Turning the page of a year - 2018 - Allison asked me recently if I set any New Year's Resolutions. "No. Well, I mean, subconsciously I'm sure I have, and I'll figure out what it's all about next year," I responded absent mindedly and presently engaged.
Because, that's the thing. Sometimes, I don't know what the deep-down parts of my brain are up to till somehow this braid comes together and I had to have known I was combing it through the whole time, but I hadn't, absent mindedly combing, presently braiding. How can I be so obtuse in one way and know deep down completely what I needed without acknowledging it? How could I not see the fiery ginger braid?
Dualism, The Twins, they are such a part of my life - I can't think of any moments that weren't dances of dualism. Loud + Quiet. Strong + Weak. Dark + Light. Absent + Present.
Looking back on 2017, I realized, I gave myself a gift, over and over again, The Gift of Space. And, in the space there was a break in classic-Speed-momentum, a moment of stillness that seemed to stretch out longer than I was accustomed to - an awkward slowing of time - for someone who has pushed, ran, and gained momentum as each year built on the last. Slowed moments. Sometimes, I didn't know what to do with the space I had given myself. Sometimes, all that space was awkward.
Space from racing. I ran one race last March. Space from weightlifting. I left the community I had known for years. Space from my career. I walked away from a Position of Confinement to one of ultimate creative freedom. Space from relationships. I didn't have as much to give this past year. I kept close to The Givers and gave myself space where I didn't have more to give. Over and over again, I gifted myself Space, and I wasn't even realizing I was doing it. What did I want to cultivate in all of this space?
Spaciousness in all of its forms. "Here you go, Blair." Or rather, "here you go , B l a i r." But, if I wasn't pushing, if I wasn't momentous, if I wasn't the instigator or the defier, if I wasn't on fire, then, who was I?
My last writing, well over a year ago (below), delved into a pain I hadn't experienced before, and a contraction of space. Do we always contract before we expand?
The only backstory needed to know is, for years within my ultra-running career, I carried the mantra, 'Make friends with pain, and you will never be alone,' by Ken Chloubar with me. I created a relationship with Pain and he didn't scare me or change the course of my races when he arrived, he was just there, running next to me. Hello, Old Friend. This meant, I never discussed Pain with other people. He was with me and for me, only. So, when I experienced a traumatic Pain during and following a race and I finally discussed the existence of Pain with my doctor - it was at such a traumatic level - I was utterly unprepared for the doctor's non-chalant response, he hears about pain every day, sometimes every appointment. My pain scale was not his pain scale. When I opened up to Pain and said those simple words, "I am in pain." I was shifting my world. The Doctor, he was hearing about pain for the 30th time that day. He compared my pain to a bunion he once had on his pinkie toe. Fucking ass. His pain was not my pain.
We won't dwell or relive that pain from that particular writing, as that story is not today's story, but it has had major impacts on my relationship to space in the aftermath. That Pain made me slow down. For a w h i l e. I have attempted to better understand my interactions with myself and with this space I get to walk within via a reaction to a traumatic pain. Catalyst. Story. Space.
Mix into the equation of a year, I'm a Gemini and then throw in the Ginger hair and dualism and rage and softness and letting go and strength and it all just seemed confusing at different points within this year of space.
After my list of injuries and illnesses during my last ultra-race, I let go and gave in and celebrated a weekly yoga practice. This was very different from the iron strength I had built over the years of weightlifting. Fluidity of movement was immensely helpful for me to heal, it was a vastly different way of interacting with myself + with others. I have healed in such ways over the past year. Somedays, I want to run into the doctor's office and yell, "Nanni Nanni boo boo," to them with two raised middle fingers. Obviously, I'm mastering the Art of Zen. And, then I think "bastards" and then I think, "well, they do get lied to all day long, every day; I certainly couldn't do their job." Dualism. Empathy + Rage. Light + Dark.
Sometimes I feel like being a Ginger Gemini is like listening to The Avett Brothers', "No Hard Feelings" and Rage Against the Machine's, "Killing in the Name of" all at once. All the time.
Somedays, it feels like I have lost as much as I have gained. And, I adamantly, full-heartedly believe that loss is growth. But, also, it is a loss and there are waves of mourning. What have I lost in this Space? What have I gained in this Space? There are parts of me in certain moments that oh-so-wish I could go back to that black and white drive, less gray, less confusion. But, I am still expanding. Still attempting understand.
The practice of yoga, the sustainability of movement and fluidity has healed and opened me in ways I didn't know I could move. At the start of each class, our teacher asks us to set an intention, and for the first time in my oh-so-goal-orientated-regimented life, I just let it go. Not with the goal of letting it go or the intention of letting it go but just, whatever the fuck happens today, man. I showed up. Here I am. There was healing in letting go. Unintentionally. There was healing in just showing up. Repetitively. Here I am.
But, as I have waded through this healing, this practice of letting go, this Space, I have often been conflicted with the strength and abrasiveness and defiance I have so often defined myself with and the softness and letting go I was embracing. Because, you can't defy if there isn't something to defy against. Where does the dark + the light meet within each of us? And, how do those waves fold and unfold onto one another? How can you hold them together? Because, I want to hold them together. I don't want to lose the dark. And, I don't want to lose the light.
"Make friends with pain and then you will never be alone." Pain + I, we were friends and not in a self-flagging-get-off-on-it friendship, but just, Pain wasn't scary and he didn't get to determine the outcome of my races. I loved this dark side of myself. I valued this friendship. I didn't want to lose this part of me. But, maybe I already did. I want to defy limits but I also want to care for myself. I want to strengthen not tear apart.
I am often unsure how to blend the two. The dark. The light.
Until, of course, I get out on the trail and give myself the true gift of space - trail running the Big Sky state. Across that vast and sometimes endless skyscape, I can often see the balance of dark + light held within the ominously dark + sparkled light clouds, held across the space + balance of the big sky. Above, there seems as if there is plenty of space to hold both. I spend a lot of my runs looking up. Pain during a race was the catalyst but the Space I find during my day to day adventure runs has been the journey.
The conflict of dualism arises in hidden moments throughout my days. Maybe I'm not looking up enough, but I want to look within for that space. Do contradictions constrict? Or, do they open us? In yoga, we're taught to be ego-less. And, fuck, I understand and celebrate not making every. fucking. thing. about ourselves - halleluiah.
If we pause from our own story, if we listen and look into another's story, how much more provocative + wild + sweet this life becomes through learning another person's experiences. Limitless. Ego-less. Expansive. The gift of empathy. But, then, I also remember myself as a Sophomore in high school and reading Ayn Rand's Anthem and actually feeling like I had found a love story I could fall in love with and, simply, not feeling so alone because of that story, that space. The final line of the book reads, "The sacred word: Ego." I love both sides of this ego-coin.
I love that competition stems from ego and I haven't met a competitor I didn't like. Challenge me, please. I love that science + infrastructure + creation evolve and progress because of competition. Ego. I love that I evolve from competition.
It's a braided rant of contradictions in how I love social media because I love the opportunity to glimpse someone else's lens into the world. I love seeing what my friends and the people I look up to are doing with their days, how they see the world. I love celebrating their days. Or, sharing struggles. But, uuuuuugh, I am annoyed by the vanilla-bullshit-selling pseudo lives of "make the boxes all congruent, all monochromatic, make your grid vanilla and sprinkles and bullshit to gain followers." If you change your story to appeal to others, you have lost your story. Or worse than that, you lost respect for your story. I want authentic boxes. I wanna see your lens. The dark. And, the light.
Tell me about the wrist that turns in your throat when you're afraid to speak up. That's how it feels to me when I'm afraid to say my words, knuckles grating against my throat. Tell me about the weightlessness of your intestines when that secret love passes by. Gravitational float. Fast breath. Light body. Tell me about when everything falls to shit and you don't have the words to speak - break your words like you break your bread at dinner and hand them out. Because, the experiences that have hurt you (we all got 'em) can save others.
Don't tell me about your perfectly imperfect imperfections perfectly planned for release. Consumption.
Tell me something real. Tell me something true. And, don't think about me in the process of writing. When you think of how to sell your story, you lose your story. Your story is enough. Because, the world isn't in need of sprinkles, it's in need of authenticity. "Speak your truth," repeated over + over again in yoga class. Please, speak your truth.
These are only a few contradictions I hold within myself. There are many more. Many more. I trip over these contradictions; there's not enough space to walk past each one. I'm currently reading, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, and I'm sure my deep-down brain grabbed at this book to weave into this particular braid, this story of space. The Ego coin is one, but the sides of introvert + extrovert are another coin. There are countless other coins. How do we balance and carry these needs within ourselves? How do we carry all of these coins?
My wedding vows this year were an ode to the dualism in Travis. I am attracted to the ones that carry light + dark within themselves. I call him my Golden Heart of Rage and it is this light and this dark that has forever kept me engaged and pushed and excited. When past loves fizzled out or really never gave the gift of curiosity - a wildly exciting gift in love - this dualism in Travis has always kept me excited, always kept me curious. I wrote a set of vows to his Golden Heart. And, I wrote a set of vows to his Rage.
Ashley, of course, added a strand within this braid of Space. She wrote to me last Fall, "For those who are innately drawn to the subtleties of landscape, to the language of space, when we find our people, it feels like an extension of those places. And for those of us drawn to the big sky + openness of the west, those people feel endlessly expansive. Blair is open space to me."
Could she see the space I was falling into? Is she searching for her own space to hold contradictions? Are you?
Jen had an international trip and asked for a book recommendation and with no hesitation, no pause, I reached for my favorite gift of words, The Solace of Open Spaces, by Gretel Ehrlich. Oh, how space has defined the last year - obsessively intertwined - oh, how I am only now seeing the expansiveness. Braid. Braid. B r a i d.
B R A I D.
When I sit and hold my contradictions, I can't make sense of it all - it is all too close and jumbled and tripping over itself within me. I don't have enough space within myself to carry these contradictions. Scratch that. I am cultivating, I am harvesting, I am working on building the space within myself. I just, I haven't gotten there yet and like most growing pains, they are awkward and sometimes confusing.
But then, I go for a run. I. go. for. a. run. I run in the Big Sky state and the space, the big sky, allows for these contradictions to dance and float within and around me without being such a confusion. Ominous and sparkled clouds. Space out on the trails and in the mountains gives me the ability to hold onto contradicting ideas and not trip. And, not feel like a hypocrite but to feel expansive. Light + Dark. Empathy + Rage. It all seems much more fluid out there than holding on tight within myself. I've realized running among the mountains gives me the gift of space and in the space I find out there, I find a lot more space within myself.
I am not saying trail running in Montana is the answer to ego v egoless, to monochromatic Instagrams, or holding coins, balancing the waves of lightness + darkness within ourselves. But, for me, it is. It is the means to expand. To forage through this internal space, to push out, like an ever-expanding universe + create space. Within. It gives me the chance to hold these coins and look at each side. It gives me the opportunity to better understand my own habits of dualism. So, I'm attempting to be more like those ominous + sparkled clouds I am so obsessed with on my runs. Expansive and cultivating the ability of holding onto the light + dark simultaneously. The Twins.
Trail running might not expand you, it could even constrict you. But, if I could suggest a path that leads to less tripping, a path to get to the places that let you expand, I will. Because, I believe there is a lot more Space within each of us. Expand via art, painting, because you feel in colors. Climbing because you see in lines. Writing because you choke on words. Music because the notes take you to your ever expanding universe.
Search for the places that let you expand. And, then. Let it go.