I think of Sylvia Plath when I run.
Not always, just on the good days. It’s a strange time to think of old Sylvia; as far as I know, she was never a runner, nor is most of her writing generally associated with the feelings we have on good days. But the words that always float to the top of my mind as my feet pound out a familiar cadence on the river trail where I run most days is this:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
It’s only those lines, detached from the rest of “Mad Girl’s Love Song” and transformed into something new. That strange notion of power: the world exists on my whim, at my pleasure. It’s one of the only times I feel so in control, fully present in my body but not constrained by it, alive but perhaps more spirit than flesh. In my mind, I am a lesser god, Atlas’s zephyrous stepdaughter, not carrying the world on my shoulders but keeping it spinning beneath my feet.
I studied political science, and I still call myself a political scientist from time to time, even though it can feel pretentious. I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about the state of the world. I also spend a lot of time feeling powerless. Despite my rage and sorrow and words and actions, militias and border guards still threaten asylum seekers. Cops still kill innocent black people. Legislators still view anyone with a uterus as more incubator than human. The world is large, and many of the people who walk it are bent on cruelty.
But sometimes it is mine, as simple as that, and its expansiveness feels like an invitation, not a trap. Sometimes the big world spins just for me, and I fly over its surface. On the good days, “sometimes” can be enough.
Laura Muth is a writer, researcher, and educator based in the Pacific Northwest. They have an MA in international affairs and a BA in political science, and they write about everything from nonbinary identity to pop culture to current events. You can find them on Twitter @LauraMuth1 and on Instagram @enajlaura.
Photo by Massimo Sartirana.