Monday, April 27, 2009

The Loneliness Of

I started using my insulin pump a week and a half ago. My nurse (a precocious woman who loves lipstick and looks like a deflated Fran Drescher) clicked the device into place, and that was that. Well, not exactly: I was given strict orders to follow for the next few weeks, in order to get my blood sugars down and insulin rates stabilized. Most of the rules are tough (3 meals a day, no snacks in between [where is that DQ Blizzard I was promised?], tight carbohydrate budget). Some of them truly suck (no alcohol or sleeping in!) But one of them has proved nearly unbearable: no exercise. Until my body works out the kinks with this pump, I am indefinitely barred from putting on my New Balances. No matter how sunny and beautiful the weather is (today), no matter how much my leg muscles twitch from lack of activity (happened today), no matter how much I ache to get out there and start up my half-marathon training again (oh god, today). These running-free days are killing me.

I just finished reading Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I've never really loved his writing style (something lost in the translation, perhaps) and this book is no exception, but it drew enough parallels with my own life to draw me in. I read it while sitting on the train to London. As we sped past creeks and forest floors and backyards, I thought about running. I thought about writing. I thought about running and writing, at once: two things I love, used to love, still care for, need to do, need motivation to start, can't give up. I want to run as fast as a VIA train and write as well as Murakami. That's what I want.

"Most of what I know about writing I've learned through running every day. These are practical, physical lessons. How much can I push myself? How much rest is appropriate--and how much is too much? ... How much should I be aware of the world outside, and how much should I focus on my inner world? To what extent should I be confident in my abilities, and when should I start doubting myself? ...
In any event, I'm happy I haven't stopped running all these years. The reason is, I like the novels I've written. And I'm really looking forward to seeing what kind of novel I'll produce next. Since I'm a writer with limits--an imperfect person living an imperfect, limited life--the fact that I can still feel this way is a real accomplishment. Calling it a miracle might be an exaggeration, but I really do feel this way. And if running every day helps me accomplish this, then I'm very grateful to running. ...
Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you're going to while away the years, it's far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that's the essence of running, and a metaphor for life--and for me, for writing as well. I believe many runners would agree."
- Murakami, What I Talk About...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

hey, yeah, awww

This time last year, I assumed the hardest part was going to be getting in. Of course. All that paperwork! All those weeks of waiting! Once I got in-- and once I passed that remedial mythology bird course laden with trick questions-- then the water wouldn't be choppy anymore. Then I wouldn't be worried.

Then things wouldn't be so unclear.

Wouldn't it be nice.

It's the April of the first year of my master's program, and I've barely made a scratch. There's certainly no dent. I know that I have a voice, and that I have so much more time to prove myself and make progress, but I can't help but feel this: the more time I put into this pursuit, the less I'm getting out of it. I don't really want to be a grad student slumming away at a part-time coffee shop job. I don't want to be a Torontonian who still secretly hates Toronto. I don't want to be a writer with permanent writer's block.

I want to think that I made the right choice last April, but I'm starting to worry that I can't keepy trying to convince myself anymore. I don't know what to do with myself.

How does one get themselves out of a slump like this? What is this slump, anyway? It isn't the stuff undergraduate hissy-fits are made of. No, it feels bigger than that. It feels like a total confusion of place and time and direction-- maybe none of this is right?

I used to always spend summers at my grandparents' cottage on Lake Huron. They sold it the winter I turned 14, but we all knew that the preceding summer was probably going to be our last and we treated it accordingly. By "we" I mean just me: I was the only other member of the family who showed any attachment to the cottage apart my from grandparents themselves.
Our cottage was a real cottage, (dilapidated, tiny, and wooden) unlike all the suburban-style monoliths that grew in the empty lots down the road over the years. It stunk like mothballs, and rain bled through the walls, and ants got into the sugar pots, and I loved it there. We listened to my dad's Jeff Healey band cassettes and played Scrabble. There was a receding, zebra mussel-infested shoreline behind our property, but we usually just went to the beach area just down the street that was much larger and cleaner. (The time my cousin and I found a bra and panties discarded in the surf there is, sadly, a story for another time.)
If you stood in the middle of this beach and looked straight out at the lake, you could see a rocky island with a single gnarled tree directly in front of you. It wasn't that far out, but as a child I thought it was the most impressive thing I'd ever seen: this bizarre, dead tree, floating on a bed of rocks in the center of the lake.
During that last summer at the cottage, I decided to finally swim out to the island. It didn't take me very long, and I found that the island wasn't even straight out from the beach-- it was located a few hundred metres to the left. It was a disgusting pile of rocks and the tree itself was practically driftwood. I stood on the rocks and touched the dead tree trunk and it wasn't even sunny out. But I did it, right? I got there, and that still matters, doesn't it?

Wouldn't it be nice.