Hi there. Today I am offering a brief insight into myself, as though my personal experience has any bearing on the much larger and far more significant issues I usually attempt to wade into. It’s not that I’m particularly interested in your getting to know me, nor that I am suffering from some panicked need to confess my sins (the term itself is relative, and therefore ultimately meaningless.) No. No. The motive behind this has a great deal more to do with a recent exhaustion–with a passing notion that I am overwhelmed.
I know many of you can relate to this (or at least we can frequently convince ourselves this is the case, holding whatever personal agendas or desires we have as absolute necessities)–but have you ever been so busy that you simply cannot get anything done? That is what it has been like lately–an overwhelming wave of small bullshit interfering with what I believe I need to do. Personal shit–all the interruptions and interference that finally constitute the bulk of our lives. And of course it all comes from family and society at large, and all of the sidetracked boredom that surrounds the definition of our professional careers. And in a moment of sheer vanity I will add that when a person’s career is as frankly elliptical as mine, it is often difficult for others to notice just how hard we are working. “Research,” no doubt, is often a simple distraction, putting off the real effort and looking to pretend that everything we are doing honestly matters. However–and this is especially true for those of us attempting to isolate a version of reality, we of the non-fiction guild–sometimes, in fact usually, research is the most important part of our job.
Let me offer an example of how we can get so sidetracked–and this literally happened to me over the past ten minutes:
My wife and children left for school (my wife is a teacher), traipsing outside into the dreary aftermath of an overnight rainstorm. I exhaled, scratched my dog on the head, and figured I should write the next section of Elsewhere Series 3 (briefly, my laxity over Elsewhere for the past nearly two weeks is one of the things I am referring to in the larger sense of “being so busy I am getting nothing done,” but that will become increasingly apparent.) The phone rang while I was looking for an introductory picture of Greenland. Wife:
Our daughter had forgotten her glasses and she was cold. She needed a sweatshirt. Fine. I raced upstairs to grab her things, rushing to get them to the bus stop before the bus arrives. I run to the door.
The phone rings again/ Wife:
“She needs her contacts too. And her sneakers. She has gym today.”
Now I will admit to being annoyed now. Running around in a frenzy first thing in the morning usually means I have a terrible day to look forward to. I huff and stomp around, and gather her additional things. While upstairs the phone rings again. In an open rage now I run down to answer it. It is my daughter:
“Dad, I need–” this, fellow parents, must be a familiar phrase, one which prefaces nearly anything a teenager has to say to you. I was in a frenzy, as I said, a berserker rage to get the fuck out the door and run back home and do my morning work before dedicating myself to the regular work I have let slide over the past week because I have been so goddamn busy (my parents were in from out of town; this required me to spend more time cleaning the house than I actually spent with them; plans needed to be made; my son’s baseball schedule needed to be maintained. I had to keep the children busy and my tense wife from exploding because my aged mother and father make her nervous)–this, plus a solemn promise I made to clean the disgusting basement of whatever small, stinking scum has coiled away in some out-of-the-way hiding place–a task destined to take hours. I barked at my daughter, “I know!” and hung up on her.
So I gathered the things and raced up to the bus stop, driving 40 mph up the two blocks to the end of the street. My daughter rushes over and then starts shouting at me that I forgot socks and that she needs socks and how is she supposed to go to gym class without socks and she needs them, she needs them, she needs them . . .
I snarled something profane and ripped the car back around and left it running outside the house and then slam/banged in, causing my dog to bark at me, the cat on the back porch shouting that he wants to be let back in, and a stomp stomp stomp, a stomp back down, out the door with a ball of socks in my hand. Vrooooom! Screech! “Here!” She yells something. I turn back around. Home. Home. Quiet. Just a moment of quiet . . .
Last night the subject of the biography I am writing called twice, attempting to get an explanation to a vague remark I made on his Facebook timeline that was directed more to his followers than himself. There was a slight manipulation of language in order to provoke a comment or two for a particle of public perception. It is always a joy to speak with him, and I genuinely love to work, but I was run down and burned out and desperately in need of some time to myself. The children were in bed. My wife had turned in. I had barely slept in days. I’d been scribbling in notebooks and working mostly on outlines and plot summaries. I wanted a moment of silence. It was pretty late at night and Game of Thrones was there waiting for me on DVR. I ignored the phone. I opted to get lost.
And yet now, as with every morning, the regular routine attempts to reassert itself. I work extremely hard at everything I do, with an exhaustive dedication that will probably lead me to a slightly early grave (coupled with a number of my other bad habits.) And I really wanted to write a new Elsewhere this morning. The research for the next piece is mostly done, waiting to be exploited. But no. No. Not today. Tomorrow. Always tomorrow. Let’s put work off until tomorrow. There is far too much work to be done until we can settle in, relax, and get back to working at our work.