The holidays ate my brain. I’m back now. All I have left to go is New Year’s, and that’s my favorite one. It doesn’t feel like a “holiday.” New Year’s feels like a celebration of time itself, respect for its power. We don’t do that often enough in this culture. We’re always talking about how we don’t have time for this, or that, or the other thing. We have all these gadgets and gizmos designed to help us get stuff done faster, we focus on teaching kids good “time management” skills, (always have the image of someone trying to herd a gaggle of old-fashioned alarm clocks) we obsess over how we’re spending our time as if someday we’re all going to be asked to give an accounting of our days, and we better have made good choices.
“What will you do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver
The truth is, the only person who’s going to care what you do today is you. Well, you and Mary Oliver, maybe. A lot of writing books talk about the importance of walks, the importance of boredom, the importance of letting ideas come to you, of sitting and really puzzling over an idea or three until they come together. I bombard myself so thoroughly with outside noise (present company included although, blog, I love you) that those pieces of perfectly useful advice are usually laughable. There’s e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Ravelry, online journals of friends, blogs of strangers, so many opportunities to fill my brain with other things! Even worse, the things I should be doing…
I Should Be: (A short list*)
– writing a story
– keeping a paper journal
– writing a blog post
– working on the novel
– researching for the novel
– controlling myself from starting new stories just now
– revising something
– reading a “good book”
– reading a “fun book”
– reading the paper
– watching a movie
– catching up on that TV show I like
– tidying this mess of a place
– doing the laundry
– figuring out dinner
– running errands
– making lists
– keeping up with all the little Shoulds that crop up in a day
– seeing a friend I haven’t seen in a while
– boxing some stuff up to give away
– losing weight
– doing research
– volunteering for a cause I believe in
– looking for ways to make money with my art
– looking for ways to make money
– searching for a job
– deciding what I want to do with my life
– thinking deep thoughts
– being brilliant
And somehow, I should do all of this today, or I am an utter failure. A frowny-face on the Good Behavior Chart stuck up on the front of the Refrigerator of Life, looking vainly at the gold and silver stars all the other kids got. (Because of course I think everyone else is better at this than I am, oh how I make myself laugh.)
Nothing on the list above is insurmountable. Shoulds aren’t necessarily bad. Like jealousy and lists on the internet, Shoulds just mirror what we want, so that we can see it clearly. But Shoulds are insidious. Even if I’m doing one thing on my list of Shoulds, I’m not doing any of the others at that moment. I struggle with this all the time, (there’s that time-word again!) the physical inability to be in two places at once. Some of these activities are easily combined. I can write in my head while I do the laundry, and then go run and transcribe some thoughts when I finish. But mostly, I need mental space to do a lot of these things, and many of them don’t combine so easy.
We all have our own Shoulds. I, for one, would like to release myself from their tyranny. To stop making the things I love into mere boxes to check as I try to justify what I’m doing with my life. Join me, and together we will rule the galaxy! (At least, we should…)
So in celebration of time this coming year, I will do my best to enjoy engaging in its passing, no matter what I’m doing. I only get this time once. I am determined to make the best of it, even (or perhaps especially) when I’m sitting, doing nothing, staring up at the sky.
“Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” – Shel Silverstein
In the end, no one really cares what I do but me. I’ll live my life, as well as I can, within the constraints and possibilities offered by each day. So, off I go into the wild blue yonder. First, though, I think I should eat something and put a book in my bag. In case there are queues in the wild blue yonder.
*I edited this post half a dozen times so far to add items to the list.