‘Antifreeze’

It had been weeks since I looked in the mirror. I didn’t leave the house for fear that something might tip me over the edge. Into uncontrollable screaming, or inappropriate laughter, or a fit of weeping; I didn’t know. Every day, I was afraid of which humiliating way my soul would choose to express its fullness through my body.

And that’s how I felt, a lot of the time: full. Brimming, raging, bursting; as if my emotion might spill out and flood the space around me. Like a huge aquarium smashing. A water balloon exploding. Whenever it didn’t feel like that, I was the opposite: a shell, a tiny leprous rodent inhabiting a derelict tower block. I was lost, pathetic, shameful; at the mercy of the great giants who marched above me. It was impossible to tell which one I truly was. Each was equally unbearable.

It was dark morning in November, and I was late for the train. Uncharacteristically, I began to stride out faster and faster until my walk broke into a jog. I reached the station just in time. My chest stung. There was a stabbing pain under my rib cage. I could taste blood. But for the rest of the day, I found myself somewhere new: neither empty nor full, neither high nor low. It was a place I wanted to stay.

When you put antifreeze in a car, the boiling temperature gets a few degrees higher. The freezing temperature, a few degrees lower. It was like that. Suddenly I was taking control. Taking care of my engine.

I found that the more I ran, the more I could run. My thresholds changed. Problems became smaller. I no longer navigated by the pull of those extreme forces. The old poles around which my life had revolved almost entirely melted away. It couldn’t be this simple, one part of me whispered to another part. But it was. That’s how running became my antifreeze.