Friday, October 10, 2008

Saved By Zero

Erica has been out of town for the week and as a result I have been living my days close to the bone. There is not a lot of wiggle room in my schedule, what with work and a daughter and a dog. It feels as if each moment is already accounted for before I even get out of bed. As a result, I have not had any time to run. No time to think, either.

Until today, that is. Today I made time for BOTH running and thinking. Isabel had gymnastics from 4 until 5:45 and I made damn sure to bring my running clothes with us. Her gym is near the Farmington Canal trail, so as soon as her bare feet hit the padded floor to begin warm-ups my sneakered feet hit the macadam to begin my six miles. It was sunny and cool and perfect for a relaxed run.

A few Fridays ago I stumbled into the joys of an end-of-the-work-week run and now I am hooked. I have never had a problem just letting my mind drift while running (see my most recent blog entry) so my Friday afternoon runs become a sort of moving meditation for me. Today was no different in that for much of the first mile my mind was noisy with static left over from the day. But as my body warmed up and I settled into a comfortable pace my mind became quiet…


Floating around through the quiet in a sinuous, twisty sort of way was the song “Saved By Zero” by The Fixx. If you know the song then you may remember that it was a hit back in 1983. I don’t think I have heard it since the eighties, but there it was today, providing the soundtrack to my run. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I liked the song back when it was a hit so its presence in my head was not UNwelcome. It was just a little surprising, that’s all.

Surprising enough that I snapped back to a more focused level of consciousness and tried to think about what may have invited The Fixx into my run. After a half mile it came to me. I remembered seeing an interview on MTV in the fall of 1983 in which the lead singer, Cy Curnin, was asked to explain what the opaque lyrics to “Saved By Zero” mean. (Please, please don’t even ask me how I still know the name of the lead singer of The Fixx—I just DO, okay?)

Mr. Curnin talked about being in a mental space where he could, in effect, cancel gravity in his brain and allow all the things on his mind to become weightless and just float up and out of his stream of thought until there was nothing--zero. He said that he could then pay attention to see which thoughts fell back into focus first and most insistently. It was a way for him to prioritize.

I hadn’t done it on purpose, but as I ran I had done the same thing Cy Curnin did. My mind had been full of competing concerns, each buzzing around, calling for my attention. But then by mile two they had all been thrown up into the air, where they were floating momentarily in zero-gravity while I just ran. And into the empty space (that had been so annoyingly full a mile ago) stepped my memory of Cy Curnin and his paean to meditation.

I decided to look up, (metaphorically), and see what was floating around so compliantly as I ran mostly empty-brained. I could see my students up there—each begging me to think about how their week had been and what I could be doing to challenge them more. I also saw my daughter and my worry that I had been on auto-pilot with her this week instead of really being with her. And there was my wife and my excitement for her as she explores where to take her many skills and gifts. I also caught a glimpse of myself and my growing anticipation for whatever will come next for me in life.

There was the Dow Jones Industrial Average off by 18% this week and all of the repercussions that has on our retirement “savings.” There was also Barack Obama with his growing lead in the polls and my growing fear that he will be killed before he can become President. I also thought I saw our roof and its leaks and its shockingly high replacement cost. Oh, and even though it was hiding behind all the other floaters, I am pretty sure advancing middle age was up there too.

Being able to examine them all dispassionately from a distance was a real gift. And it got me through three miles of quickish running with nary a thought of pain or shortness of breath. As I neared the beginning of the last mile I decided to let the thoughts fall as they would and just notice what came down fastest and first to claim my full, refocused, relaxed attention.

And there it fell, unnoticed amid all the weighty issues and the clamor and hubbub of events: What should I make for dinner?

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