Princes Park, Melbourne, summer 2015/16
I’m running the well-worn dirt trails around Princes Park, the scent of gum in the air, a crackling promise of a hot day to come. Summer. I’m sweating already, have gotten past that first part of a run where it feels like I can’t possibly do this – my legs are like lead, my lungs heaving. I’m at the stage where I think I really can do it. That changes, of course, during the course of a run – as it does throughout life, and every day.
And then my iPhone slides from one track to the next, and those orchestral sounds build. It is the Eels, and their Fresh Feeling. A part of my brain asks why my jogging app keeps choosing love songs, especially about new love, but the other part of my brain – and my legs – respond. I’m running faster, my endorphins matching the joy of this song, the pleasure of discovering someone (or something) new, of that point in a new beginning when it feels like everything and anything is possible and the world is a benign, joyous place.
Birds singing a song
Old paint is peeling
This is that fresh
That fresh feeling…
Try to forget what’s in the past
Tomorrow is here
Orange sky above lighting your way
There’s nothing to fear
The song, and my feelings, well up inside me. I’ve been so beaten down so long, so drained by the demands of children, separation, the challenges of work, and – frankly – the reality of growing older. Love faltered, gradually pain took its place and I shut down for a long time, so adrenally fatigued my doctor prescribed bed rest. It was hard to even walk the short journey to school with my youngest.
But as I listen, and run, I’m wondering how I could have forgotten about this well of love and deep pleasure that lies within each and every one of us.
My feet are lifting and my arms pumping, the sun shines but is not yet hot, merely giving its blessing. I pass walkers, deep in conversation, and other runners overtake me. I’m happy for all of them. I must be smiling as a number of runners coming towards me smile back as we pass each other. When I stop for a quick drink it’s as though I’ve never tasted something as good and quenching ever before.
This is the feeling they try to sell us in ads, romantic comedies and the annual Valentine’s Day extravaganza. With all of our society’s patriarchal and hetero norms, this feeling is meant to be about one guy, one girl, soulmates, ‘completing’ each other and forever ever after. But that distorts the truth about this feeling. This feeling is about starting again, and promise – before the reality of our flaws and failings kicks in. Our own deep insecurities and unnamed desires. But it is also about the deep human capacity to love, and to love over and over again. Ourselves, each other, the world.
I have met a guy, actually. Or maybe more than one. But meeting this one guy has just reawakened parts of me I’d buried deep, away from further hurt.
At our first meeting, in a dimly lit bar, we talked for hours over mojitos, about purpose, children, relationships and what lies in between long-term monogamy and the casual encounter. He teased me gently, and told me stories of things he’d built and created. We wandered through the early summer evening, wheeling our bikes, laughter punctuating the silence between strangers. We kissed where our parts of the bike path diverged, lingering and unwilling to let the moment pass. There have been more kisses, and conversations. I look forward to seeing him, a flash of silver hair, the wry curl of his lip, tanned arms. But I also like the feeling of leaving, of not knowing what may happen next. I am completely clear I am not searching for ‘the one’ – there’s just here and now. The ride home is always easy, buoyed as I am by that fresh feeling. Of being back to myself, and of infinite promise.
As I sprint the last two hundred metres of the Princes Park track, heart pounding and lungs aching (‘you can do this!’ I scream at myself) the song changes again, to Dewayne Everettsmith’s It’s Like Love. I laugh. My iPhone is definitely trying to tell me something. But I’m in love with life again, not just one person, one man.
© Sam Lawry