The journey is the reward, the Miriam Toews edition
Sure, winning is great. But in my years doing competitive karate I was found of repeating that the journey itself is the reward.
These weren’t my original words. I am famous for a couple of pithy quotes, but this one was never among them. I didn’t care. Because next to the originator of a good quote is the person who’s able to quote it. That’s me, often.
The sentiment has stayed with me in my retirement from competitive martial arts. I do try to apply it to many aspects of my life, from vacuuming to character development because if something is true when you’re trying to score points on an adversary in a ring, it’s probably true when you’re struggling to be less angry with your children.
Or when you’re reading a challenging book.
Up until a few months ago I did not know who Miriam Toews was. I know, I know. Bad Canadian, etc.
I don’t remember how I heard about her, but it was probably a podcast. I listen to a lot of literary podcasts (favourites: New York Times book review podcast, Between the Covers and the delightful Plus on est de fous plus on lit) so it figures.
I picked up A Complicated Kindness at the library and devoured it... once I got past the first 50-odd pages or so. Yes, I almost gave up. I thought she took forever to get into the story and at first I didn’t really care about her characters. But I persevered and in the end thoroughly enjoyed the book.
More recently I read Women Talking, which is creating a fair bit of buzz, good for her. I was looking forward to reading it but once again I found the beginning hard to get into. Except this time it wasn’t the first 50-odd pages that were a bit of a slog for me, more like the first 150 pages. Out of just over 200 pages.
I am not sure why I persevered. I was tempted to put it down a bunch of times. But in the end, I’m glad I didn’t because suddenly, for no reason I can discern, I really want to know how the story ends.
And this made me reflect on Toews’ writing, how she’s able to pull you in very much in spite of yourself. And how sometimes the reward is indeed the journey.