The wind blew the fog in off the lake in thick sheets. In what seemed like only a few minutes on the running trail, the early morning sun and blue skies abandoned me to a curtain of mist. It reminded me of driving in winter weather coming up against nasty pockets of snow and sleet, turning the whole world into a shroud. I knew I wasn’t going to veer off the trail and get lost—that would be a new navigational low for the girl who drives with her GPS squawking and a print out of the directions (road atlas in the trunk). But for a moment I had no point on the horizon to focus on, there was the brief sensation that there was nothing significant to run toward. It felt disorienting. It felt liberating.
Uncertainty is not particularly my jam. I prefer at least some clarity. I’ll take a vague notion of the end game, the destination, or the bigger picture. I’m a habitual weather-checker. On Monday, I’m thinking about what I’m going to do on Saturday. I show up at the airport egregiously early for my flight. I like feeling anchored in what I believe I can count on. I’m assured in some way by setting my sights on a farthest shore to move toward. Of course there’s no guarantee that you’re not sailing toward an island that is a mirage or what you think is a luxury ocean liner that actually turns out to be a boat of Sudanese pirates who are none too impressed by your ill-timed “I’m the captain now” quip.
I know I’m overcompensating for the BIG UNCERTAINTIES that cannot be pinned down by an app or a spreadsheet of hard data–you know, everything connected to our overall existence. I know that certainty is an illusion, a fiction we tell ourselves to sleep at night and remain vertical during the day. I know that putting faith and stock in any destination or outcome is a precarious way to go through life—you’re setting yourself up for perpetual disappointments and years of low-level anxiety, not to mention the distinct feeling that the Universe is laughing at you, like, a lot. Control, even the myth of it, is a hard drug to quit. There is no patch or twelve step program. There is only your dumb insistence that your way is better, which is another soothing untruth.
The fog pressed close. There were only the few feet in front of me and the then the next few feet after that. I ran with the pleasant sensation of presentness grafted onto my footfalls. The preoccupation with what was beyond, both in terms of the trail itself, the rest of the day, the rest of this life, lifted. I realized how much energy and effort I put into focusing on what lies ahead at the expense of the here and now, which is doubly cliché in terms of the realization itself and of what it plainly says about our modern life–holiday decorations in stores in July, elementary school kids pressed to start prepping for their college futures, presidential hopefuls launch campaigns a day after the ballots are tallied. We’re all gazing at a point just beyond the next hill. I know it, you know it too.
Knowing is never the same as feeling. The feeling of holding immediacy around me, in my moving body, in the wet air and stinging wind was a different kind of certainty, one that I can’t recall having experienced so profoundly. It brought me a different sense of comfort and ease, not quite a letting go, but definitely a loosening. I focused on my rhythm. I let the pace propel me down the trail, willing this sensation to stretch beyond the fog, already thinning to expose the way ahead.