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Quitting Time

I am not a quitter. Quitters are the worst. Everybody knows this. Quitters are weak, quitters are cowards. quitters are fair weather fans. Quitters never win, & winners never quit.

I’m starting to question that.

Actually, it’s my ankle. My ankle has the questions. My left ankle, to be precise.

In the interests of full transparency, let me say right up front that I (like a ridiculous percentage of other privileged white women) have a long & dysfunctional relationship with my body. When it tried to thicken up in my teens, I was like, “Oh, hell, no. If the fat’s not going to land in socially acceptable places (like my boobs), then it’s not going to land at all.” (Spoiler alert: my fat was socially unacceptable.) But I like to eat so I started running.

Once upon a time, I felt a run didn’t count unless it was at least an hour long. Mind you, I was cracking off 7.5 minute miles back in the day, so I was covering some ground.

I eventually settled into a more reasonable relationship with food, my body & exercise, but I still run. 5 days a week, 4 miles at a pop. But I’m old now. (Hello, 50. I see you up there.) When I get up in the morning, there’s a brief period of reacquainting my body with the idea of movement. You know, a series of snaps, crackles & pops, and a little hobbling before everything smooths out.

My runs start the same as my mornings these days. We start slowly, just kind of introducing the idea of doing this for the next 35 minutes or so. Then the tight places loosen up & we’re off to races. I get to think my thoughts to the beat of my feet & sort through all the weird shit in my head. It’s like meditation, & because I have such a sedentary job, I’ve always considered it a necessary balance.

But then my left ankle spoke up. It began voicing an opinion of our runs. And that opinion was, “Hey, this hurts.”

So I did what I’ve been taught to do.

I ignored it.

I ran anyway.

I just trusted what I’ve been taught, what we all know to be true: winners never quit & quitters never win.

I did that for…I don’t know…three weeks? Four?

But my ankle wouldn’t shut up. And then it wasn’t just complaining at the beginning of a run. It talked to me the whole time. It refused to let me fall into that easy white brain space that I needed. It was like, “HEY. HELLO. I HURT.”

And then it didn’t just hurt first thing in the morning, or when I ran. Soon it was twinging and whinging throughout the day. I’d get up from my desk & it was like, “HI REMEMBER ME? I STILL HURT. YOU ARE HURTING ME.”

So I did something Younger Susan couldn’t have contemplated.

I quit.

Well. Quit is so strong a word. I gave myself permission to take a break.

It was a Thursday. I said to myself, “Okay, we’re taking Friday off. And you know what? We’re taking next week off, too. We’re not going to run again until next Monday.” That’s, like, a week and a half? I haven’t gone that long between runs since that last time I was pregnant.

It’s been two days, and let me tell you something.

I am fucking terrified.

I am not used to letting my body call the shots. What kind of maniac does that? Like, sure, I’m a shortie. I max out at 5’2″ on a good day. But does that mean I have to be weak, too? Hell, no. I work hard & I’m strong. I’m as strong as a shortie can be.

And that goes for my head, too. Just because I feel something doesn’t mean I get to say it out loud. I’m an adult. I have self-control. Maybe I’m not perfect. Maybe I’m not even inherently good. Not on the inside. But I try. And that’s the point.

I try.

So what on earth is going to happen if I stop trying?

My ankle thinks it’s time to find out.

And I’m just old enough and just damaged enough and just brave enough to agree.

So let’s do this.

Or more accurately, let’s not.

Let’s not do anything for a while.

Let’s try that.

    Something Different

    This is not for you.

    For the first time in my writing career I am not writing for you.

    I am not writing to charm you, interest you, please you or entertain you.

    I tried that. God damn but I tried that. I tried so hard. I tried for 15 years.

    It didn’t work out. I didn’t catch on. I didn’t take.

    Bad luck? Bad timing? Bad ideas? Maybe.

    Or maybe I’m just not good enough. Good, but not quite good enough.

    My stomach twitches just seeing those words on the page. Because that’s what scares me. That’s what has always scared me. That I’ve bumped up against the limits of my talent, & the dreams that drove me, shaped me & scarred me, will be forever out of my reach by an excruciating inch.

    Because I’m not quite enough.

    Or maybe I’m too much. But not too much of any of the good things. Only the stupid things. The crass things. The angry things.

    But, dude, come on. How was I supposed to ever hide that shit? Writing is a primal scream. A barbaric yawp. Writing is the introverted control freak’s desperate attempt to connect with other humans. It’s our way of saying Look, here’s me. Here’s who I am & how I’m trying to be in this world. This is the space I’m taking up.

    My place is this world has gotten a shitload of 1 star reviews, people. But I prefer those to the collective meh that’s been the hallmark of my career. Because reviews, even the mean ones, prove I have a voice. I’ve been tapping the mic going hey is this thing on? for so long that it’s actually reassuring when the occasional asshole shouts yeah, so shut the fuck up.

    So. That’s where I am with my writing. That’s where I’ve been for a long time, honestly. I was just happy the mic was on. People could hear me. Sooner or later, if I just kept at it, something would click. All I had to do was never give up. Keep working. Keeping writing. Keep trying.

    This, of course, is catnip to the good, but never quite good enough crowd.

    Because our deepest fear is our deepest conviction, isn’t it? I’m not just afraid I’m not quite good enough, I know I’m not. Just like I know it’s all my fault. It’s the bitter pill you see silver medalists choking down on every podium around the world. You were so close. If only you’d tried harder. If you’d studied more. If you’d eaten less. If you’d trained harder. If you’d talked quieter. If you’d smiled more. If you’d dressed better. If you’d weighed less. If you’d wanted it more.

    Bottom line? Victory was right there. You just didn’t earn it.

    Fuck that.

    Just fuck it. Seriously.

    I quit. I went out & I got a job. My youngest went to middle school, so she’s old enough for a house key & an hour or two of alone time after school. And I dumped my bad boyfriend of a writing career & started seeing other people.

    I’m in a committed relationship with a very nice teaching job now. I work with adults, so I get to swear, which is key.

    Turns out I’m a sweary bitch. Who knew?

    And I have a boss who texts me every Friday to say how awesome I am, how lucky they feel to have me & what great work I’m doing. To thank me for the week I just gave them.

    And every goddamn week, it brings tears to my eyes. And I have to revise my reply like seven times before it comes out like thanks, I love my job, and not this text is like rain on the arid desert of my self-esteem, bless you and everybody in this organization for allowing somebody as damaged & unworthy as me to take up office space.

    Bad boyfriends will fuck you up. And I can’t even say that I’m done with mine. I very well might go back to writing someday. I keep waiting to feel the urge. I haven’t yet, but I will.

    For now, this is enough. This small, private corner of the internet that nobody visits. This will be my place to grieve & heal. This will be my place to be exactly who I am, sharp edges, foul mouth, tacky tendencies & all. I apologize for nothing. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Don’t come back.

    This is not for you.

    This is for me.