Naked, But Not Running. Not Even Walking. Not Today, Anyway.
Choosing the handle RunningNekkid was a gradual process, coming to me slowly as I sat on the sofa in my newly painted living room. I whined relentlessly to Ian, who patiently let me shoot down each and every single one of his I'm-just-trying-to-be-helpful-here suggestions. I was moving away from a fad-driven screen name I'd been using since my late teens, and was determined that my new name be something that I could use for very many years to come.
"I want it to reflect who I am," I told him in my very best tortured artist voice. I continued, with un-ironic melodrama, "and who in the hell I am trying to be."
Probably, I beat my breast for proper effect.
To his credit, Ian didn't laugh me off the stage of my sofa. He didn't dismiss how important this decision meant to me.
That doesn't mean, however, that he took it as seriously as I did.
"Well I know what I want you to be," he said at last in his chipper boy voice.
"Yeah?" I asked. "And who's that."
"Nekkid," he responded, almost before I had finished my line.
We laughed together, because Ian always has a way of interrupting my self-involved artist banter without making me feel like too much a dipshit. But still, I feigned incredulity.
"I'm pretty sure that nekkid dot com is already taken," I told him, rolling my eyes.
"NEKKID!" he demanded, with a suitably ridiculous Muppet arm flail.
"Besides," I asserted. "I can't just run around nekkid all of the damn time."
"NEKKID!" he flailed again.
Ian, you guys. He's like almost totally perfect. (I tell him so all the time, so we don't have to pretend it's some silly little secret.)
He may have been goofing around with the Muppet arms and all, but he had zeroed in on something I had been hinting at again and again without having the nerve to say outright. I wanted to be naked on my blog. I wanted to be vulnerable. I wanted to be honest and creative and alive in my writing.
After years of squireling away, pretending that writing was something that I meant to do someday, I wanted to say fuck it and make it something I just...did.
A few weeks later, after much consideration, Ian bought me RunningNekkid.com as an early birthday present. I didn't do anything with it for a couple of years, but at least the idea of it had begun to take shape.
The idea morphed, of course, after I lost Christopher Robin. I wondered if I should register a totally different domain to keep as a bereavement blog specifically for him. I wondered how I could justify publishing my sometimes graphically sexual fiction alongside my emotionally graphic vent sessions about losing my son. And where did my perfectly banal musings on my perfectly banal life fit between the cracks of grief and rage that usually captured my attention?
Like so many other things in the four years since we said goodbye hello to him, it is mourning my son that continues to help me answer my own questions.
Almost immediately after Christopher Robin's stillbirth, I tried so hard to, I dunno, recover. Be okay. Wait, no. Be better than okay. I wanted to heal stronger than I had been before I had held my largest little loss in my shaking arms. I was determined to hold dear all of the everyday good fortune that had become clear to me the moment I saw Ian's heartbroken face at the hospital. I have so much joy in my life; so much for which I am unabashedly grateful.
But I am also unabashedly heartbroken. Angry. Confused. Bereft. I am at a complete and fundamental loss, not just because of my son's death, but because my son's death is what forced me to examine every kind of loss I hadn't yet been brave enough to truly carry. I'd merely coexisted with my losses; let them be the weight that hindered any true vulnerable and naked running I had felt so driven to do.
Suddenly, RunningNekkid wasn't some kind of celebratory dance I was doing in honor of the realization that I am, you know, so very lucky to be alive. It became the goal; a sort of resigned aspiration. The day after day, relentless attempt to get back up to speed after the tragic derailing of my entire life. Trying so hard to get back on track, only to discover that there were never any rails laid down in the first place.
I'm still not entirely sure how all of this fits together - the fiction and anger; the silliness and hollowed-out sensation of grief. But I do understand that it can, or at least that it has to. It has to because it does, inside of my own personal reality. I don't get to truly compartmentalize myself, only feeling grief here and then navigating away to open a completely new page all about my living children's goofy antics. All of this is the froth of living; the sweet-sticky mess in between shit happens and shit yeah. And all of it, every second, is absolutely true, and, naked and real.
So while I don't exactly feel like I'm running in quite the forward-moving way I thought I should be when I first registered my domain, I know at least that I am not running away from anything either. Like treading water, sometimes standing still takes an enormous amount of energy. And sometimes, even standing is a little too much to bear. So that's when I sit in the grass and just kind of be. Which is totally okay, I'm trying to tell myself. It's not like there's an actual finish line, anyway.
Sometimes, I listen to myself more than others. Sometimes, but not often, I remember that no one at all can run all of the time. No one can relentlessly continue moving forward. And slipping back into the grief-stricken slumping of the deeply bereaved is not a failure; is not lesser than the triumphant inspiration of hope and healing after utter devastation. It's all just reality, man. It's all just life. I don't always have to be pushing my shoulder against the gruelling wheel of what the fuck is going on here to call that progress and healing and a life fully and truly worth all of this living. All I have to do is live it, whether or not I have the energy to run.
And so it goes. Hopefully, some day, I'll get to go with it.
But for right now, I've got to remember that it's perfectly okay to just sit down in the grass and be.