Interrogation, Interruption, Exhaustion

Interrogation, Interruption, Exhaustion


 I Think I Feel Whole Again

  1. Interrogation

I run the same path most days. Not on purpose, but not by accident, just via a general force that seems to move my limbs with the flow, propelling me in a similar series of directions every day.

North on Eldridge. East on Houston. Run on Houston until the silhouette of the East River Park appears. North at the East River Park. One lap around the track. North in the park until the 10th St exit. Take exit. North along Avenue C until 20th St. West on 20th St.  South on 1st Avenue. Sprint south on 1st Avenue until 14th St. Decide to stop or continue running.
I know form follows function, but the form of my runs remains constant, and the function seems to change. My body takes the same form as it awaits the incline to the East River and predicts the cobblestones along 20th St, moving me subconsciously on the same path. Yet, my mind deviates as it follows its intended form, focusing its function on a new subject every day.
Monday, I thought about how I should probably start running faster.

Wednesday, I thought about the photographs I was getting developed and how I should sing quieter while I run. Thursday, I thought about nothing but the music I could hear, putting my brain on autopilot to get through the day. Friday, I thought about someone I had loved, continuing the run past my usual stop point, beginning to wander instead of wonder. 

Saturday, I thought about next semester, which had me feeling like I was running away from this semester, figuratively and literally. Sunday, I thought about the sun and the dwindling leaves on the trees, realizing that the path would start to look different in a few weeks.

When my body moves with the flow, my mind moves throughout myself, interrogating every part of my thoughts. The innate sense of form allows function to move freely, for the limitations on my body to propel my mind into spaces it usually doesn’t go. 
My therapist says the best way to get out of your head is to get back into your body. Every time I find myself back in my body, I find myself even more entangled in my head. But most of the time the knots I create unravel themselves and the ideas come clear. Maybe running pushes me out of my body and into my head, forcing me to untangle the thoughts I have. 
Author Raymond Queneau and I don’t have a lot in common. But we both have begun to understand the ways that function can sometimes follow form, that maintaining an intrinsic sense of form can reveal function. His work, Exercises in Style, repeats the same story ninety-nine times. Sometimes he’ll add more details, sometimes he’ll add less, sometimes he’ll start most of the words with bu- or sometimes he’ll only use exclamation points. Once he wrote a haiku, once he wrote a sonnet, and another time he wrote the story like a journal entry. These are just a few, but no matter the style or the length, Queneau always finds himself with the same narrative.
The narrator rides the crowded S bus. A long-necked fellow gets on the bus, beginning an argument with another passenger about whether he steps on his shoes each time the bus makes a stop. Later, the narrator sees the long-necked fellow with a friend in a plaza, who’s telling him his coat needs another button.
I often only read anything once, an unspoken rule I made for myself to not absorb the same media twice, that I will find myself frustrated with knowing the sequence of events. I’ve heard a few times that revelation could arise after a few more reads, but I refuse to hear the same story over again if I already know how it ends. The characters and plot will remain unchanged, and the narrative will be told the same way I consumed it the first time. 

When I first started reading Exercise in Style, I didn’t realize I was reading the same story ninety-nine times. It took until the seventeenth time for something to click, for me to realize there was a pattern in the actions I was consuming. Seventeen stories later I found the preface by Barbara Wright hidden away in the beginning of the book, a mistake I may have made to skip over an explanation of what I was about to read. 

A little bit of guilt and a lot of frustration came over me as I realized that I had broken my own rule, but worst of all I enjoyed it. There was no change in the actions, or changing the men to women, or the bus to a train, just differing descriptions of it all. Queneau restricted himself to one story, but limitation proved limitless as the product took the same form through one narrative, focusing completely on function. Function interrogated language for Queneau, just as function allows me to interrogate myself while I run.

Queneau took me down the same path ninety-nine times, telling me the same sequence of events that would lead to the same ending, one that I already knew. Yet, I’ve probably run the same path ninety-nine times, following the same sequence of turns that would lead me to the same stopping point at 14th St and First Avenue. 

Queneau: “In any case my intention was merely to produce some exercises; the finished product may possibly act as a kind of rust-remover to literature to help to rid it of some of its scabs. If I have been able to contribute a little to this, then I am very proud, especially if I have done it without boring the reader too much.”
The path I run every day allows me to “act as a kind of rust-remover” for my own thoughts, to help me rid my subconscious of the lingering subjects that plague it.  There is no distraction of the external world as I run because my body puts itself on autopilot, “merely producing some exercises,” running me through the streets so I can tenderly run through my mind. 
  Wright: “The more I go into each variation, the more I see in it.”
I do not better understand myself and my thoughts more than when I run. The journey in which I take myself propels me in circles to interrogate myself, to contemplate my realities, or my anxieties, or my delusions. But sometimes, interrogation of my thoughts leads to exhaustion, and I find myself wandering instead of running, wondering if the path I choose to go down every day is forcing function, strangling my thoughts with false conceptions rather than the reality of my perception. 
  1. Exhaustion

The act of running is quite fleeting. My connection to the environment exists momentarily as I drift in and out of crowds, moving through neighborhoods with quiet thoughts, alternating between hearing my feet slap against the sidewalk or the bike lane. There is a certain sensation of watching the places you love change with the seasons, and as I have felt the leaves fall against me the past few months, I feel myself tangled up with time, that as I physically move forward on my path, I see the world move forward as well. 

  Sometimes when I run for over an hour, I feel myself moving with the seasons, that the longer I run, the faster the seasons change. Every leaf that falls puts me closer to winter and I think I transcend time with every step. When I finish running and realize that the first snow fall has not yet happened, a relief comes over me. 

The same happens when I run while the sun is setting. I always run west, racing the sun, telling myself that if I just keep going the sun will never set. But my legs cannot push me fast enough to beat the wills of the clock and no matter how far west I go, darkness absorbs me. 

I fight time, but I think there is a relief that the concept will always overtake me, even when I try to prevail. Sometimes when I fall too deep into my thoughts, I know that the day will end, and that time will continue. There is a comfort in the fleetingness. 

Georges Perec focuses on the fleeting in An Attempting to Exhaust a Place in Paris, allowing us to see the unseen, the everyday that bypasses the eye. He sits at a café in Saint-Sulpice Square in Paris, listing sites of commonality: buses, fountains, trucks—all with limited descriptions of people. He creates an inventory of the world surrounding without taking note of the people that manage the inventory. 
  Perec: “An 86 goes by, empty

A 70 goes by, full

Jean-Paul Aron goes by, again: he coughs

A group of children are playing ball in front of the church

A 70 goes by, nearly empty

A 63 goes by, almost full

(why count the buses? probably because they’re recognizable and regular: they cut up time, they punctuate the background noise; ultimately, they’re foreseeable. The rest seems random, improbable, anarchic; the buses pass by because they have to pass by, but nothing requires a car to back up)”

Perec ignores life, connecting himself to the scenery he inhabits while simultaneously disconnecting himself from the other inhabitants who are facilitating the actions of the scenery. His approach creates a paradox, balancing the act of connection and disconnection.

When I run, I find myself balancing the same act, a choice of whether to allow the natural environment to absorb my consciousness and disconnect me from my thoughts or to stress the transience of the scenery, pushing myself through the environment as I push myself to connect within.

  Perec: “Infraordinary: the markings and manifestations of the everyday that consistently escape our attention as they compose the essence of our life.”
Perec argues the “infraordinary,” the fleeting sensations of our sceneries, contribute to the essence of our molds. I question him on this logic, that if we don’t notice something, maybe it was for a reason, maybe it wasn’t worth noticing. But then I think of the paths I take, how their fleeting essence enables my interrogation but facilitates my exhaustion.   
  I start to run because I think I should think about how I feel. If I complete my path, maybe the end will result in an answer, maybe I am not only exerting energy, but dispelling distractions, bringing me closer to a thorough conception of my feelings. But I focus on clear conceptions so much that I feel exhausted, that the clarity I sought now creates impenetrable realities. Instead of focusing on conception, maybe I should have just taken note of my perceptions. 
Exhaustion occurs as I focus on what is not in front of me, but of an idea that exists beyond my current reality. I allow myself to pass through the environment without acknowledgement, ignoring the changing seasons or the shifting sunlight. 

Yet, I begin to wonder how much the transient environment contributes to my infraordinary, how although I lack perception of my path and intrinsically follow its form, that the spaces I choose to inhabit disconnect me from mind but connect me to my body.

  My therapist may have been right that the best way to get out of your head is to get back into your body. Running pushes me out of my body and into my head, but I am beginning to learn how to push myself back into my body and out of my head. But things take time, and I find this a battling act, alternating between disconnection and connection with every step, realizing that the answer is not a choice, but to let both endure.
The act of running is quite fleeting, but the momentary connections made with each landscape provide a comfort. Just like my relationship with time, I know that the scenery will pass, that I will dance around a new pedestrian on their phone, or skip over a hole in the bike lane, or find the first tree of the season with no leaves. Yet, even as these scenes leave my mind and I absorb the next, the momentary disconnection I have from my thoughts offers some relief. The mundane, the commonalities I experience while I run permit me to ignore the subjects of life in my head. Impermanence does not mean insignificance. Rather, impermanence engenders the infraordinary.
  Perec: “How should we take account of, question, describe what happens every day and recurs every day: the banal, the quotidian, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infraordinary, the background noise, the habitual?”
To avoid exhaustion, I must accept the fleeting. The interrogation of myself will inherently occur as I find form on the path, but exhaustion is avoidable. Connection within myself can lead to false conceptions, ones that must remind me of Perec, of the necessary balance of connection and disconnection. As I disconnect with myself, I reconnect with the reality of my perceptions, avoiding the exhaustion of my thoughts. 

So, as Perec asks how we should account for what happens every day, the answer does not lie in inventories of the fleeting, but rather in awareness, a momentary revelation to relieve ourselves of the burden of our existence. The banal, the quotidian, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infraordinary, the background noise, the habitual—these are all pieces of our essence. 

  1. Operation

My limbs may move with the flow and my mind may move along the scenery, but I often wonder how my whole body operates. I question if I am running to or away from something, if the movement of my mind and body in conjunction triggers a reaction. 

I do not run to discover my essence or to solve my problems. I run to better understand myself.

  Yet, to question how I operate is to question why I run. 

I say the only time I ever feel completely alone is when I run. And after writing this, that almost sounds ridiculous, as I go on and on about interacting with the environment or interrogating every subject matter (involving other people) that lingers in my consciousness. By alone I mean not physically, but with myself, drowning in self for tens of miles every week.

My body operates for the antithesis of my therapist—to not get out of my body and into my head or vice versa, but to connect the two, to find the conjunction. The only time I see my whole self is when I run. My day to day focuses on one or the other, using the mind or body when needed, but never the mind and body.  

The something I am running to or away from must be myself—different versions as I learn to operate my body as a whole. 

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