Reading Murakami's book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running I am often making analogies to things in my life, and sometimes, though less often, relating to him as a runner. I am not what he would consider a serious runner, though I don't think I am the person he (and I am paraphrasing) might identify as someone whose doctor just told them they are heading down Heart Attack Lane, either.
I certainly can relate to his emphasis on keeping his breathing in check. It is all I can focus on when I am getting discouraged. It is all I focus on when I first get going. I know if I get too winded the whole run will become an excruciating mess and I will hate it. So, I spend a good amount of time thinking on that.
I also relate to how he says that he doesn't think of anything in particular or how he may take something bad that has happened to him and channel it into his running. By taking that pent up disappointment, frustration or anger and putting it into something cathartic, that leaves him stronger and better in the end, he doesn't let the negative get him down. After reading that, I notice I can use running in a similar way. I may think about things while running but not deeply. Instead, like I am putting them in a box and running on them. I come out better and in spite of the negativity that would otherwise suck me in, wasting my time.
I sprint at the end to tell my muscles I expect more, even though at the end I am most tired. I feel happy when it is over. I have not yet felt I could have run more. No, I am usually ready to stop. When I do feel I can run more is when I hit the half way point. That's good only because I can then push my half way further and so little by little increase my distance. I am now at 4.2 km. That's 4 km more than 2 months ago when I started running up a hill at the end of my walk.
So, while I am relating to some things, finding how I can frame other things, and learning about myself as a runner, I also found an apropos comparison to his running post-completion of an unltramarathon (running 62 miles in a day) and my teaching post MA.
He writes (And I am not paraphrasing, because he is just such an acute writer),
"At this point, a new feeling started to well up in me -- nothing as profound as a feeling of pride, but at least a certain sense of completion. A personal feeling of happiness and relief that I had accepted something risky and still had the strength to endure it. In this instance, relief outweighed happiness. It was like a tight knot inside me was gradually loosening, a knot I'd never even realized, until then, was there.
...Still the most significant fall out from running the ultramarathon wasn't physical but mental. What I ended up with was a sense of lethargy, and before I knew it, I felt covered in a film, something I have since dubbed runner's blues... I lost the enthusiasm I always had for the act of running itself... it's as if loosening that knot I'd never noticed before slackened my interest along with it. It wasn't just that my desire to run had decreased. At the same time I had lost something, something new had also taken root deep within me as a runner. And most likely this process of one thing existing while another comes in had produced this unfamiliar runner's blues.
And what about this new thing inside me? I can't find the exact words to describe it, but it might be something close to resignation... somewhere after the 47th mile, my mind went into a blank state you might even call philosophical or religious. Something urged me to become more introspective, and this new found introspection transformed my attitude toward the act of running. "
Murakami continued doing his yearly marathon and eventually he came out of his blues, which is where I think I am now, 2 years after finishing my degree. It is as if, for me, the introspection that came along with the reading, reflecting, analyzing and writing for 2 intense years left me untied, no longer so fiercely knotted to what teaching had meant to me before, but not yet anchored in what teaching meant to me after. As if after, I was still trying to figure who I, Catherine-as-teacher, was in light of all that I had learned and what teaching should be in light of my context. My MA was not something that left me definitive about anything (unlike some of my counterparts, who I so envy), except perhaps that I had to change, question and constantly strive to go beyond my status quo. Yet, I was so philosophical about it, I think I had checked reality at the door a bit and was just coasting along for about a year and a half.
This is not to say I wasn't a better teacher. I believe I was and I think those who knew me before would say so. However, I don't think I had the same drive. Maybe because the road looked so different that I didn't know where I was going. Maybe because I saw SO MANY signs that I had to stop all the time to think about them and it slowed me down. I wasn't the bullet train who just blew through the classroom with my atmosphere, but instead I was the slow train, with big windows for seeing out while also catching my own reflection.
This year has been one of my best, I now think. I am not tired anymore and I have the challenge of 5th and 6th grade, which I didn't have last year. My MA, while it may have unknotted me, it also got me doing a project that revealed how I could do better. It also got me connected to people who could help me see deeper and now I feel that euphoria again.
Like Murakami, running no longer became the point of his life as teaching was no longer the point of mine. While it is a crucial point, I see life more like a star now, with things like cooking, running (the newest), family life (both in Japan and America) and I hope someday parenthood on the different ends. Like I am brighter now, perhaps because I can reflect more as I take in energy from a multitude of sources. No longer is a bad teaching day a bad me day. I'll come home and make a fabulous loaf of bread, run a little further and know I have more people and resources to rely on to fix the issue. Or perhaps, I can fix it myself, recognizing that I am stronger, in many ways, than I was before.