Running From My Despair

Okay I’m not messing around here, this is not going to be a fun post. I’ve written it in my head fifteen times and can’t get to a conclusion that seems worth making my way to. So I decided to just let my fingers do some work and see what comes out.

I know there are themes that seem important to put out there. One theme is in regards to meaning. What does it mean to participate in and write about fitness, especially fitness from a feminist perspective in an time of profound crisis and dis-empowerment regarding vital other feminist oriented issues?

I’ll tell you how I picked up on that theme. I was working with my trainer. You know, my private Pilates trainer that I pay $50 CAD every week to make me do 10-15 more roll-ups or scissor kicks than I might do on my own in my basement for free. Two white women in a suburban gym doing squat reps and talking idly about how horrible everything is. I mean, WHAT EVEN IS THAT? I left that session and I felt terrible about myself. I should have donated that money to BLM or Doctors Without Borders or the ACLU.

There is another element to this theme of meaning. I am a middle aged woman who isn’t bad looking, but Trump would probably put me at a 5-6. I’m not worth considering. I am not hot enough to count in that world he represents and as much as it pains me to admit this, I feel less worthy somewhere because of the ascendance of that attitude toward women.

The next theme is about safety. For the first time in my life I have serious doubts about the actual safety of my life, and when I say my life, I mean the style of my life and the choices I have made in my life. Unlike young men of colour or transwomen or aboriginal women, I do not mean my actual flesh, not yet.

The toxic nationalism and angry xenophobic turn of my southward neighbour and shaken me to the core. I know it lives here too. First we had Rob Ford, now we are looking Kelly Leitch smack in the face. People say she can’t win on that platform, but why not? And then there is the shooting in a mosque in Quebec by yet another angry white dude, the ugly terminus of years of fear mongering and islamaphobia in the public discourse of our media and politics. 

I am Jewish. My upbringing included vivid descriptions of the Holocaust (you know, that thing Hitler did to Jews, Gays, Catholics, Communists, Poles and Roma). I grew up with the phrase “never again” echoing always. And now, I wonder about whether I have the courage and fortitude to stand up to a police state. I’m queer and non-monogamous and sex positive. I support a woman’s right to choose. I’m cool with affirmative action. I don’t mind paying my taxes if it means we have better public transit and a social safety net. I think black/indigenous/POC lives matter. I think Islam is a religion of peace and we should take in refugees. There, I said it and the internet remembers.When they come to my door, will I shame myself and deny these things?

The next theme is despair. My struggle to feel meaningful and my fear for my future safety have had the expected effect of pushing a good portion of me over the edge into hopeless despair. I just can’t believe we are here. It’s not what I thought people would move toward. I was wrong. I failed to see they were already in fear and despair. I failed to see that the paucity of culture and the ascendance of materialism was breeding angry despairing people with a lack of meaning who will turn on the other in a heartbeat. I missed it because I’m established, educated, white and liberal.

So what does this have to do with fitness? I’ve done a lot of running. Mostly, it’s small distances although I’m committed to two half-marathons this year so I’d better get in gear. I find myself longing to run a lot, even when I can’t fit it in. In fact, I gave up a run to write this blog, but the blog seemed more important. I don’t solve anything when I run. I do feel marginally better and more able to function in spite of the reality of the world. I know that if I give up and roll over, that’s one less melted liberal snowflake who will not show up for any necessary blizzards. I have no blessed idea what to actually do about any of it. I have, in fact, donated to BLM and Doctors Without Borders. I am staying vigilant about the politics of the country I can participate in. I’m tweeting at Justin to stand up to the bully as best he can. I’m writing letters to my Conservative MP asking her to stand up to the forces of xenophobia in her own party. I’m being an angry peri-menopausal mess of a woman and still letting people love me. So that’s something. I need new shoes though, there is a storm coming and many miles to run before it’s done.

A storm named Alex. Who knows what damage he will cause.

PS: My daughter just sent me this Beyonce meme.. .so clearly, all is not lost.

If you don’t get this Buffy reference, we can’t be friends. . 

17 thoughts on “Running From My Despair

  1. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. All of this. I’ve never felt this scared and this hopeless. I’ve been attending protests and that helps. This situation makes me feel like a small child living with a raging alcoholic parent. I keep hoping that somewhere the real grown ups are sorting everything out and it will be okay. The thought that we are the real grown ups terrifies me.

  2. it really evokes so many childhood fears, and that grinds is to a halt. I’ve been having trouble sleeping and i asked my friend “how did people sleep in occupied France?” I was sort of kidding and then I really started to wonder. And realized that many of them joined the resistance. That’s how people deal with helplessness — whatever the equivalent of the resistance is. We’re still figuring that out but I think we will.

  3. That previous comment was meant to be a reply to Sam. To susan, thank you for writing this. I think so many people are feeling the same way, especially about the sense of absolute unanchored-ness when you really that the dominant discourse can be actively aimed at devaluing the things you are and most hold dear. I am reminded of a vote against queer rights in Ontario in the early 90s where I had people who knew and cared about me tell me to my face that they didn’t care if I had rights if it cost them one additional cent, or when the church my mother and my partner’s mother belonged to denounced us. Then, I once dropped to the floor in my kitchen sobbing at the betrayal. I think that experience gave me in the end some resilience when I connected to others like me and fought back.

    Now I’m listening to how my Muslim friends are responding right now in particular and thinking about how two of them are reaching deep for faith in people, softness and connectedness and I’m trying to find that in myself.

  4. Yes! And it’s put me in touch with history in a way I never thought I would be. You hear about repressive regimes, war, genocide, but it always seems like a distant far away thing….now I sit and wonder, what did the mothers do? How did they put one foot in front of the other knowing their child could be in danger? I have a 9 year old. All I can think about is the world she is inheriting. And, we are in a privileged space. We are not a targeted group. What can we do? While I know this has far reaching consequences beyond my own country, I am still jealous that at least, as a Canadian, you don’t have to feel that deep sense of shame in your country, your leadership, your fellow countrypeople, (53%of whit women voted for him!!!!!),that I do.

  5. Susan, thanks for sharing your feeling of vulnerability and a range of emotions. I agree with what other people have been commenting on about feeling scared, powerless, angry, and also ridiculous because I am in a position of privilege and not being targeted. One thing you wrote that really helps me is that you run to get away from despair. I have been feeling paralyzed, so have been motionless at times when I would have felt better to run, or pedal, or walk, or something– anything other than curl up into a ball, which is what I have been wanting to do.

    So thanks– I’ll think about how moving means moving AWAY from despair and paralysis.

  6. I am also at a loss. Thank you for this. I live in the US right now, but am Canadian, so am even less sure where to send my activist efforts. I am also deeply disturbed because some of my ancestors came to Canada as refugees and all of them came seeking religious freedom – I want all people to have that – moving beyond despair is hard though.

  7. Thank you to everyone for your comments on and offline. I feel so connected to this little group in ways that are subtle but profoundly helpful. That or my peri-meanopausal rage has temporarily subsided. Or both. ❤

  8. First I was shocked, then angry, and now, despite attending Orlando’s women’s rally, signing petitions, and making phone calls to representatives, I’m depressed. I was in denial about how truly crappy I felt until a pre-op patient came in with and Inauguration shirt and red cap.
    I didn’t want to take care of him. First time in 31 years that thought crossed my mind. Wow. Typed it. Leaving it here. Thanks for helping me get that out .

  9. We hear you, from over here in Australia… I can’t believe what’s going on in the world right now, lead by America. Running is good. Moving in general is good. Donating money is good. And take comfort in knowing that we are all connected, and all trying to evolve above/beyond the smallness of Trump and his mean-minded followers… G 🙂

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