saturday (spring)

I had a post on food and cooking mostly put together, but sometime last week I stopped feeling it, so I moved it to the drafts folder for another Saturday. Instead, I moved outdoors into the chilly but sunny day, in search of spring. I read portions of the three books I’m currently reading. I planted myself in sun rays and closed my eyes and soaked it in. I walked and walked and walked, filtering through all of the things that are weighing on me in the moment, looking for new buds and tints of green.

I’m carrying so many things at the moment, like many of us do. The kinds of things that require appointments and meetings and discussions and slots of time in an already overflowing calendar. If I listed out all the major categories in my life, something major would fall under each one of them – individual, yet so interconnected with timing and direction and money (always), that it’s impossible to break them up into manageable pieces to mark, one-by-one, off the lists. Most are more analytical decisions to be made, but all touch an emotional base to some degree, which further complicates the matter.

But it’s more than that – it’s this overlay of tension and frustration and anger and grief that is so draining, and makes it feel like the season of winter has somehow divorced itself from the regular turn of the natural seasons themselves. What do those tender green shoots in the ground really matter in a world so divided and caustic and wedded to power? Can the sight of that first clump of daffodils ever take away the sting of the massacre of yet another group of people gathered in community prayer? How do we live in a world with both? How does that ever settle into our souls as normal and necessary?

I looked for signs of hopefulness in a chilly wind, under the bluest of skies, and they were there if you were looking for them. It just wasn’t enough today. The grief and despair and frustration is too much for daffodils just yet.

saturday (spring forward)

We’re doing all the things you are NOT supposed to do before the end of daylight savings time – that blessed day once a year when you spin the clock hands forward an hour and the cruelty of that early morning alarm becomes even more painful. M and E are out late together, and F and I stayed up to watch a movie – a long movie at that. And now it’s almost eleven, and I finally have a few free moments at the computer, but in my head the clock is tick-tick-ticking away. So much pressure.

It’s actually funny that the movie we chose to watch was Hugo. I’m not really a movie fan – they’re okay, but I get antsy sitting still for too long, especially at home. Which, if I might head off in a bit of a tangent, I’m starting to have real data to back up. I’m now in the possession of a tool that tracks my movement, and it’s very interesting to me. I have some days where I sit a lot at work, but for most of the rest of the day I move a lot. I find this curious, as I think of myself as someone who finds focusing in on a task really easy. Maybe those tasks just aren’t as sedentary as I thought they were. I mentioned last week that I spent the majority of my childhood with my nose in a book, so surely I sat a lot then. Not so much anymore, I guess.

When F proposed this evening’s entertainment I hesitated. I started to counter-offer with a game – we’ve been on a roll lately with family games, and F’s getting old enough to hang with us on most of them, which is much more fun. But I took a deep breath and reminded myself of the intention that I set for myself this year, and I said ‘yes’ – yes to opportunities presented to me that might not be my first choice, but then again, maybe they would be if I gave them half a chance.

did have a caveat – I warned her that if she selected some inane cartoon then I would likely balk at it, or sit through a few minutes, and then get up to finish the vacuuming or work on the travel itinerary some more. I suggested she look for a movie that began as a book first to ensure my attention. She was skeptical, but then settled for Hugo, and we loved it.

And if I can bring this tangent back to the beginning, the movie has so much about clocks and is set within a clock, so maybe it’s added an extra layer of thinking about time, and losing time, and gaining time, and more and less and younger and older time. I have time on the brain.

First, F was demonstrably ill last Saturday night – well, Sunday morning to be precise – from 2:23 am until 6:05 am. She threw up precisely ten times, each occurrence happening approximately twenty minutes after the last one. Just long enough to wipe her face, take a sip of water, moan a couple of times, crack a faint joke about the absurdity of repeated puking, and collapse into a fitful sleep again (all of us) before she was retching again. I had slept for at least five hours prior to waking up, and for another three hours after her stomach finally threw in the towel. But I was EXHAUSTED all week long following this interruption to our normal sleep schedule – so much so that I would go-go-go-go-go (see above reference to the movement tracker on my wrist), and then I could literally feel my body shutting down in protest every night around nine-thirty or ten. Like I was trying to walk through the thickest maple syrup. It was miserable.

How old am I? I texted M one afternoon, mid-yawn. Why am I still SO tired?

Second, there’s the impending birthday a few weeks away, and it never fails to send me into thoughts about aging and an assessment (and shifting) of methods to fight/embrace/accept/discourage/welcome it. All of the above – I’ve entered it. It sneaked up on me some time recently, and stuck this time. That’s probably worthy of some more reflection, and another post entirely.

Third, this winter. It’s endless. I feel as if I’m counting down the days to something that has no official start time. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, and one I don’t really enjoy. I love the seasons, and I honestly love winter – the quiet and the coolness and the unpredictability and the anticipation. But it feels as if we’ll never see spring again, and I’ve now logged over 300 laps at the gym in less than two weeks, and I was really zen about it at the start, but not this morning. I cursed under my breath the whole time, while the 39 degree rain beat down outside the windows around the track. The cursing made me tense, and the tension made me sore, and I know that I am pushing and pushing and pushing myself to fight time, or move time, or speed up time, or stop it? I’m not even sure.

Because, fourth, the girls. They are so big and so busy and need both so much and so little at the same time that it’s starting to feel like time is my enemy. I feel like I’m trying to cram so many things into them – but I can always think of more. There is so much they need to know. There is so little time. In two weeks we’ll be on our first college tour and I am so excited for this stage of planning and dreaming, but I feel the presence of time so acutely at the moment that its tautness is an irritant I can’t brush off or ignore.

It’s like this little clock in the lower right hand corner of my screen that says 11:24pm, but my mind has already translated it to read 12:24am, because the loss of that hour has already made me feel tired, and old, and tense, and hyper-aware. I must fill the hours because I want to feel them, and know them, and hold on to them just a little bit longer if I can.

saturday (reading)

There was a time (not long ago, hanging head) when I barely read at all. There was a time before that that I read all the time, starting long before kindergarten and stretching through the years into adulthood. I read so much that I got in trouble for it. Frequently. I read by the sliver of light from the hallway through the crack of the door, upside down in my bed to catch it on the page. I stuck books in my choir book (got in trouble), on my lap under the dinner table (more trouble), and I brought stacks of them to shove into my locker and rent to other seventh graders on Free Choice Fridays (I only got stopped from profiting from the endeavor – I was still allowed to hand out books to all the kids who couldn’t be bothered to remember to bring their own books from home.). I read all the time – quickly, efficiently, and with gusto.

I don’t know why I stopped, but I did. At some point I must have decided that I didn’t have time to read books anymore, and so I occasionally bought a book or borrowed a book, but I rarely cracked them open. I can’t even tell you how long the hiatus lasted – maybe it was a relatively short time in the girls’ early years, when I did in fact read – just mostly to them. I just vividly remember seeing a list of books that an acquaintance read THAT MONTH and the stack of titles was larger than I could remember reading over years. Who reads like this, I wondered? How do they work? And care for children? And go to meetings? And occasionally shower, or maybe sleep?

And after I got over feeling incredulous, I really had to revisit the absence of books in my life. I was purchasing them as gifts, and listening to reviews on NPR, and recommending titles to others, and visiting the children’s wing of the library weekly, and somehow it had just never occurred to me that I could still just sit with a book (outside of vacation) and read it? So I decided to change that, and I picked up right where I left off.

I’m still in awe of how many books people read – people I know who are busy with just as many things as I am. They are likely fast readers, but so am I. They probably get sleepy at night midway through their second chapter, as I almost always do. Some weeks I feel like I’m crawling through my current read, while my library holds expire and my nickel fines add up.

But I’m reading such dense work right now – deep and complicated and often difficult texts that require reading and re-reading passages, and sometimes just sitting with the words in silence for awhile before moving on. I tell myself to mix it up with some fast-moving easy reads, but I’ve opened some sort of door into books that start to fill in all the gaps that I grew up with – and I just can’t stop. It feels like there is so much that I need to know, and want to experience, and that’s the part that feels just like it did when I was a kid and that hidden book felt more important to me than all the other stuff around me.

My latest deep dive has been into Zadie Smith’s Feel Free – a collection of essays that initially felt so manageable in their length and subject matter – a 450 page tome already parceled into easily digested portions I could slide in here and there between the rest of the stuff that fills up my life these days. And then I started them, and was engulfed by them, and I’ve read and re-read them to the point that I’m no longer opening my email reminders from the library.

I read one of them, and (pretended to) underline two dozen different lines I wanted to email a friend immediately. I starred another one that I’d create book club around just to discuss it with a crowd. I read her essays on other literary works and I feel like I’m back in graduate school again, in that attic classroom I shared with other students with more bookish majors. I had a gap to fill in my schedule, and I jumped the architecture ship for this class where I was certain to be found out as an impostor. But I never was, and I read books and wrote papers and never missed a single lecture. It was heaven. 

So I’m taking my time on this one – I’m done, but still re-reading. I’ll return it to the library some time this week, and pay my fines willingly. And then I’ll jump into my next book, slow and steady, making up for lost time.