t really help matters. Autumn in Northern Illinois means running in the dark. Running in the dark is an added layer of bullshit. Ipso facto, a 5:30am run during Autumn is premium grade nope wrapped in tender strips of fuck this noise.
There are advantages to early morning autumn runs that nearly compensate. When you run tethered to a meaty little pit bull, running before the ass crack of dawn means few small and fuzzies are out to chase and kill. Not none, mind you. But few. And if you’ve ever had your arm nearly dislocated because a squirrel tried to commit suicide-by-dog, you’ll take what you can get, and you’ll be thankful.
Then there’s the air. When everything’s right, it’s so cool and dry this time of year, you can just run as fast as you want until hell freezes over or the sun comes up, and you’ll never, never overheat. It’s bracing but not so cold that you have to start worrying about frost bite or layering or any of that happy horseshit.
The stars are out still too. This time of year, you can see Orion, bright as fireworks in the West. The moon is nowhere close to setting. The sky is vast. You are miniscule.
Fifteen minutes of that, watching your breath fog out before you, feeling the blood course through your veins and lungs like liquid fire, it’s just about possible to forget that just about all the house lights around you are still out, and it’s because well-adjusted people are still sleeping. Also, the weather in Northern Illinois is usually overcast and/or drizzling steadily, so if you could see through your glasses, it would sort of just look like the back of your eyes anyway. And then there’s your body, which feels like it should be asleep still and not dealing with your particular brand of tomfuckery.
Do I like running before dawn? Umm, like may not be the right word. There’s a satisfaction to be had in mortifying that soft, comfortable side of my personality. When I do it I feel a little more present, a little less like those small, shivering things my dog likes to kill and a little more like, well, the creature preying on them. The world comes into sharp focus. That’s probably not something you wanted to hear, but it’s the truth.

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Coffin Nail For Your Nice Girl

They tell you to be nice, the adults, and at first you think you understand what that means. It means you should be gentle. You should measure the impact of your words and your actions. It’s fair, and you see that because you know what it’s been like when people weren’t gentle with you. It doesn’t feel good.
But somehow, somewhere the meaning of niceness shifts. It means don’t contradict people, even when you know they’re wrong. It means always smile. Confusingly, it means there are certain things you just shouldn’t wear, and certain ideas you shouldn’t espouse. It means keep doing things for people even when you don’t want to. It means keep the peace at all cost. It means making yourself so small, so gray, so you can fit into your tiny little life.
At some point niceness becomes foot binding for the soul.
When I was a little girl, I used to jump out of the second story window of my brother’s bedroom. It didn’t occur to me that this was a bad idea, that I could land wrong and break an ankle. It was just another way to get out of the house. I favored it because it was slightly less boring than the stairs.
There was a pine tree in our back yard. After school, I would climb to the top with a paperback novel tucked in my pants. I would up there, looking down at the top of my house and reading Asimov and Ellison and Herbert, while the tree swayed back and forth in the breeze. Fear never entered my consciousness.
I couldn’t say exactly when all of that changed or how. But a little over a month ago, I woke up from surgery--a very nice woman with a very polite little job who had done precisely nothing she set out to do. What I had to show for all the compromises was ashes and dust in my mouth. I was sick of being so very nice, so very responsible, and I was done. Done giving my time to jackasses. Done being contented with whatever was left over. Done with all the compromises that are entailed in being a nice person.
A week ago I began the long, painful process of surgical rehab. There’s nothing quite so bracing to the ego as crapping out after 15 minutes of yoga and two mile runs when you’re used to being able to do a 15 mile run pretty much whenever. But each shitty yoga session and each sad little run is driving a coffin nail into the nice girl I was for all those years. The person who’s arising is fierce. She goes places and has adventures. She has no room in her life for fatuousness and safety. She is many things, but never, never make the mistake of thinking she’s a nice girl.