Discover Prompts: Day 17 – Distance

Today is April 23, Shakespeare’s birth and death days. I’m still catching up on Discover Prompts: Day 17 – Distance.

A couple days ago, I saw the word “distance” in Discover Prompts and immediately thought of the book, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe. I was working on a Ph.D. long ago and running into problems. My dissertation chair suggested the book to me. I don’t remember if I read it then, but at some other time I did read it. My mind travels back to that book occasionally. As I remember, the philosophy is to keep going, one step in front of the other. It’s lonely work, but it’s work that’s worth it.

I’ve never been much of a runner, but I understand stamina and taking a step, and another, and another. It seems that that’s all I’ve ever done. But then a chasm will appear. The path will end at a cliff, or a crack in the earth. I look down and it’s black, a long deep crevice. If I had been running, I would have missed it, would have run right into the hole, still churning my legs as I was propelled by the force of gravity down down down, still running, with my little jogging shorts and thin wicking t-shirt, and brightly accented running shoes. Or could I have, like a cartoon, run through the air and made it to the other side? The distance to the other side doesn’t seem that far, but it’s not jumpible. It’s impassable, a word so close to impossible. Some paths aren’t meant to be finished.

If I have any qualms at all about my writing, it’s achieving the necessary distance from real world events to be able to write about it. It’s been 15 years since the major events of the memoir I’m working on, 10 years for some of it, and 5 years for the rest, as if every 5 years, another impassable crevice stretches the crust of the earth, like a fresh hot cookie being pulled apart. I admire Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking so much, her ability to effectively obtain objective distance in the wake of unspeakable emotional pain. But then, she wrote the book, so it’s not unspeakable.

Come hell or high water, or impassable cracks in the earth’s crust, I will finish this memoir.

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