What I Do Instead

Run Sundays are generally for my long runs. I have a number of routes to choose from including a couple loops that take me through the parking lot of a church. Generally I don’t see a single soul as I lope between cars, hearing the music from my headphones and keeping myself at an even pace despite the hill the lot’s half built on. When I can spare some energy, I sometimes feel pity for the poor souls trapped inside, especially the kids.

Yesterday, I was running through as an almost-elderly couple made their way for the doors. I moved over to give them plenty of space, and the woman, her graying hair perma-sprayed into a halo, smiled encouragingly at me.

“You’re going the wrong way!” she said, pointing at the church doors. “You should be heading in there!”

I’m sure she meant it kindly. There was no hint of condescension or self-satisfied smirking on her open, earnest face. So I didn’t say any of the things that flashed through my head like are you kidding, they burn people like me or I believe in doing good every day of the week, not just Sunday or your worship of a sky fairy and a mishmash holy book edited by half-literate dust-maddened desert ascetics that has provided people with an excuse to kill each other for thousands of years in multiple ways doesn’t interest me, thanks (okay, I may not have had the breath for the last one) but instead smiled at her as I passed, and said, “This is what I do instead.”

My gods, such as they are, are neutral on the question of how I spend my Sunday. It’s up to me to pick something that matters every day of the week to do, and Sundays are reserved for those long runs, hanging out with the children, and various household chores–watering houseplants, hoovering, washing Odd Trundles, and the like. It seems much better to do those things than waste time being preached at by men or pretending that I’m holy just one day of the week and thinking that justifies anything else I do on the other six. The long runs clean my head out, they measure my will against my body and nourish both.

I’m sure she meant it kindly. I really am. I’m just endlessly glad I’ve made different choices. I wonder what she’d have done if I stopped, sweaty and disheveled, and waltzed into that place, too. It strikes me as an amusing situation.

My current reading is Mario Vargas Llosa’s The War of the End of the World, which is based on the War of Canudos. It’s…interesting. There’s a certain masochism involved in my reading male Latin American authors. Even if they are aware of it, the toxic machismo in such books married to the historical misogyny is painful. I’ll have more thoughts when I finish the book, I suppose. Right now I’m very much in the middle of it, and pulled on by the narrative.

Over and out.

  • Great to know you’re reading this book. It’s about something I’ve studied all my life — wouldn’t be expected differently from a Brazilian — and even being about a bad thing of our History I hope you enjoy it, beyond all the machism and misogyny within its narrative. I don’t know what you seek in Latin American literature (by past posts maybe magical realism?) but I would recommend to you the works by Clarice Lispector, more especially The Hour of the Star. She’s well-known for her literary fiction style but also for translating into Brazilian Portuguese such books like Interview with the vampire. May it be a good Latin American literary author to male authors behind. (I would recommend Ligia Fagundes Telles, too, but I really don’t know if her works are available in English.)

  • Just forgot Socorro Acioli’s The Saint’s Head. She was a Brazilian Gabriel García Márquez’s protégé and writes about a mystique Northwestern Brazil (where decades ago lied Canudos) and would be a great recommendation of a more recent praised book =D

  • Thanks for the recommendations! I do like the magical realism; I don’t know enough about female Latin American authors in English. I’m always happy to learn about more!