Antici….pation

A few weeks ago I listened to TED talk about anticipation. A group of people were polled on their favorite and least favorite day of the weekend. Nearly everybody said Friday was their favorite day and Sunday was their least favorite. Their reasoning? What lay ahead. They were excited for the prospect of the weekend and dreading the work week. That makes sense, right? But you have to wonder why people didn’t say Saturday as the favorite. Saturday is when you’re in the thick of the weekend – you’re participating in the plans you made on Friday or earlier in the week. So why not enjoy that day the most?

I have such a hard time living in the moment. I’m constantly aware of what is to come. This makes excellent at multitasking and delegating, which is why I was a fucking awesome McDonald’s employee when I was 16. But it makes for a pretty mundane existence day to day. I feel like my life is a perpetual vacation on which I take so many photos without appreciating the things and people around me. I don’t like that. I envy people who are able to live in the moment without feeling obligated to prepare for the future.

Preparing for the future is part of being a responsible adult. You don’t spend money wildly because you have bills. You don’t drink heavily on weeknights because you have work in the morning. You try to eat less red meat because your family has a history of heart disease. I fear that people view living in the moment as a sign of irresponsibility since it conjures ideas of childhood and naiveté. But remember when you were a child and the only thing you cared about was the game of make believe you were in? You weren’t worried about the scenario not concluding in an hour when you were called in for dinner – you just played and enjoyed yourself. I’d like to pinpoint the time when that changed for me, when I began realizing that time meant something and that hours in a day had to be doled out according to priority.  I think if I were able to do that, I would be able to remember how to live in the moment.

I moved into a new apartment this weekend. I’ll be sharing the place with Carissa, a good friend since high school. I’ve been excited about the move since we saw the place. It’s not anything special – just a two bedroom place in Appleton, but we’ve made it really nice. I’m using this as an opportunity to revamp my life. A new place means a new start. I’ve started thinking about what sorts of things I intend to do here.

  1. At my new apartment, I will be a girl who runs. Or at least jogs. About twenty yards from my patio, there is a bike trail that runs through a park. Since my bike needs repairs, I decided to jog on the trail to see where it went. I only went for about a mile or two, but I felt like I was participating in my life, like I was taking advantage of my new neighborhood. And also burning some calories and toning my thighs.
  2. At my new apartment, I will be charming and beautiful and always organized. I have really good intentions of keeping my space neat, but whether that will happen remains to be seen. I’m pretty considerate when it comes to shared spaces, because I know that I hate cleaning up after somebody else, but my room is a different story. I just feel like that now that I’m an adult who is working full time, I have at least some obligation to keep my room somewhat clean.
  3. At my new apartment, I will meet my neighbors and appreciate their bird feeders. In my backyard, there is a small grove of trees surrounding a bird feeder. I’ve seen robins, cardinals, blue jays, doves, finches, and even a hummingbird. He introduced himself as John, and we had a short conversation about the apartment. He said his partner would be coming home soon, and that he was sure we would see each other around.
  4. At my new apartment, I will write outside whenever possible. Carissa bought a small patio set. It’s the perfect sized for my laptop, a cup of coffee or glass of wine, and a small snack. It faces the backyard with the birds, rabbits, and chipmunks. Even though I live in a complex, it still feels secluded because I’m not looking into the windows of the surrounding buildings.
  5. In my new apartment, I will read books. I will read actual books. Not Kindle books, but actual paper books. Most of my books were in storage before, so I wasn’t able to pull out a novel, sprawl on my bed and read for a couple hours. But now, I can. Now, my books are available and I have a queen sized upon that is basically begging to be read upon.

I love anticipation.

After a night of champagne

Last night, Bill and I had a date. Our dates basically consist of us sitting in front of our computers and talking like we usually do, except we call it a date. We’ve gotten dressed up and made dinner “together”. We’ve played games online (that time I learned that I have been playing checkers incorrectly for the last twenty years). Usually what differentiates the date nights from the daily videochats is that we have drinks.  We chose to drink champagne last night. Of course since we didn’t share a bottle, we ended up each drinking our own. Healthy choices!

I woke up groggy and forced myself to go into the office. Two or three readers were supposed to be there to start reading, but none of them decided to show up. Great work ethic! Anyway, I spent an hour opening a pile of mail, and realized a few things. First, poetry gets way more submissions than fiction does. Second, cover letters all look the same, and they’re pretty boring to read. In the last two years I’ve worked as a fiction editor, the only memorable cover letter was one that included a short bio. Under her credentials, she included writing post-it notes which she frequently lost, taming two puppies, and owning unimportant five-year old copies of the New York Times. I can’t remember if we ended up publishing her work or not, but I wanted to just publish the cover letter out of pure glee. It was more impressive than writers who print cover letters on Harvard stationary but seem to have no connection with the university other than having stolen a few sheets of paper. The final thing is that I just like seeing my name followed by the term “fiction editor”. Makes me feel important, though in the large scheme of things, I’m really not.

Anyway, from what I understand, Bill didn’t wake up till after three. By that time, I had taken a nap.

I decided to tell him about an essay I started writing last week, which is something I probably wouldn’t have done had I not had three flutes of champagne, especially since the essay was about him. What I hoped to illustrate with the essay was how drastically intimate our relationship had become – how after a year of being together, we no longer lived under the impression that either of us was a heavenly being without flaws. Time had sharpened the soft focus of a new relationship – our bodies sometimes produce surprising blemishes, and instead of passing them over in that blissful haze, we acknowledge them. It was an essay of early domesticated love. He said it sounded like a genius concept, and I couldn’t help but agree since it was my own idea.

The problem was that it focused on his blemish, not my own. I realized it was a way of distancing myself from the work. I don’t think that I made him look like a fool – and that obviously wasn’t the point. But as far as the essay went, we were the only two characters, and I certainly didn’t present myself as the joker of the two. What frustrates me is that I have an episode that would illustrate my point just as well, if not better, in which I am the one with the blemish that Bill tolerates. We had a discussion about my responsibility as a writer – I didn’t want to victimize or betray those to who I am closest. I realized I’m will to be self-deprecating in my head, but rarely on record. If I’m not willing to make myself look the fool, I certainly have no business doing it to the people I love.

I realized this after coming across David Sedaris’s essay “Old Faithful“. The betrayal business was something I was pondering since I heard “Repeat After Me” on the Carnegie Hall recording. [“Repeat After Me” is a stunning essay that will never leave my head, and if you haven’t heard it, you must. You can also read it on the transcript of the episode. I don’t care how you do it, just experience it.] This frustrated me for two reasons. First, Sedaris had already written an essay conveying the exact same topic I had hoped to illustrate. Second, Sedaris had been the one to reiterate the fact that I owe it to myself, my readers, and to Bill to put the focus on myself before I put it on anyone else. Not only is that just a more kind concept, but it’s more honest and will just make an all-around better essay.

Bill suggested I write to David Sedaris. Of course, I protested. He gave me several reasons why I should, and now I’m actually considering the idea. There’s really nothing to lose. I’m sure the most I’ll get back is a generic response letter, but it certainly can’t hurt anything. Maybe I’ll get some fantastic response with advice I’ll never forget. Or maybe he’ll write an essay about me and share the profits with me so I can buy a car that isn’t on its last leg. The possibilities are endless!

In other news, I organized my desk  and now have my three books to read sitting next to my computer in hopes they will beckon me with responsibility and anti-stupid when I’m wasting time on facebook.

The “Plan”

I went home after work last night continuing to feel sorry for myself. I blame it on this damn weather and my best friend moving 900 miles away. I think those are acceptable excuses to be down, no? They are. Anyway, after talking with Bill for a while (and being pathetically weepy for what feels like the 20th time this week), I blurted out an explanation for why I’ve been so down lately.

I’ll sum it up the best I can. Basically, I feel great and on top of my game when I have specific things I need to do. A schedule is good for me. I like when activities suck up chunks of my day, and as of late, I don’t really seem to care what those things are, as long as my day is eaten up. So I like having work to go to, which is why I work about 25 hours a week and I’m taking 17 credits. I can usually handle this load. The trouble comes when I have down time. So far this semester, my homework load has been pretty light. The reading I’m doing for my classes goes by quickly (Driftless by David Rhodes, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Candide), then I’m left to my own devices. This is when my mind gets active. I feel purposeless and then I want to relax with Bill. Trouble is that he’s 900 miles away and busier than I am. So then I’ll try another social outlet. The trouble comes later, when I find that I’ve accomplished nothing for myself. I haven’t read anything I want to read. I haven’t written anything I wanted to write. I just fill my days with activities to get by. It’s not a great feeling. I haven’t found a balance of social and personal time, and it’s surprisingly exhausting. I’m realizing that I have to take time for myself, for my projects and my goals.

So, I’m starting my own projects. I’m going to do research about freelance work. That will include reading the book that I mentioned yesterday, as well as hopefully finding and pursuing some freelance writing opportunities. November is coming up also. November is National Novel Writing Month (from here on, it will be abbreviated to NaNoWriMo). I am going to actually participate this year. The idea is to write 50,000 words in a single month. That averages to about 1,700 words a day, which is about 2-3 double-spaced pages. That is completely doable. When you think about it, that’s really only about 90 pages, which isn’t really even much of a novel, but it’s more than I’ve ever completed. To prepare for this, I’m going to start digging in some other reference books (thisthis, and this) I bought years ago and never bothered to finish reading because, as I’ve already established, I’m sort of a moron.

I also have a seminar paper to plan and read, so I will have plenty of things to occupy my time. There will no longer be any excuse for me to throw pity parties.