Badge of Honor

Bruised from repeated trauma, blood leaks from broken blood vessels and collects in a pool until it turns everything black—colloquially this is known as ‘runner’s toenail.’

I discovered that I had one early this morning as I prepared to go for a run.

Some runners consider it a badge of honor to get their first one because it’s often a sign that you’ve moved your training to a higher level. That you’re running longer and/or more often. That the repeated friction between foot and shoe, of literally banging yourself bloody, manifests as this ugly thing that somehow becomes beautiful. And it’s true. I’ve been running 5K (3.1 miles) about every other day or so, and every time I complete my work, I feel incredibly proud of my accomplishment—now signified by an unsightly toe.

Days like today are my favorite days. It’s the day I clean, in every sense of the word.

I structure my days around the Aztec & Mayan sacred calendars, which consist of 13-day cycles, and day twelve is one I’m always glad to see. To these cultures, the number 12 is a number of wisdom. It represents the ability to reflect upon the past, without repeating it, and parsing wisdom from one’s experiences. It’s also a number about forgiveness, about holding onto what you’ve learned from an experience and letting go of the attachment to its events.

On these days I reflect upon the past and the previous eleven days. I zoom out and try to see my life from a higher perspective. I think about what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown, and I clearly delineate what needs to go and what should stay.

On these days I make it a point to try to run first thing in the morning because running does such a bang up job of clearing my mind and setting the tone for the rest of the day. It’s my meditation of choice and it helps me to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. It helps me to discipline my mind, create a sense of order out of its chaos, and make space for what the next thirteen days will bring.

Overall, I tend to be very domestic on these days, and this is something I enjoy very much. I made breakfast and dinner for my mother and myself, I did the laundry, I cleaned the bathroom, I cleaned the kitchen, I organized my desk, and I always end the day with an extremely hot bath.

There is nothing interesting about these days, but they are a great comfort. They make me feel grounded, and in a way, powerful, because I take the time to arrange my environment (internally and externally) exactly as I want and need it to be.

I feel so much better than I did a few days ago. I’m not naive enough to think I’m completely out of the clear of despair just yet, but at the moment, I’m a bit drunk on a weird sort of peace.

Sometimes, in the middle of a mundane task or an inconsequential activity, I’ll stop and think about how I’ll completely forget these moments. I find that so fascinating, but I am also slightly saddened by it. And that’s why I come here and write. I’ve quit writing with others principally in mind. The priority has become to write to remember myself and the process I am going through.

This has been the most difficult yet most important time of my life, and I don’t want to ever forget it, especially the hard parts, especially the lonely parts, especially the prosaic parts. I want to look back and marvel at how I endured it all.

In that way, these repeated microtraumas will so too become a mark of pride.