On Fantasies and Physical Pain

In recent past, I have started running. I used to run in the like 20-minutes-on-a-treadmill-with-four-pauses-to-drink-water kind of way. But lately, I’ve been running running. Like, jogging ten miles on a Saturday morning running.

Now, I know what you are thinking: Why do you find this masochistic exercise in self-discipline to be entertaining? Well, rhetorical device I’m utilizing to prove a point, I’m very glad you asked.

Anyone who knows me can usually fit the word ‘ditz’ or ‘klutz’ into my description. Usually, when they squeeze this little less-than-flattering detail in there, they caveat it with something like, ‘she’s really smart but…’ My friends are really nice people.  But I can’t hold it against them: sometimes, I’m a huge space case. I’m good at school, tests, foreign language, even math, but sometimes my mind just drifts off into the abyss of other lands and suddenly I’m dropping an entire tray of champagne flutes or completely lost three blocks from my own apartment. In fact I spent my entire adolescence so wrapped in day dreams that if you stuck me in the middle of my hometown, spun me around a few times and told me to find my way home, it would be like watching a drunk man with a blindfold trying to figure out where the piñata was. And I lived in this town for 10 years.

Ever since I was little, I’ve been inclined towards fantasies. The first well-developed one I remember started in the first grade. This was the year I started a gymnastics troupe/all-girls band out of my friends from school called The Sugar Girls. This wasn’t a voluntary activity. I snuck their binding contracts into conversation, like, “Hey, guys! Did you see the Spice Girls on TV last night? Did you know that we are in a travelling gymnastics troupe/band called the Sugar Girls? No? Well, in that case, I’m so glad I told you! I totally consider that reaction a binding signature on a exclusive rights talent contract.”

Another word many people have used to describe me is ‘bossy.’

At any rate, this all-girls band/tumbling show was bound for big things. I set goals. I made posters. I started doing 100 sit-ups every night because some how this was going to help me lead the Sugar Girls on our journey to success. Of course, this would only be a precursor of things to come for me. I planned to be an Olympic-class gymnast by age 14—yes, even though they had raised the age limit after Dominique Moceanu in the 1996 games, they’d make an exception for me. Then, the year after I won gold, I’d take over the pop charts with my amazing vocal abilities and killer dance moves at a younger age than Britney Spears did. I figured these two seemingly unconnected skills would integrate in that being a gymnast would make for some really awesome music videos. I couldn’t wait to be interviewed by Carson Daly. He would totally fall in love with me.

And, obviously, all of this was contingent on my ability to do 100 sit-ups every night throughout the 1st grade.

Now, not only did I have drive, I had connections, and big ones, too: My Aunt was the manager of a restaurant at Disneyland. Yeah, you know, the mythical place that most 1st graders use as their reference point when people talk about ‘heaven’ in Bible school. That’s the one. And I was going to get the all-girls band/tumbling show worked into the Fantasia fireworks/lightshow extravaganza. How? Why? Didn’t matter, I just knew that once I had trained all of my friends (should ‘friends’ be in air quotes? Probably.) Disneyland would be begging us to come and perform at their show.

Now, if you know me, you know that none of these things actually came into fruition. If you don’t know me, let me clarify: I can’t sing, dance, I don’t remember a single one of my Sugar Girl bandmates’ names, I’ve never been sponsored by, worked for, or received compensation from Disney or any of its affiliates, and I was never able to get past the back handspring level in my gymnastics class. But when I think back to 1st grade, the thing I remember most are these fantasies.

Some people think this is a dangerous habit, and I have to say I agree. I’m totally into all the new age shit that talks about being here now, living in the moment, appreciating what you have. If that cause ever needs a ‘before’ model, I volunteer as tribute. This wildly unrealistic imagination of mine has definitely got its downsides (see also: ditz and klutz), but there is one time when this absurdly over active imagination/dissociative power comes in handy, and it is usually right around mile 6.

I recently read Mindy Kaling’s autobiography, and in said book, she runs through (pun-ny, I know) her favorite gym-time fantasies, the one that I remember most vividly involves avenging her slain husband’s death (Mindy isn’t married, FYI). I almost teared. Does this mean there are other people who experience these types of colorful daydreams, too? I always imagined it to be the early on-set of Schizophrenia. I figured it was only a matter of time before I totally lost track of reality and started talking to myself in public (because I’ve always talked to myself in private. Who doesn’t practice all their witty banter before a date? Really?). I imagined that sooner or later my luck would turn, and my grasp on reality would slip, just like the homeless woman’s on the bench at Tompkins Square Park’s did. But no, could it be? Was this really just the mark of creativity? Mindy’s a TV writer and as far as I know has never been mentally diagnosed as batshit crazy, so perhaps there is hope after all!

But back to mile six. I’m running. My whole body hurts. The blister on the arch of my foot is starting to reopen. My thighs are on fire. There isn’t a better time to indulge a little of that fantasy-driven fiction! Some of my personal favorites…

  1. I’m in Maxim. I’m not on the cover, I’m just featured in a list of some sort. With this fantasy, I have a few different options to choose from. Sometimes, I have been featured because I am one of “Maxim’s Hottest Extreme Sport Athletes.” It all started when I moved to Patagonia and began snowboarding every day. With all this practice, my skills inevitably led the snowboarding company Burton to scout me. I was, of course, the first girl they’ve ever sponsored. No one said my fantasies had to be historically accurate, damn it. Anyways, so Maxim saw me in some snowboarding competition where I launched over a road and did a backflip over a semi-truck and they were like, “That’s definitely the hottest girl we’ve ever seen do a backflip over a semi-truck.” I should add that in my fantasies I’m also about 6 points higher on the attractiveness scale of 1-10 than I am in real life. Other times, I got on the list of “Hottest Women Writers under 30” because I know that Maxim has at least 2 annual issues dedicated to that list. This transitions into fantasy number two…
  2. I’m driving a rental car in LA. It’s a convertible Mercedes in black with a really awesome stereo system. I don’t know anything about cars but it is a really good one. I’ll let you fill in the details. I’m driving this car because a film studio has flown me out to discuss turning my book into a movie. Sofia Coppola has been begging them to let her direct it. Emma Watson wants to play the lead. The top is down on the Mercedes and I’m wearing Ray Bans and a band tee in like a Kate Moss-rocking-the-Cure-T-shirt kind of way. I see my exboyfriend while I’m driving down La Brea. He totally checks me out.
  3. I live in my own studio in the East Village overlooking Tompkins Square. I don’t have roommates and for whatever reason rats, mice, and cockroaches are terrified of my apartment. I drink Ninth Street Espresso every morning on my way to work and I never even bother to check my bank account. If you live in New York, you understand why this fantasy is on par with the previous two.
  4. I’m a female boxer/martial artist. The ending to this fantasy is completely contingent upon the last person who made me angry. I’m usually wearing a skin-tight leather get-up. I’d say visually this is pretty much entirely derived from the Charlie’s Angels remake I saw when I was 10.
  5.  I’m delivering a TED talk. It usually goes something like this: “And that mile, the one where I was passing Flushing Avenue on Bedford Avenue and waiting for the light to change and crossing the street, and passing some crazy guy at the bus stop, and thinking about where I was going to get a beer that night, and was Katie working? I wonder if Katie wants to get a beer. Oh wait, I wouldn’t say that in a TED Talk. No okay, It was that mile that changed my life. In fact, during that mile alone I lost ten pounds and mentally wrote my entire first Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Just imagine if I had stopped! The moral of the story is this: Never stop running after your dreams, kids. Even when it really fucking hurts.”

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