Today is the last Sunday in spring 2013. Next week will be summer. Most of the country is already submerged in its gibbous heat, the air all volume and weight that pull out kid time to million year stretches. In the Pacific Northwest spring is still uncommitted: a week of bell-clear eighties and then a week of the drizzle everyone expects. When the cat wants breakfast at 5:30 I stumble down and feed him to light brighter than 10am December. I should stay up–I always tell myself this–but I never do. Now it’s 9:30 and I wonder what I could’ve done with four hours.
Self-help books have a consistent feature: our scripts repeat, unhelpfully. How good it’s felt, those handful of times I got up early and stayed up. It didn’t matter if I went for a walk or had a slower breakfast–I was up and alive. Everyone else I know works harder, longer, has kids, commitments–they luxuriate in extra sleep, even with lunchtime-seeming sun. I feel I’ve broken a rule.
There is always something you can be doing. An old boss told me this, in my video days. We were waiting for talent to get set, and I stood in the studio shadows with my arms crossed, waiting. He had a kit cart he had made himself–full of gels, batteries, microphones, every spare bit of wire and handy tool. The drawers slid with the giving roughness of finely-sanded wood, and he pulled out the drawer of cables. See? Look at this. Why is this like this, who put this in here. I was still getting to know him, but didn’t take it as a demerit, though my chest constricted a little. Working for him I had bubbles and rooms of great confidence, then the larger world of unknowns to get wrong. I coiled the cables properly while the director and talent had their passive-aggressive argument. Fifteen years ago I had greater confidence. I was still doing something, and going to do something, whatever it was.
5:30 this morning I am awake, but go back to bed. This is a choice, the self-help books non-judgmentally explain, but I feel scolding in their voices. I still have so many things to do. I’ve been confused the last few months what they are.
I friend counseled to work on the book, and after a month break I’ve worked on it every day but Tuesday. On Monday I mailed my dad a father’s day card; on Thursday he calls to see how I’m doing, says he got it; it’s a short call. Wednesday my therapist shows none of the palpable alarm of our previous sessions. Thursday traffic is terrible and I stay at work in the little room, missing class, missing a gathering of old workmates. You sound better people say when they talk on the phone. It’s strong enough to register on the inside.
But. The self-help books have the same disdain for but as they do for should. I should have gotten up today, but I didn’t, even with my alarms helpfully labeled Don’t ruminate! Get up and live! Last week a friend says she’s giving up should. She explains: it’s a cop-out. Either do it or don’t. I don’t make the natural allusion to Yoda.
What is this post about? I worked on the book, and that’s something, the week rising up to Saturday. Now it’s Sunday and I feel something else. Opening that bedroom shade to get myself up, I feel a confusion of worlds: fifteen years ago in a dark studio at last in a dream job, the overcast Monday morning when a friend had enough of my crazy marriage, the bleak fear of my early thirties, the turnaround–in fits and starts–of the last five years.
Self-care, the professionals say. Go easy on yourself. I am not sure how to do that. It doesn’t feel like getting anything done.