Running From My Problems – Running |The Unvictimized Edition| #2

Chapter 1
Running From My Problems

It’s All In Your Head

Before we get into how to run, allow me to share a few things about myself so I can show you how running has improved my life. My name is Hunter Owens Wallace. Without sugarcoating it, I was born with a big and serious problem: the inclination to think I have problems. On top of that, over time I’ve also picked up the habit of running from the problems I think I have until I start truly having those problems, which forces me to face them and chase them off for good. I wouldn’t have it any other way, either.

The only thing you really need to know about me is that I’m a natural-born shaman; in societal terms, that’s “mildly schizophrenic;” mildly in the sense that I saw a bona fide psychologist a couple times and he didn’t think there was anything wrong with me, and schizophrenic in the sense that my perception of reality seems to be vastly different than that of those around me to the point that I’m aware of certain things others are not. For example, I can sense you’re maybe a bit put off by my use of the word schizophrenic to describe myself. Good! That was my intention.

First, let’s be real: schizophrenia is one of the most beautiful words in the English lexicon. I mean, just listen to it! Skitzo-frenny’uh; it doesn’t roll, it dances off the damn tongue. Secondly, get out of your comfort zone! Mental illness is NOT something to be ashamed of – in fact, when you act uncomfortably and apprehensively around someone with a mental illness, you only serve to further isolate them, and they notice whether or not you think they do. So uh, yeah, don’t do that. If love is the best medicine, fear is the worst antagonizer. Be like Mother and love.

At one point (a few months back, when this pamphlet was originally published) I thought I was literally schizophrenic, like, in diagnostic terms. I thought this because I experienced a lot of very inconvenient mental and physical symptoms in my life which I believed were a byproduct of having a schizophrenic brain. Now I’m pretty sure I had a neurological condition called Lyme disease the whole time, an affliction that I’m also pretty sure I accidentally cured via shamanic methods (check out the appendix!). The symptoms included, but were not limited to: insomnia, joint inflammation, pain, muscle spasms, trouble keeping balance, uncontrollable nerve firing resulting in a burning pain beneath my skin, emotional/physical numbness, exhaustion and fatigue, extreme paranoia, sporadically impaired memory, spontaneously blurred vision, constant nausea, brain fog, difficulty with thinking, heightened sensitivity to light, irritability and explosive episodes of rage (especially directed towards family and friends, classmates, anyone with whom I’d associate on an everyday basis), panic attacks, the swinging of my mood from maniacally happy to suicidally depressed, both auditory and visual hallucinations, and a fat mess of coleslaw to boot; all symptoms of neurological Lyme disease that, before I endured some events similar to those detailed in the appendix of this book, I learned to manage by running like I stole something.

Living with a shaman brain isn’t all bad – I wasn’t even that miserable when I was pinned beneath my unrelenting barrage of neurodegenerative Lyme symptoms. In fact, now that all the symptoms are working their way out of my system, it’s basically all gift and no curse! Because of my crazy perspective, I naturally gravitate towards a very spiritual existence; I felt my third eye open up inside my forehead, my dreams are always vividly lifelike and occasionally prophetic (as in I sometimes dream about things before they happen in the “real” world), I occasionally have visions/out-of-body experiences when I sit lotus to meditate, I observe synchronicities constantly, and I’ve come close to achieving astral projection on more than one occasion with absolutely no formal training.

I know what you’re thinking: “It’s all in your head.” Well so is the rest of reality, bucko; for all you know, your brain could be in a vase inside of an extraterrestrial’s spaceship right now. I’m sorry the voices don’t want to talk to you too, but that’s no reason to tell me that my reality’s false as if you actually understand why your reality is the way it is. Grow up.

Yes, not only am I a cheeky bastard, but I’m also a bona fide crazy in the good way human being. So are you, probably; you just don’t realize it yet because your crazy is very similar to the crazy of the majority of the rest of our species. You know, living that nine-to-five crony-capitalistic corporate lifestyle, accepting the government as a real and necessary thing, strictly abiding by the guidelines of political correctness and traditional cultural norms, chasing the dollar by any/all means necessary; in essence, living the rat race lifestyle in hopes your masters will see that you spin the wheel better than all the other identical rats running alongside you so you might get promoted into a bigger cage. See, I’m entirely not about that lifestyle, it’s a little too Column A if you’re lacing my racing shoes here, but… wait, wasn’t this supposed to be about running?

Yes, and like I said above, running was the only way I could deal with the life-ruining Lyme symptoms I once experienced. When I would go for a run every day and let my mind enter that special, dare I say sacred space that lies between thoughts, I would balance out. The mood swings became manageable. I could fall and stay asleep at night. I didn’t hate everyone around me for no reason. I got my blood pumping every day and healed some of the Lyme damage every day, even though the healing would be reversed by the next morning. I wasn’t going backwards anymore; it was more like advancing two steps and then retreating one – frustrating, sure, but compared to the experience of other folks who catch Lyme and spend months of their lives in bed because of it, well, I really couldn’t complain.

I kept moving because the running kept me moving. It was magic, aka science we don’t understand yet. Well… science you don’t understand yet, because your crazy is still like everyone else’s: dominated by the fear of what might happen if you start living outside the box.

Today, now that I don’t constantly feel like my body is under attack by a foreign entity I confused for Existence, I will admit that I run less than I used to. I don’t need it to have a handle on my life anymore. It was my medicine during a time when I had nowhere else to turn; now, I no longer need to do it every day. So, I don’t… and that’s where the magic lies. Even though I don’t need to do it at all anymore, I still occasionally run for one reason and one reason only: because I like to. Running is that special type of medicine that you can take even when you’re feeling good because it makes you feel better in a way that doesn’t lead to debilitating physical or mental withdrawal symptoms. Plus, running keeps me grounded; I know Earth would miss me if I floated off into the spirit world for good.

And I would miss Earth, too! Anyway, we’re over a thousand words in already. Let’s get on with the first chapter.

Grade School

My li–… This life, rather, began in northern New Jersey in a woodsy little town called Highland Lakes. I was born to a carpenter named Mikey and his wife Glauria, and I love them both very much. We had a dog and a pair cats back then and we lived in a lovely little abode next to some spectacular neighbors who we still keep in touch with today. I attended preschool in a brick building called MySchool, I was adored by everyone around me, and my life consisted primarily of eating, sleeping, and playing outside [read: running around like a maniac]. One day I was even blessed with a younger brother, shout to Jarome. Life was simple back then. Splendid and simple.

However, the extra human humaning around made my parents realize our family had grown too large for our lovely little abode, so they gave the dog to a family friend and moved us across county lines to a town called Ringwood.

Let’s pump the breaks real quick so I can give my adopted hometown some love. Ringwood, for those who aren’t familiar, is a lake town in the hills of northern New Jersey with a ton of history that nobody knows about and some of the best hiking you’ll ever experience. Home to the Ringwood Iron Mines, which supplied the Continental Army with iron ore during the Revolutionary War, Ringwood was also the chosen home of the legendary forgotten US of American general, Robert Erskine. Besides being one of the closest associates and friends of George Washington himself, Erskine held the title of Geographer and Surveyor General of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Without Erskine and the secret-servicey work he conducted, we would have ultimately lost our independence from Britain – Washington even planted an elm tree next to Erskine’s grave (the tree was later struck by lightning by the way) which you can visit today at the illustrious Ringwood Manor state park.

 Ringwood also boasts the beautiful Monksville Reservoir, and on the other side of its dam, the massive Wanaque Reservoir, a valley-turned-lake with a government-funded security force which actively patrols the area in SUVs with fully automatic assault weapons riding shotgun. It’s also a focal point of local conspiracy theorists – back in the ‘60s, the Wanaque was the site of one of the biggest mass UFO sightings in American history that was completely and totally covered up by our government, but that’s another story. Also, Erskine’s Ringwood Manor is haunted, just infested by ghosts. Also also, the geographic area in which Ringwood sits was once home to a Native American civilization – specifically of the Lenape variety – with artifacts found here dating as far back as 8,000 BC. According to the lore, Ringwood was recognized by the natives as sacred ground and as a hotbed of supernatural activity. Simple superstition, surely, and most likely based on the high prevalence of naturally occurring magnetite and white quartz in the local mountains… or perhaps the crystals and magnetic rocks have something to do with the metaphysical happenings…? Who’s to say?

Anyway, we moved to this paranormal town because my dad’s family owned a large housing development here; we were not rich, but we lived in the rich part of town for the majority of my life. Yes, our house was on a hill, and our driveway stretched approximately a tenth of a mile down that hill from the main road. We did not live on top of the hill, and the only reason we lived on the hill in the first place was because my dad built our house by himself with his bare hands, but we were definitely on the hill, alongside all the snooty neighbors whose names I never learned. Don’t get me wrong, living there was a dream; we had a gigantic pool, there was a wonderful patch of woods with a ton of cliffs to explore, and the ridiculous driveway? I ran up and down that driveway countless times during my stay in that house, it was the heart of my training. But that wasn’t until later; at first, I only ran in the woods.

Being the new kid in town at the start of kindergarten, I never had the chance to get acquainted with the locals in preschool and thus didn’t have much luck making friends; in hindsight I think it was because in Highland Lakes, for whatever reason, everybody approached me, and in Ringwood, because I had just shown up one day, I was supposed to approach everyone else. Socialization, right? Oh well, there’s always the next life.

I did have one very close friend who lived on my street though, he and I would hang out in the woods together all the time (we even had our own imaginary ninja villages behind each of our houses!). When I say hang out, I mean sprint around like maniacs – my parents both encouraged me from a very young age to get out into the woods, and I did just that. I’ve always felt more at home out in the woods, there’s something about the open air and the trees that’s always made me feel alive and free.

But despite my affair with the wilderness, over the course of the grade school years I would become infatuated with video games. This led me to spend less and less time in the woods, which also meant I would spend less time running. Looking back on those years, that’s probably why I became so sad and depressed… but more on that nonsense later.

Video games offered me an escape similarly to the way running did, but video games required less physical work; naturally I gravitated towards them. In the end, though, the video game infatuation turned out to be based in lust rather than love and it blossomed into an actual drug-like addiction, accelerating to the point where I spent an entire summer inside sat in front of the family desktop in the den playing Runescape whilst chatting on the landline with another friend I made during third grade. Here’s to the glory days, the good ol’ golden glory days.

The summer of ‘Scape which marked said good ol’ golden glory days was also the summer that a tick hollowed me out and imbued me with the helldemon bestowed to me the gift of Lyme disease. I was something like ten years old at the time and, after a summer of antibiotics, my child’s brain believed the doctorman when he said I was officially cured and immune to the disease forever and ever and ever. Ah, childhood innocence; thus began my ride down Lyme Hill aboard the Symptom Sleigh that I wouldn’t fully grasp appreciate until I hit a tree in my twenties and knocked myself back onto my feet. Not a victim, just supplying context.

As grade school approached high school, my friends and I grew apart. My first friend was meeting new friends and having fun new experiences, which only freaked me out (see symptoms: extreme paranoia), and I was generally just a bad friend to the Runescape friend (see symptoms: extreme irritability) so he didn’t much want to be friends with me anymore. These broken connections paired with the symptoms and the healthy(?) episodes of family drama going on in my life at the time–… actually, that’s a bit off base and self-victimizing. My point is that regardless of the circumstances surrounding me during that part of my life, I chose to spend a vast majority of my time alone; whether I was playing video games alone or exploring the woods alone, I was alone with my own thoughts a lot, a fact I decidedly included in my list of “problems” I had, and like the rest of my “problems,” I was quicker to bitch about it than I was to try to do anything to solve it.

Around seventh or eighth grade was when I really started to run from my nonexistent problems. I forget how I learned about it, a cartoon I think, but I knew once I made it to high school there would be a track team. I was never big into sports, but I knew my parents would want me to do one, and while I was too short and scrawny for football and too uncoordinated for soccer, running I could do. So, I ran up and back down my driveway almost every day. Straight up and down that tenth-of-a-mile hardtop time and time again. Torturing myself and loving it, sunrise after sunset.

Fine, I hated it at the time, I thought it was the most detestable shit in the world… but no matter how much I wanted to stop, no matter how much pain I was in, my folks would always push me to keep going, to never give up. Mere words can’t describe how essential that extra pushing was for me at the time, as I had not yet developed the block everything out and get shit done ability that I attained while running in high school.

It never occurred to me back in the day, but when I would be running up and down that driveway, I was so busy being in pain that I wasn’t over-thinking about all my faux problems. The effect was the same when I was sprinting through the woods, too, except instead of being in pain, I felt the rush of wind as I dodged between trees and leapt over boulders. In a way, the running was just like the video games – both offered me an escape from a world I was so needlessly afraid of living in – but there was a difference: running has long-term benefits while playing video games is a short-term high. Had I been conscious back then of how great running is, I don’t think I would have picked up a video game once.

Regardless, at some point before my class graduated eighth grade, we had something called an eighth-grade open house at the local high school, Unspecific Regional to be exact. That’s when my parents forced me to join the cross country team. I didn’t want to join cross country though, I wanted to join track. So, I fought it. It got ugly. They won in the end. By the time eighth grade graduation came around, my entire summer leading up to high school was planned. The running was about to get kicked up a notch.

High School

Cross country is a fall-season sport composed entirely of running distance over uneven terrain, meaning it is not track. I will not say it again.

There are two races: the freshman race (usually about 2 miles) and the mighty 5K (3.11 miles). Practice starts at the beginning of the summer and the season ends during either the first, second, or third week of November, depending on how far your team makes it in the competition. If you didn’t know that, I do not blame you – I didn’t know it until I joined the team, or rather was forced to join the team. I did not want to join cross country at first, I only wanted to stay home and play video games and let my thoughts drive me insane. That’s just the thing about it, though – it wasn’t a matter of want, it was a matter of need.

I had a few friends going into high school, but there was nobody I felt comfortable coming out of my shell around. This situation is not ideal for any adolescent human, especially one with a budding case of shamanism, and you better believe I added it to my pile of catastrophic life-threatening problems I spent all my energy reminding myself about constantly.

Despite my best attempts at stopping her from making me go through with it, momma Glauria forced me to do cross country. She came with me to the first summer practice, even went as far as getting out of the car and walking me to the team, except we couldn’t find them at first so we walked around the entire perimeter of the track before finally locating them at the designated meeting place: the flagpole.

Yeah, we couldn’t find the flagpole. The fifteen-foot-tall flagpole that wasn’t visually obscured whatsoever.

During that summer I was one of a handful of freshmen on the team. Everyone else was an upperclassman and boy did I let that intimidate me. The coach, let’s call him LT, was entering his first season of cross country coaching just like I was entering my first season of cross country running. He only showed up every other day during the optional summer practices so the team would have a chance to bond without the presence of an adult figure, and he was not there on the first day. I can’t remember what we did for a workout but I remember it being awful, and by the time I got home I wanted to die. So, momma Glaur’ forced me back the next day and I rinsed and repeated, taking on more distance each practice. At first I could hardly handle a lap on the track, but soon enough I was tackling six-mile workouts and not even finishing last. Self-improvement through hard work. Boom.

Over the course of the summer a few more runners showed up, and by the time school started we had a solid little group of freshmen. A week or so into the season we had some late joiners, two of which were booted off the soccer team. Eventually those two would put up some of the best times our XC team had ever seen; a cardinal rule of cross country is that soccer players always evolve into the best runners.

There was also a guy on the team named Zak, he was easily the most memorable. Dude told all the best jokes, had all the best lines. He brought the team together in a way no one else could. I still keep in touch with him, he has a place in North Carolina. His parents moved down there, too. Zak’s whole family was into the running thing, both of his older brothers ran on the team. During that first season I ran with Zak’s brother Tate, he was a senior at the time. I used him to pace myself during most of the practices. He was a big inspiration for me, I’m not sure he ever realized it but he kept me going during that first year, always pushing me to not walk when I ran, even if I had to drop it down to a jog. When you’re running, run – it seems obvious, I know, but you break for lunch at work, right? That’s basically the same thing as stopping to walk when you’re running, it just ruins your momentum and makes it harder to return to pace. Now I’m not saying don’t break for lunch at work, I’m just saying to not get yourself into a situation where you have to break for lunch in medias res because the law says so.

Prior to my freshman year, Unspecific Regional did not have a strong cross country program. The old coach retired and LT was lacing up a new pair of shoes. The outlook wasn’t great, but despite the odds being against us in every pace, stride, and form, we made some noise that year and would make more noise the next year. Our ragtag band of knuckleheads even took first place at the sophomore championship race, imagine that. Plus, I had a group of friends I could relate to at school, something I never had before. All because of running.

I was getting my family into running on the side, too. I couldn’t help myself, I had the bug and I had it bad. I would get poppa Mikey to race me every now and then and he would usually beat me… then came the day I beat him. We haven’t raced since. He probably let me win that day if I’m being totally honest here, but I didn’t realize it at the time, and that moment gave me such a surging boost of confidence that I wrote about it in a book almost a full decade later. Momma Glauria, on the other hand, really took to the running. She started off small, going for maybe five minutes a day, but now she does a 5K at least once a month, usually twice or three times if she can find enough races. I even got Jarome into it, he was a freshman during my senior year and he stuck with the sport all the way through his senior year, became a captain and everything. He absolutely hated it, but he stuck with it and benefited from it. Another shout to Jarome.

As time went on our little team dropped the little. My class improved exponentially and we had some really solid runners in the grade below me. One shared his last name with the coach. They weren’t related, fortunately, but we always made sure to give the kid flack for it anyway. We didn’t call the kid LT’y (in my head I pronounce that as Luh’Thenny) and to this day I haven’t met another runner like him. He would skip practice all the time, never put in any effort at all, constantly clown around, and he was one of the best on the team. The dude never tried and he kicked ass up and down whatever course we happened to be running every single race and practice, it was practically inane. But such is life; I’m still waiting for him to teach me that magic trick.

Things were going fairly well for me at that point. I had a couple close friends and the cross country team was like a big family, we would all meet up and get dinner together after races and I didn’t feel totally alone all the time. I would even go out and run on my own, completely self-motivated. Say what you will about LT – I certainly said some stupid things about him in the first edition of this book – but the man really did a lot to instill the team is family mindset that still sticks with me today. That was his best quality, without a doubt – he was the glue that bound all of us together and kept us together. Whether we realized it at the time or not, he was essential in our team becoming the family it became.

Outside of school I still spent the majority of my free time alone, but it wasn’t as bad as it used to be. In the past I would suffocate myself by constantly worrying about problems I didn’t have; I would overthink to the point of lunacy. In high school, that didn’t happen nearly as much because I had running as an outlet. This is when I became aware that running from my problems was a pretty good in-the-moment solution. The running itself wouldn’t solve anything, of course, but it would put me into a better state of mind which would allow me to figure out how to go about solving some of my problems. At home I was generally more relaxed and at school I had others to run with, others to talk things out with, others to compete with. I had achieved balance – the grass was green on both sides of the fence.

 Some of the XC team, myself included, were also (varsity) members of Unspecific Regional’s Nature Club. Two teachers, a math and a science, ran the club. They were married and their last name was Runnin, the math teacher always pulled up the rear and the science teacher always led the pack. There were a certain few of us who would always be at the front of the group and Mister Runnin would have us run certain parts of the trails with him, and by run I mean sprint down mountains at breakneck speeds whilst performing sick parkour maneuvers, why didn’t we film it all with a GoPro?!? Mister Runnin wore toe-shoes for most of the hikes. It was some of the most fun I had in high school, flying down mountains as a tribe with the wind in my face and not a care in the world. I still sprint the mountains today, but not the same ones. I don’t fall down as much, either. Practice makes perfect. Imagine that.

When senior year rolled up, our team was solid. By that time, we had all grown accustomed to working our asses off and getting results for it, so we kept keeping on all the way until the end of the season. Finally, the day came for the big race: State Sectionals.

The end of an XC season is marked by three state-level meets; the first is State Sectionals. The top five teams and top ten individual runners from State Sectionals continue to State Groups, then the top five teams and top ten individuals from State Groups battle it out in the Meet of Champions. Unspecific, under the still maturing coaching styles of LT, had never made it past State Sectionals before. This was our best chance. Our only chance. Our last chance.

Life happened. We didn’t make it past State Sectionals.

We almost had it. Missed the cutoff by a measly 6 points, which is the equivalent of getting a 99 on a test that requires a 100 to pass. During our cooldown run after the race, the entire team wept. I do not mean cried, I mean wept. I was four years varsity on that team and so were all the other seniors; we dedicated our high school careers to running cross country and, aside from the pricey varsity jackets, we had nothing to show for it. And… that was it.

Well, that wasn’t it; after each season ended, LT would get us together at the school and do an awards ceremony for us, and that year’s ceremony was special because we were his first group of freshmen and he got to see us grow up. We were there from the beginning and now we were moving on. It was very emotional for all of us.

But as far as the sport and the team went, that was it.

I did spring track for the first time my senior year and I got a varsity letter for it, but that wasn’t anything special. Graduation happened and my teammates and I mostly went our separate ways, some of us vowing never to run again (I vowed never to run again). Looking back, I believe that vow had more to do with teenage angst than it did with the running, but oh well. Outside of running, not much of my high school career is very memorable. I didn’t do much. I was a ghost during the day, then when practice started I would suddenly appear in running clothes, enthusiastic and ready to go.

If it wasn’t for the running, I don’t think I would have made it through high school alive. I’m positive the depression/anxiety/self-loathing spawn of the Lyme demon that was possessing my body would have chewed me up never to be spat out if I wasn’t able to pace myself one step ahead of it, but I was able to stay ahead of it. I ran and I thrived, so who cares?

Even though I was happy during my high school years, I had a thought in the back of my mind which suggested I was actually terribly depressed. I wasn’t depressed, but in my mind I was, so… I guess I was depressed. In a crazy in the bad way sort of way. After high school ended, though – after the running ended – I entered into what I fondly remember as real life, also known as the dark ages. Buckle up, hypothetical reader. Things are about to take a turn.

Real Life

This is the part where, in the first edition of this pamphlet, I disrespectfully and immaturely tore down the man who dedicated four years of his life to coaching the cross country team I was part of (not my team, but the team I was part of); I shabbily hid his identity behind a very thin veil in an attempt to get a few laughs from a few specific humans. The truth of the matter is, after wasting years of my life trying to coach with him and change his ways without being asked to do so, I felt like I got burned. I wanted to get back at him somehow. I felt as though he took “the one thing I enjoyed in life” (I hope you feel the sarcasm I enchanted into those words) away from me, so in a selfish way, I tried to ruin his reputation. I used LT as an excuse to allow myself to sink into the pettiest state of being I’ve ever found myself wallowing in, a state I dramatically regret ever allowing myself to enter.

The first edition wasn’t terrible, it just came off like a jealous pre-teen wrote it, and looking back, I realized I had been something of an asswipe towards the old coach. Just like I was towards the majority of the humans whom I interacted with during high school, yikes. Hindsight is 20/20, he says with glasses on the back of his head. Anyway, in order to keep things moving, let’s just say that my clouded perception of my overall high school experience led me to believe that running was the source of my issues and, after graduating, I stopped cold turkey.

Up until that point in my life, I had been a very physical human being. No religious beliefs to speak of, no spiritual practices, zero contact with my shamanic roots I didn’t know I had. One day though, my college friend Mike and I stumbled upon a YouTube talking about meditation, the hidden third eye, and all the benefits which come with sitting lotus and breathing deeply for x minutes each day. Mike didn’t get too much into the mysticism or the meditation, but I certainly dove down the rabbit hole. It seems idiotic to claim that the benefits you receive from meditation are as bountiful as those that come from running, but uh… I claim it, so. Blah. Plus, after only a few months of sitting for twenty minutes out of the day twice a day every day, I felt my third eye open.

I don’t mean that metaphorically; no, I literally felt an eyeball, lid and all, open up underneath my forehead. I’m not saying everything you think you know about the human body is wrong, but uh… you explain the shit. Oh, and to all those thinking it: yes, I was sober when it happened. I don’t even do any drugs, gOsH. One could say it was an eye-opening experience; when you’re finished retching over that pun, you can continue.

After the weird stuff which I loved to call mystical started happening to me, my life changed a little bit. I saw the world around me, or rather the watery rock floating in a void of meaningful nothingness that I happen to inhabit, in a vastly different light. I became more honest and open about my feelings (perhaps to a fault). I saw myself as a healer who was put here to expose the darkness and fix those who would not ask to be fixed, and I just loved to tell everybody and anybody about the eye I felt open beneath my forehead and why it meant I was special.

Needless to say, some chose to distance themselves from me, fearing that I had actually lost my mind and become one of those holier than thou types. I think. I don’t know, nobody ever talked to me about it. Everyone just kind of stopped being around me. In the past I was a deletist – when a relationship started to go sour, I would sooner burn the dilapidated bridge than risk hurting myself trying to repair it. I torched a whole lot of bridges when folks started backing away slowly; now that I’ve realized all humans are capable of opening their third eye and I’m no more special than anyone else is, I’m also realizing that burning bridges isn’t the move. Fortunately, the bridge between Mike and I hasn’t been reduced to a pile of cinders, but some of my old friendships have. I say all that to share the following lesson I’ve learned, it’s perhaps one of the most important lessons one can learn: no matter how mad the others make you, no matter how much you feel like they’re pushing you away, lashing out and deleting them from your life is not the right answer. It’ll just leave you alone, angry, and with nobody to run with. I know I know, you didn’t ask, but what can I say? I’m a shaman. I like to help others heal and learn, especially when you can learn from my mistakes.

ALLLLL RIGHTY! With that aside, after I started community college I had to get a job, so my dad called a local warehouse that an associate of his dad’s owned and asked if they needed a body. There was one interview, no resume required, and I was in – crony capitalism at its finest.

My warehouse gig required me to handle liquid chemicals used by the fragrance industry. They came in containers weighing anywhere from half a pound (bottles) to five hundred pounds (fifty-five-gallon drums). I didn’t mention this earlier but I was born with a slightly crooked hip and therefore a slightly bent spine – working in that warehouse for as long as I did with my skeletal crap on top of the Lyme shit caused me an incredible amount of pain, discomfort, and pinched nerves. I still experience back pain and a burning numbness to this day; it’s not severe, but on the days it approaches severity I go out for a run and come back feeling tip-top. I tell ya, it’s some of the best medicine that money doesn’t have to buy.

During this time, I was working anywhere from twenty to thirty hours a week while also going to school full-time and volunteering a couple days every week at an animal shelter. I had spread myself far too thin and it was hell, a hell that smelled like a combination of potpourri and dog piss.

So a hell that smelled entirely of dog piss.

I was combining daily meditation and the occasional fun run to get me through the week, but I still felt depressed. Not the nonsensical high school depressed but the actual unrelenting suicidal urges kind of depressed. I got a little bit into self-harming prior to beginning my meditation practice, and the suicidal thoughts were intrusively constant. Once I established a solid meditation practice, the cutting dribbled off and the thoughts became more under control. But the problems were being managed, not solved. It wasn’t long before I convinced myself to start actively running again, and things started smoothing out once I did. I was making good money and I had good friends to spend great times with. It was wonderful. Then I graduated from Haskell University (shout to the four humans who get that joke) and moved up to real college. That’s when things took another turn.

I kept running and meditating, but real college bugged me out. As it turned out, they call it real college for a reason. It was the first time in my life I had trouble with school. The pressure I put on myself to be perfect in an environment which demanded learning from mistakes made me want to put my head through a roof, and the anxiety of explaining to all the dormers how I drove the half hour to school just to leave right after class so I could make it to work ate me alive. I was not a happy camper.

With my schedule the way it was, time management and concentration skills were nothing short of imperative if I wanted success. Too bad I didn’t have either because I totally stopped running, meaning I stopped working out my mental muscles and they atrophied away. As time went on, I started to experience mental breakdowns in which I would cognitively shut down for no real reason and start hysterically screaming and crying and throwing a fit, I even punched a few holes into my bedroom walls. These explosive episodes of rage happened once in a blue moon at first, then roughly every two weeks, then at least once every week, then it got to the point where I’d slip into a Lyme rage every single day simply because I couldn’t deal with the way my life was going. I skipped class at least once a week because I was so physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted from just living. I even switched my major from psychology to business, but that only made things worse. Not all those who wander are lost, but I sure as hell was.

After a time, I realized I wasn’t going to college for myself. I was only going because my parents wanted for me to possess a piece of that coveted diplomatic paper, and I wanted not to disappoint them… but I didn’t want anything to do with college. Nothing I was studying was remotely related to what I needed to proceed in life; I felt like I was scamming myself, and for what? The approval of my parents? Nah, no more – one day, I withdrew from my classes and officially dropped out of college. It was the happiest day of my life.

In the months which followed, my parents weren’t quite as happy with my decision as I was. I constantly felt paranoid and stressed and although I continued to meditate daily, it wasn’t working like it used to. I would just sit at home all day playing video games and not running and wishing my life was better, all the while doing nothing to better it. And I still wasn’t running, if I didn’t mention that. This was around April of 2017, and a few months of this lifestyle led me to… well, it led me to my death.

Hypothetical reader, this is the part where I tell you about something that happened to me which can only be described as anomalous. I do not expect you to believe me, nor do I care if you do, but this is the truth: when I stopped running from my problems, I accidentally killed myself. I do not mean this figuratively; I mean I was hanging out with a couple friends and in a fit of laughter I hit my head against the corner of a metal bedframe and felt a piece of my skull break away and stab into the side of my brain.

It was one of those things where you hurt yourself but you don’t feel it at first because of shock or the endorphin rush or whatever, kind of like the publishing of the first edition of this book, yikes, but essentially what happened went like this: my friends and I spent the day out in the woods, wandering around and enjoying nature like a proper band of hippies. When the sun began to set, we went back to friend’s house and listened to music for a while, then we started watching a cartoon. Ten or fifteen minutes into the cartoon, something really funny happened and I swung my head down in laughter, colliding with the bedframe.

I felt fine for a few minutes, but then I noticed my vision doubling and I couldn’t hear anything besides a dominating high-pitched ringing, which led me to realize something bad may have happened. I gingerly felt around on the left side of my head right above my ear (where an immense amount of pain was radiating from) and that’s when I felt my skull cave in.

I literally felt a plate of bone collapse inwards on the side of my head and simultaneously pop out – and push my skin up – on the top. This was coupled with a solid spike of pain above my left ear equivalent to the worst migraine you’ve ever had combined with the feeling of being punted head-first into a fucking woodchipper by an upside-down soccer cleat.

In the moment, I was 100% sure I was going to die, and I felt strangely at peace with it. I was also rapidly fading to black, so, not wanting to freak out my friends, I decided to go quietly into that great transition; I silently pressed the top of my skull back into place and fell forward, passing out.

And then it was dark. It was dark for a very, very long time.

Then I woke on my back, skin pale and drenched in sweat. According to my friends, I went into convulsions for a few seconds. I don’t remember that part. All I know for sure is when I hit my head and felt my skull cave in and passed out, we were watching the cartoon. When I came to, we were still listening to music – meaning we hadn’t started watching the cartoon yet – and my skull was solid. I had a bit of a headache when I came to, but otherwise I was okay. I felt like an ambulance was not necessary, and my friends kept close eyes on me until we went to sleep later on; all in all, my life went on as if nothing happened.

Except for the fact that everything is fuzzy after that. Like, memories. Details are hard to remember, but I’m going to try my best. I remember some things clearly, but for the things I do not I’ll just make postulations until the cows come home and present them as truth. Kind of like I’ve been doing this entire time. Maybe. Or maybe not. Moving on…

About six months later – a day or two after Christmas – I sat down to do some coloring in a trippy illustration book that Santa brought me when I suddenly felt something burst inside of my head in the exact spot where I cracked it against the bedframe that fateful night. My body began to tingle and tremble, I became lightheaded, and both my vision and hearing started to dissipate. I tried getting up and walking around but I hardly got halfway down the hall before I fell to my hands and knees, unable to steady myself upright. This was the second time in less than a year I thought I was going to die. Ugh, shaman problems.

So what did I do? I went outside and ran ten miles.

Just kidding, LMAO. Could you imagine? No, I crawled back into my bedroom, sat myself in a chair, did some breathing exercises, and prepared myself to go quietly into that great transition. Surprisingly I started to feel better for a moment, and just as the hope that I would be all right sparked within my heart, the fading intensified beyond my control. It was just like the cave-in at my friend’s house, I simply drifted away.

But this time, it was white. It was white for a very, very long time.

Then I woke up, skin pale and drenched in sweat, but this time without any friends to make sure I was okay.

Later that day I went to a hospital, and when I told the doctorman what had happened he rolled his eyes at me and ordered a tox screen, suspecting I was a dumb kid who had smoked some bad drugs or some stupid thing. Plot twist: I smoked no drugs, and the doctor was dumbfounded as to why I felt the burst. That was that. It’s a good thing I had insurance at the time, otherwise I would never have been able to afford to confuse the doctor and his fancy wall full of framed medical degrees!

A week later I had an MRI done and I got it checked out by my normal doctor and by a neurologist, both of whom found nothing abnormal about my head and brain. Much to my own disbelief, I was okay. I was alive and in no immediate danger of losing that status. And I’m still okay today, too. I’m okay now, Mother, the doctors told me so. It says right here, I’m okay!

I’ve gotten way off track; I didn’t even mention the part where I went back to coach cross country at my old high school! In 2016 I signed on as a volunteer assistant coach, working side-by-side with LT to turn outcasts into athletes. That first season was genuinely incredible. I enjoyed working with LT, and the kids and I made a lot of progress. It was also one of the major reasons I started running again – I ran the workouts with the kids at the practices. According to them, my doing so motivated them to try their hardest and keep at it. Method to the madness.

The second season was preceded by the head injury, which drastically altered my mood, mental state, and behavior in ways that everyone besides me was aware of. I know for a fact that I don’t coach anymore, so I assume things didn’t go quite as well during that season. Then the third season was probably more of the same, so at some point I guess I left the coaching gig behind. I miss it – what I remember of it, anyway – but I’m sure I did what had to be done.

Since then I’ve slowly but surely replaced running with writing as my main hobby – in other words, my main way of getting high. I still run every now and then, usually on trails and not the road, but now that I’m capable of staying relatively sane without constantly beating my body against the forces of the Universe, I don’t do it as much as I used to. And that’s okay. Running immensely helped me along the path of recovering from the head injury and the Lyme symptoms. It kept me moving, kept my blood flowing, and kept me positive. Positivity is key when you’re overcoming an injury, ask anybody who’s been through trauma; without a positive state of mind, nothing you do will work. Plus, if you make running part of your recovery, you get the exercise too! Win-win.

But yeah, that’s where I’m at. I was born a crazy guy who loves to run and I’ve been crazy and running ever since, and now I even write! A crazy running writer, call that a triple threat! I battled boredom, loneliness, exile, anxiety, depression, psychosis, neurodegeneration, even death itself, and I bested all of them, all because of running. As it turns out, life is hard work! And so is running! But through running, I’ve learned how to persevere and push through the nonsense until I’m drenched in the light at the end of the tunnel. It has never let me down in the past and I doubt it will let me down in the future.

But enough about me; I wrote this book for you! To run is to open the door to bettering your life, I hope that much is clear thus far. Running isn’t easy and I will fully explain how to do it, but not quite yet.

I’ve shown you why I run. Next, I must explain to you why you should run.

This has been chapter 1 of the book Running: How To Torture Yourself And Enjoy It |The Unvictimized Edition|. Here is everything you need to know about it:

Running: How To Torture Yourself And Enjoy It
|The Unvictimized Edition|

I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.

The Hillside Commons has a Facebook page, too. Here’s that.

If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~

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