I woke up this morning feeling as low as I have for a long time. Twisted up on some knot I couldn’t find.
The feeling made no sense. My bed was nice. The hotel had free chocolate. The night before had been brilliant. In fact, I had a million reasons to feel good. The free chocolate was a CLUB for F*** sake! And yet there I was, swiping right, with one eye open, in a pathetic attempt to feel better.
Oh dopamine where art though. Oh grip why canth I not geteth you?
Of course, what goes on in our heads is never as simple as ‘yesterday was great.’
In my case, I was treated to an amazing Chinese dinner, broth and meat and cuttlefish potatoes. Next to me sat my mentor on the 5asideChess project, a real friend and grey matter provocateur.
Joining us on the tight, phone-unfriendly table were two other men.
One is a six-figure-man with an incredible ability to compartmentalise and see the world in straight lines. His salary is essentially insignificant on the depth of things, but it’s an easy barometer to throw into writing when you want to say ‘he knows his stuff.’ The other man is a wonderfully insightful, brilliantly honest leader of an African community in Birmingham. We had a sober and funny meal, chewing on our projects, on integration, on gender fluidity and if Tara Palmer-Tomkinson was actually related to the queen or not. Maybe she is, maybe she isn’t. We didn’t have Google Palmhand-Conversationkillsinkson to ruin the mystery.
And then I woke up.
I ate breakfast, got grumpy with Mentorus Frendus and ducked out home. The snow thundered down, all dark eyes and Talksport. Just outside of Bristol the lights flashed and I slowed down to rubber neck nicely. Two lads wrapped in silver foil, looking down the gully at their flying Peugeot 106. Nothing like a shot of perspective to wake you up.
Go for a run when you get home Ryan. Oh Endorphins Where Art Though?
I went for it Kate Bush Style
Plugged in and ready to go. Running app on. Podcast set. Black sweatshirt. Big coat. Thick hat. Blue socks pulled up from blue trainers. Outside.
Cramping snow. Mutants on the high street drinking slush. I kind of skate down the huge and long hill out to Warmley. My head is down and I’m on auto-pilot, listening to the podcast, watching my feet. And then my phone switches off. The earphones stop. The running app ceased its blurting statistics. This is where everything changed.
For the first time I actually looked up into the snow. My path was leading to the woods and wasn’t really sure how to get out of them. So I turned around. I wanted to go back up that damn hill. Without the white noise, hearing my breath and the crunching snow, I wanted to go back up that damn hill.
As the steep started it struck me why I was so upset when I woke up. I had chatted with these amazing people. These men who had sharpened the potential of my project, of how we can change people’s lives for the better. To fight loneliness and social isolation. More simply – to bring people together -. I saw 5asideCHESS fully formed, unique and chrystalised, softly blanketing a nation of disconnected people. But among the clear white was the black of problems. Sponsorship. Sharing our message. Not much time left to do it. Everything falling into focus in the white glare. What if I fail? What if I fail? What If I fail?
We need the money and we need it fast. To add coin to a Undertones’ phrase.
About a third of the way up the hill and my heart started to really beat out into my chest. Higher knees. Keep pushing. The snow was slipping my shoes back under me. Digging a hole. Moving slow. Now my breath is hard. At each cadence, out of nowhere, I started talking. ‘Stronger’ ‘Cleverer’ ‘More motivated’ ‘Funnier’ ‘Stronger’ ‘Better.’
My mind kept preceding it with ‘Other People Are…’
I pushed up the hill. My rhythm now at Sex Pistol. The talking gone. My mind locked in a repeated verse “They’re not if you smash this hill.’
At the top the pain comes with laughter. The ripped calves of past failures. Lessons. Worth it in every way.
And on beaten legs and flat ground I’m coasting.
Then I look up and realise I’ve gone past my road. Jesus H, this run really is going full analogy. Keep your eye on the ball. Stay focussed. The hill needed facing, but there’s more to come. I run back up the road and, unbelievably, I run past it again. I turn around. The people in the Polish shop just stare at me like I’ve gone mental.
My eyes are open and I’m laughing.
I didn’t see my road because of the new roadworks. Big yellow, plastic fences. Ok, so even if you’re focused, remember that things can change, and you have to adapt. You still want to get home, and you can use the same route, but be prepared for roadblocks along the way.
Finally, on the road home, a dad and his little girl look up from their sled. “Who’s he fighting?” the dad says, smiling. Probably because my naturally, or unnaturally, flat nose makes me look like a boxer.
I skip into a sprint (If you can call it that) thinking I’m Rocky. My legs are screaming at me. And then it started to make sense. I was upset this morning because I didn’t realise the Dad in the street was right. That I was fighting. That I was fighting myself and all the noise I let inside my head, leading me into the woods.
So just get out of your own way, I thought, as I made it up the stairs into my ‘Luxury Bedsit,’ all you can do is keep running up the hill.
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