For weeks I stared at the stacks of books and scraps of paper with story ideas and quotes from funny friends and old bills and filled journals and coagulating dog fur crowding my study and thought on a loop about what a failure I am for not being a person who knows how to clean a house with any regularity. That organically led to the thought that I would be better at answering email and writing regularly and just about everything else were I to clean my study.
It might have been months and not weeks. Anyway, there was a lot of staring and a lot of diagnosing myself incapable of cleaning anything and of writing anything and generally doing anything of value.
And then today at 11:07 am I was ready to sit down and write when Chafe said, “Do you want to take the dogs for a walk?” and as a writer whose work no one but me is depending on of course I am ready to do anything that’s not the thing I most want to do, which is to write. But then Chafe said, “I have to finish this tiger I’m drawing and then I’ll be ready. How’s noon?” because he is someone who makes a living sometimes drawing tigers. Yes, he knows how fortunate he is. Yesterday he was in a lousy mood and I heard him mumble to himself, “I guess I can stop complaining about my job drawing a shark and a monkey.” It’s often like kindergarten over here, to be completely honest.
But so at this point of course I want to walk the dogs because it’s not writing things that are necessary but emotionally taxing but also now I have to wait for the tiger to be drawn so I have some time to kill that wouldn’t be enough time to get any real writing done, is what I tell myself anyway.
So I cleaned my study. It took 20 minutes.
Weeks upon weeks of self flagellation including but not limited to:
— fat slob
— undeserving of a study
— undeserving of this little house that I adore, that feels to me like a palace
— undeserving of a partner who helps support me by drawing tigers
— never going to complete a writing project again
— never going to contribute enough to the world to offset my deficits
— not a real adult
(I like typing them out because they are, on their face, ridiculous and it is helpful to name their ridiculousness in the times when I do recognize them as ridiculous.)
And then it took 20 minutes. OK the floor’s not swept and a lightbulb needs to be changed and the recycling needs to be taken out but the large majority of the study is cleanish enough and the storm in my brain has cleared and I am an adult person capable of doing things and offering the world value again, just like that.
There is no moral to this story. I do not know how to clean the study proactively rather than live through the weeks of self abuse. I am certain there are people who know how to do that and am almost as certain they could try to teach me how to do that and that ultimately I might still be a person who waits until the self harm mounds so high that some arbitrarily assigned wait to walk the dogs will tip it. It sounds like a lot of work that’s doomed to fail which is I guess how I would have described the cleaning and how I often look at the writing.
When friends tell me they have a hard time appreciating the art they generate, that they are often dissatisfied by outcomes, I say, “That’s what being creative is, always looking to improve upon what exists.” Yeah. What a crappy, bloviating idea to curse someone with. I know.
So maybe life is just a lot of work that is ultimately doomed to fail if we keep improving upon what exists, which would be a good thing, so that’s some sort of existentialist fatalist relief? Anyway, above is a picture of one of my favorite things in my study, an anatomical model of a shark* which I’ll write about very soon, just to keep you in suspense.
*drawing a shark was also part of Chafe’s work this week and here it is
Gray skies. Greening outside. Listening to Hiroshi Yoshimura.