You are not a machine. I tell myself. Whether it was from Emily Freeman or Wendell Berry, I cannot recall where I first heard it put this way. Needless to say, knowing my history, I only wish I would have heard it sooner.
I spread the bright pink nail polish over my fingernails meticulously, slowly, like I’m painting a masterpiece. With every stroke I make a declaration. Running and art can go together. They must. This race isn’t a win-lose situation, a back breaking endeavor. It’s legitimate practice in perseverance and praise even when I’m breaking into a sweat and wanting to pull to the side and stop.
When perspiration becomes the paint, we learn to be art on the run. Our body moves towards more freedom, our soul syncs up with the sound of our heartbeat. This is where our best work happens.
It’s become a ritual now. I pull out the polish the night before a race, or the close of another day, and talk to myself. It’s the antidote for my competitive spirit. There was a time, a long stretch of time, when I punished myself for not winning, not moving faster, or not improving.
But now I know the signs.
I don’t turn a blind eye towards the machine mentality anymore. It lurks. It lies. It wears out my womanhood. Breaks my body. Jerks my joy. Steals my season.
The head down, get it done, push through work ethic is the most familiar and sadly the most preferred for many of us. It wants us to value success over soul, winning over wonder, speed over song.
We’ll take the loud, monotone hum of productivity and progress in our lives rather than the start and stop, high and low patterns present in a piece of music.
Machines have big shiny buttons to power them on. But masterpieces come alive through the unlikely energy that escapes from messy, meandering brush strokes.
Our lives take shape, popping of the page when we recognize every day is an entrance into radical creativity, a partnership with God’s spirit. Awe overcomes us when our daily movements here and there are not a mere exercise in survival and staying on course, but in a soul revival.
The industrial revolution is still unraveling our intricately woven insides, tempting us all to become fabricated pieces of flesh working in dingy factories where a faster pace is prized.
Whether you signed up for it or not, we’re all in this race. The question isn’t- will you win, but how will you run?
I stand at the start line, I look down at my nails, then up to the sea of people surrounding me. The small streaks of pink seem frivolous, but I know their secret meaning. I am not a machine in this race, but a masterpiece. Our whole life is a orchestrated melody- body and soul playing in harmony, a mixture of all things sacred and sweaty.
You are art on the run. Repeat this to yourself every mile if you must.
Keep passing up practices in productivity and ignoring the finish line of success. Instead, move to the rhythm of your beating heart and let yourself become a blended, bleeding, colorful work of art.