In another life I was an orchestral musician. I had a merit scholarship to a University, and I studied music education. As much as I loved playing in ensembles, I knew it wasn't what I was going to do for my livelihood for the rest of my existence. Combined with an overbearing rehearsal and performance schedule, and a healthy dose of psychological abuse at the hands of some professors, I do not perform in large-scale ensembles anymore. In all truth I had to take several years off after college from even looking at my instrument. Multiple times I thought about selling it.
I should point out that I'm not a bad player. I've changed as I age, of course, but I actually can really play with a pretty decent level of proficiency. I'm fairly confident knowing friends who have pursued similar paths with similar proficiency that I could get a graduate level degree if I chose to pursue one.
As of right now I have no plans for that. Music for me (on my principal instrument) has become something solely for the practice room: a safe lab where I can experiment with non-verbal sonic communication. I play for my students occasionally but I wouldn't consider this to be performing in any real sense. I perform on other instruments but as a general rule I don't play out on my principal instrument. I'm building my ability, too. I can now do things that were only a faint dream in college. I'm happy with that, I'm proud of it. But this is an inward satisfaction. I feel no pressure to share it with a world I feel so beaten up by.
This summer as I train for my fall marathon I have begun thinking of my endurance training in the same way. I stopped following a plan back in June. I know types of workouts that work for me and I understand how my mileage should progress so that I will avoid injury and build strength. So far I feel like this plan is working and it allows me to dial back and take time to rest or take it easy if I need it. On a fixed plan I tend to punish myself mentally if I need more time. I've run every day for seven weeks straight now. My attitude towards this sport has changed for the better because I've created a safe space in my head: a running practice lab where I can use this conditioning for instead of against me.
And that makes sense because it isn't like I'm trying to win prize money. That isn't my goal. My goal is to keep my sanity and maintain a high level of fitness so I can be a strong father and role model to my offspring.
As runners we have a reputation of thinking about lots of things on our long runs. If you're anything like me you use the time to hash out mistakes you made, or maybe wrongs done to you. My advice would be to use it for that if it helps. But don't lose sight of that as a benefit; change what you need to change about your approach to maximize that benefit.
We should do that in all areas of our lives. Maintain a sense of play and impermanence that allows you to correct mistakes without dwelling on them. Take responsibility, keep things in perspective, and move on. If I reflect on my past it is clear that I have not kept things that light in the past.
Here's to hoping that I can take what I'm learning about running and carry it over into other areas of my life.