There was an article in last Sunday's New York Times about "living in filth". It was making two points. One is that our houses are far less clean than in our grandmother's day. We're talking middle class here, houses like the one Judy Garland (Esther) lived in in the movie "Meet Me in St. Louis". Two is that men, in spite of all the hoo-hah and the claim that they're shouldering some of the burden, don't. Women, whether working outside the home or not, and most of them are, still do the drudge's share of the "shitwork" as Gloria Steinem called it. So they do less. So our houses are dirtier than they were. It used to bother me, all the things I had to keep clean to be considered a good "home-maker". Good Housekeeping magazine had a regular column on how to clean and take care of everything; Emily, I think her name was, Taylor and her husband, Henry, who showed how to do it and made you feel guilty. That was before Martha Stewart built an empire based on fussiness, perfection and guilt. And that was in the interim years before nannies and live-in housekeepers for the rich only became more common aids, and making do with cleaning ladies for the rest of us, when the stay-at-home mother did volunteer work and used her college degree to give her children an enriched upbringing. (??!!) . In my day, a cleaning lady charged $5 plus transportation (streeetcars in Winnipeg), and a nice lunch, for a 9 to 5 day of cleaning. I almost lost a friend who had the same cleaning lady, because the woman used to tell my friend that my lunches were nicer than hers. Men have had great fun over the years mocking women who clean up before the cleaning lady comes. Well, yes, of course, but not too much. The trick was, you had to make the cleaner believe you were incompetent and couldn't survive without her. Not hard, but I didn't like them patronizing me. Even lately, my current helper saw me doing some filing (a never-ending task) and said, "Is good you have some pass-time." No one understands what writers do. Anyway, I do have help now. Friends assured me on my 80th birthday that even though I lived alone and wasn't dirty, I was, after all, 80 years old and could use some help. Guilt free. I keep the kitchen and the bathroom clean for hygiene's sake but I always hated dusting. So Maria comes once a month,shovels me out and dusts me off. She just arrived. She doesn't know what a blog is. Sometimes I wish I didn't.
Today was busy and I got caught up with stuff. Now it's so close to tomorrow that I'll take the steam out of tomorrow morning's blog if I write today's blog now. Timing is everything. Á bientôt. Oh, but one thing. I discovered by chance as I was entering the date on a couple of documents that today was 11/12/13. That's neat.
Everyone is worried about the invasion of their privacy, though they invite it constantly. I think it must be a secret dream of most people under 35 to "go viral", as they say. You know - a million hits on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube, whatever. Well, if you're worried about privacy and you want to be alone, albeit in a big city like Toronto, then ride the subway. I gave up my car almost 4 years ago now, before they took it away from me. I still had my marbles and have most of them now, give or take the odd fumbling for the names of people I've known all my life. With the women I usually come up with their maiden names, to everyone's shock, including mine. Where did that come from? It's true what they say about long-term memory. It's like mould in a Petrie dish and it keeps growing. Believe it or not, because it sounds fatuous and idealistic, but I gave up my car as an ecological statement in an attempt to reduce my footprint on the planet. I discovered to my great satisfaction after the fact, that I had more ready money than I'd had. Not surprising because owning and operating a car costs between $7000 and $10,000 a year now. (Somehow, I keep spending the money and I keep tip-toeing on the edge of overdraft.) The point is, and I do have one, that I ride the subway and I watch the other passengers, and listen, too, if it's not too crowded and noisy. Well, I have lots to comment on that but I'll save that for other blogs. I have digressed enough. My point, as I say, today, is that if you want to be anonymous and invisible, take a ride on the subway. Not only that. No one sees you and no one cares about you. Well, that's okay. Not many people do. But as a writer, I look at these subterranean people and I wonder who among them would be a potential audience/consumer of my work? No one, that's who. I am not only invisible, I am inaudible, or illegible, and certainly irrelevant. I am an alien on this planet, at least in the subway. That's enough for today. I have to assimilate that.
No, it's not a sunset depression. It's my Seasonal Affective Disorder. I guess it took longer to kick in this year because of all the Saskatchewan sunshine I basked in for the month of October. Well, it's faded now. Coming up to the shortest day of the year and the sky in Toronto is pretty bleak. I guess I could stand the bleakness outside if I weren't so bleak inside, also inert and lethargic. Everything is a struggle. Funny thing is, the darkness didn't affect me like this the Christmas I spent in Iceland. It felt Dickensian there, although, of course there was electric light and all the facilities. I had decided I wanted to experience the shortest day in the year in Iceland. I went with my cousins who had great contacts - and more relatives than I had because they and their families never married outside of the blood line. My mother was born in Canada, of course, but she was the first of her family to marry outside of the genetic line and her children (my brother and I) followed suit. Anyway, I felt quite at home in the darkness there. I shopped in Reykjavik on the 20th of December. At 9 a.m. it was still dark and all the shops had little kerosene "bombs" on the street at their doors, putting light at our feet in addition to the Christmas lights overhead. Did you know that all the cemeteries in Iceland are wired for light. Each grave has a tiny wooden cross (I admit, it's pretty partisan), lighted only for the Christmas season. It's comforting up close, no matter what your belief or denomination, and it's beautiful from afar. I had a glow inside me. We went to Akureyri for Christmas, but we were in Brekke, a couple of fjords over, for the shortest day, and I spent the evening in a sod house, almost the only one extant now and certainly the best maintained - as a museum. I was actually researching the next book I was writing (LETTERS TO ICELANDERS: EXPLORING THE NORTHERN SOUL). It was cold. It wouldn't have been so cold when the place was inhabited, because of body heat, both human and animal. Then, in Hofsos, we went to brunch with cousins' cousins. I washed the dishes while the others spoke Icelandic, which I do not. We came out about 12:30, midday, as the sun was rising. We went with another cousin to his place overlooking a fjord, and drank coffee while we watched the sun set, about 1:30. And I didn't feel sad. I miss my fireplace. That's not all I miss but all I can admit to. Light a candle for me. Keep the darkness at bay.
Years ago I wrote and broadcast a happy homily a day- a precursor of the daily blog. That's when I developed a 90-second mind. I think I have a shorter attention span now, and its a good thing because other people have, too. Still, I managed to come up with an idea a day, enough to tap-dance for about 900 words. I guess that's when I started squirrelling away my bits and pieces. (Swift recollection of Emily Carr's book, Hundreds and Thousands, aptly named.) One of my little meditations was about sunset depression. It came to mind this week. Sunset depression is the downer one experiences after days of relentless pleasure. I read of it happening to vacationers on yachts exploring the beauty of the Caribbean or South Seas or somewhere. They were breathless, awestruck, thrilled, and yes, happy, to see the glorious sunsets over the ocean every evening. That is to say, the first few were soul-satisfying. But the beauty went on and on and boredom set in. Oh, yeah, look, another glorious sky. Well, there's another one. That sure is nice. Uh huh. Got anything new? And so it goes, went. Surrounded by, drenched in, exposed to, satiated with, all that inexorable loveliness, people couldn't take it and got depressed and longed for change. . I suppose that's the reason for the constant search for new experiences and discoveries, to keep boredom at bay. I guess that's the reason people look forward to January. No sunsets in January, only bills. Something to look forward to?
Hoarding is in, sort of. Now the lucrative subject of reality TV and also a career opportunity for professional organizers who help others turn their personal chaos into soul-satisfying order, hoarding, nonetheless, is considered to be anathema, in short, a no-no. One of the causes (I say just one, because I can think of others, right off), is procrastination, which I have been fooling around with all my life. Procrastination, of course, affects mending and dusting and phoning for appointments and all the things you don't feel like doing. But with other activities, I should say non-activities, procrastination leads to accumulation by default which leads to collections not only of detritus and debris but also of "valuable" junk. Value is in the eye of the collector. I knew someone who collected postcards and who eventually made his acquisition pay off with the publication of a coffee table book of them.
Remember that old joke: "My psychiatrist thinks I'm crazy because I like pancakes." "That's not crazy, I like pancakes, too." "You do? You must come home with me to see mine. I have a whole trunk full of them" Some things are more collectable than others. One must learn to identify differences Discrimination, not procrastination, is the key.
Well, so ---blogs. I have just spent a half hour reading the contents of a folder labelled Blogs. It's full of clippings, columns, tear sheets and squibs.
(Squib: a small firework that burns with a hissing sound before exploding; a short piece of satirical writing; a short news item or filler in a newspaper - that's the meaning I want.)
This folder, I fear, is the first of many that will follow, bits and pieces of randomly selected ideas, facts, fancies, notions and what-have-yous that may never develop into a blog of my own, but that will clutter up my filing cabinet and my mind in the years to come. You got it: it's an embryonic dumpster. At least it doesn't smell.
Yesterday tomorrow came too soon so I missed it, not the day but the Blog. A friend of mine told me about ordering a cab to get to the airport to catch a flight to somewhere - details are vague except for the punch line. The cabbie was late picking them up and they ran into traffic so he chose an unfamiliar route and got semi-lost, and seconds were ticking too fast because they were on their way to being late for the plane. The cabbie was muttering to himself but as he got more and more flustered and apologetic, he started saying out loud, "It's not my fault, it's not my fault, IT'S NOT MY FAULT!! They would have missed the plane but the flight was delayed by some act of Someone. It wasn't the airline's fault, either. Ai, me and ah, well. So, you see, yesterday was not my fault. It proceeded very efficiently without me, and I tried to catch up to it, and here I am and it's today already. I think it was Mark Twain who said "never put off till tomorrow what you can put off until the day after." So here I am and today will go on, too. And so will I. And you. Anon, anon.
This is what happens when you, that is, I, procrastinate: today is almost gone and I'm just getting to my blog for the day. Procrastination happens when you get too busy doing other things, perhaps not useless, irrelevant things, just things that took precedent, whether by choice or by necessity. I'm certainly not going to tell you what I did today; that's for my diary to know. I'm not going to castigate the fact that I procrastinate (couldn't resist that internal rhyme) , because sometimes the act - no, it's not an act because it's inaction - sometimes, then, the neglect of a prescribed or assigned activity can provide relief or even lead to innovative achievement. When I moved from Stratford to Toronto, lots of boxes didn't get unpacked right away. That means I didn't unpack them. Months, almost a year later, I found a cardboard box on a high shelf in a closet and opened it, wondering about the contents. It was clothes that needed mending and though some of them still possibly fit the people who used to wear them, they were either out of season or too tacky to revive. What a relief! Coupons provide a similar pleasure when you examine them and see that the expiry date has passed and you can toss them with a clear conscience. I do not procrastinate about food because, as I've said before, I'm the Leftover Queen. I never let food go mouldy or sour or stale or dried out. And as a writer I have always prided myself on never missing a deadline. Procrastination is a no-no there. That's not to say that one doesn't often wait till the penultimate moment to complete an assignment. Don't knock last minute inspiration, though. One could call it productive procrastination. Someone I never heard of (I looked it up) called procrastination the thief of time. I guess it depends on what alternative use you've made of the time you've stolen from. Or not. I can't sew and I hate sewing, or maybe I can't sew because I hate sewing . Anyway, my line is that if I lose a button off a garment I have to throw it away -- well, sometimes not quite so drastic as to discard it, but if decency has not been threatened, then I keep on wearing it buttonless. Know what? It's now tomorrow so I can put this off until the day after.
Soon I think maybe I will make a list of blog subjects, a list of assignments to keep me going. Off the top now, have you noticed that your computer puts words in your - not, not your mouth, - in your copy? I wrote keep without the k, and before I finished, smart-ass here thought I wanted to say eel. Wrong. I have a friend who wanted to write Pringles, the classy curved potato chip you can't stop eating, but the computer wrote pregnant. You can't get pregnant from eating Pringles. Even I know that. Then there's that classic typo, and this was in the days before know-it-all computers, the one by which the woman wanted pubic relations. Typos and errors often lead to discoveries you might not have made yourself. I think that's how I discovered hidden potent meanings in run of the mill end (sic) phrases. Hand-in-glove becomes handing love, for example, and is useful for a run-on line in poetry. I started collecting these double meanings (not double-entendres) and I have little scribbles here and there as I have stumbled on them. Oh, dear, the bits of paper one collects. Joan Didion compares this gathering of little bitts and thoughts and ideas to a ball of string. No single piece is worth much but you save it and wind it round - what? - a starter bead? (like the irritating bit in an oyster), in the hopes that it will develop into a pearl. Or maybe just a large ball of string. That's the chief hazard writers are prey to, the hazard of hoarding paper . We are incapable of throwing away a piece of paper with some writing on it, even a grocery list. That of course reminds me of two great grocery lists. I read that Florence Nightingale never threw anything away and social historians are delighted to study her grocery list. And the grocery list in "Canticle of Leibowitz" (a wonderful novel by Walter Miller), found near a destroyed bomb shelter, becomes the icon of an illuminated manuscript: dill pickles and pastrami immortalized! (You have to read the book.) What next?
Today is almost over, just a few hours before I have to write tomorrow's blog. So what's for today? Well, I'm trying to finish my Christmas messages and trying not to forget anyone, also deciding who's naughty and nice - that is, who falls off my list. Used to be no one did. I stuck like Velcro, loyal like the iconic burr on the sheep dog's back. And I got to thinking, as I do more and more often: why doesn't anyone feel that responsible to me? Why am I always the one to reach out, to keep in touch, to remember to call or send a note or whatever? Why? Once, when I moved (this was years ago before I started questioning), I was delayed before I could send out my contact information to "friends". I use the quotation marks on purpose. It took me a while to inform people because I had a couple of assignments that took precedent. And then I noticed that no one had made the effort to reach me. It was not that hard. There's always mail forwarding, and family, that might have given them a lead. So then I got stubborn. I did not send out new addresses and numbers and waited. Know what? I lost several friends that way, people from whom I have never heard since - and that was almost 30 years ago. I met one of them a couple of days ago, at a luncheon. You go that long out of touch, you lose the currency of communication , let alone friendship. It gives one pause. Tomorrow - so soon - I'll try to hit a brighter note.
Someone I used to know quite well asked me yesterday why I'm blogging. HIs question made me remember that he never had a word of praise or encouragement; he always had suggestions for correction or improvement or he would question the value of my actions or the validity of my decisions. He still does. I don't go for self-help much but I recommend to you, and to myself, to avoid such "helpful" commentators. They are nay-sayers and they're not helpful at all. You don't need to have your self-confidence under-mined before you even begin. Now, having said that, WHY AM I BLOGGING? It is a good question. I certainly don't need it to sort out my days. I have my Day-Timer for that. And I don't need it for assimilation, that is, for taking in, sorting out, and understanding the day's or week's events. I have my diary for that. It keeps me sane. I call it my paper shrink. I guess a blog is useful as a writing exercise, but I receive requests from others for that:
"Would you remind signing this petition and give your reasons."
"Please write a letter to this or that company and recommend me, or sponsor me, and/or give your reasons for your requests."
"Please fill out this form and complete our survey, with your comments."
"Please take the minutes of this meeting."
"Please submit a report."
If you can put two words together, you get asked to put them together, for someone else, for a good cause, for free. So why a blog? Well, why not? It's gratuitous. It's your choice. No one's asking you, no one's forcing you; it's your call. You can blather, if you want. You can let off steam. You can play. You can just hang around words and see what they say. That's what writers do. I'm going to swim now. Why? Because I want to.
This blog is taking over my life. I have to put it in its place. I have too many things to think about and I can't afford to spend too much time blogging. Not right now, not at Christmas, not in the middle of tweaking my first draft. I go along each day, wondering as I wander, maundering as I meander, and Blog is always with me, just over my left shoulder, nagging and commenting. So whose fault is that? Mine. I must stop. I said, STOP.
It's hard to be a good writer and a good person. As long as one is a mechanic with words and the pen/pencil/typewriter/computer remains a mere tool, having nothing to do with the material It produces, one is is safe and immune to the disease of envy. In the past, writers were called scribblers and often referred to themselves as such. Is that a dim, distant, forgetful or forgiving past:? Caught up with the creation, production and distribution of one's work, one can (almost) forget worrying about the reception it gets. These days it's hard not to, worry, that is. It's the season of awards and rewards and for a few writers it's a comfortable, not to say blissful, time of being able to afford to live, that is, to pay one's bills, buy a few new clothes, and maybe a new computer, or is that too much to hope for? The audience at awards ceremonies comprise the members of the juries, the fund-raisers and administrators (far better paid than the writers), the reviewers and critics (there's a difference), the rich groupies who contribute the award money, and the writers. These literary events used to be semiprivate but have gone public though not viral, influenced by the Oscars, the Golden Globes and the Tonys, and the GeeGees, Gillers, Mann Bookers, as well as the Obies, Jessies, Junos, Genies and Geminis, and all the Idol and Reality shows. Being a Survivor, that is, a writer with a few connections I am usually invited to most of the local occasions at which we all smile and applaud and congratulate the winners. I don't know if other writers feel this way but I am completely humbled. I smile and smile and make nice but it gets a little harder every year. No, that's not true. It was actually easier this year because I am so old. I am out of the competition, as if there was ever any question of competing Not only am I invisible but I am also disposable, forgettable and insignificant. As time goes on, I can afford to be generous because none of it has anything to do with me. I still believe in writers and writing. I declare with Voltaire (1694-1778, French writer, historian philosopher, wit), all writers' right to write, though I may not agree with what they say. As the years go by there are more and more fresh writers ready to kill or be killed (like The Hunger Games) and I know fewer and fewer of them, so it is easy to be generous and affable. I think of what Gore Vidal (1925-2012, American writer, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, essayist, wit)) said, "Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies." So what if they're not friends, the new crop? It's easier. Perhaps it's only friends who can be rivals, or even enemies? I think of Clive James (1939, still alive as far as I know, Australian writer, poet, broadcaster, critic, memoirist, wit) who summed it up for me, this niggling worm inside:
The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I rejoice.
I missed yesterday's blog by about 4 hours . I was too tired to write it last night and now it's this morning and another day. I've been awake for about half an hour with my tea before I swim and I've been going over blog subjects in my mind twirling them about and trying to choose one to focus on, thinking again of people in other centuries who lived and died within 8 miles of where they were born and who didn't meet as many people in a year or five as we meet in a day, and that must have been quite nice, at times. But of course we don't know the ones we see, meet, do we? Or don't we? I spent two hours in a dentist's chair yesterday afternoon (that's why I was too tired to write last night), and I learned a fair bit about my dentist and his assistant, the one who kept trying to waterboard me while he worked a drill that sounded like a whining opera star (soprano) frustrated because she couldn't hurt me because I was frozen. The assistant is from the Philippines and she has two brothers there but they were way out of the disaster area. She left in the 1980s when her sons were 3 and 5 and who cares where her &*##*# husband is, on his third wife now and piss on him (she didn't say that but that's what she meant) . She has grandchildren now and the oldest two are girls, 15 years old (cousins, I gather), who want Victoria's Secret for Christmas, and wear thongs - not sandals as thongs used to be in my day, but underwear. (How can they stand it having a thong in their crack?) Both girls are beautiful and both sing and one of them is performing in movies already. I looked at pictures of them on an iPhone. I wasn't wearing glasses but I made appreciative noises. All this I learned while something was setting in my mouth and the dentist was out of the room. But I learned things about him, too: he is 41 (I figured that out because he said he was five years younger than his brother who is 46), and he has lost 31 pounds in the last 3 months with the help of a nutritionist (who hasn't yet taught him how to pronounce quinoa) and a trainer, and he drinks a glass of Silk before bed because it helps him sleep and it has only 40 calories (It has 60, I corrected him, when my mouth was free). His brother weighs 450 pounds, no exaggeration, and won't take any advice about his lethal habits. (I use the word lethal; he didn't.) That, and more, is what I learned during a few minutes when the three of us were not occupied with my mouth and the contents thereof. In the morning I was at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) to see the new Guggenheim exhibition and I talked to people there, too. In these encounters my mouth was free so I talked: about movies set in the Guggenheim (I could think of two); about Klein bottles and Moebius Strips and tesseracts (suggested by a sculpture of a bottle - what might have been a bottle; about David Bowie, the other current exhibit about to close in an extended three days. I went to that one last week and concluded what I already knew, that I'm too old for David Bowie. I don't mind. I can't absorb David Bowie now, though I did like his workbooks. He really planned what he was doing, using methodical and not cluster thinking. Well, I've gone past my pool time, so I have to stop now. The world is too much with me and I have miles to go before I sleep.
SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, is very real. I didn't fully appreciate the cause of mine until this fall when I spent the month of October in Eastend, Saskatchewan. I grew up in Winnipeg. Everyone talks about Winnipeg winters (I hate the derogatory term "Winterpeg"), but no one remembers anything but the cold. Most of them, whoever they are, haven't even been there. They're just nodding to a stereotype. Let's talk about Winnipeg sunshine instead. I fear it was the lack of it that triggered my mother's death. We bought a studio apartment for her just down the hall from my place but she lived there only 5 months. Toronto is very bleak in the winter. I really think my mother missed the sunshine. Well, so do I, and I didn't realize how much until now, until October, that is, when I walked every day for a month under a vast bowl of blue sky with that brilliant prairie sunshine pouring out of it, and I stored it up like a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter. Now, less than a month before the shortest day of the year, I am blearily starting to droop and mope. By January, when the days start getting longer, I will begin to brighten up. I wonder if my love of the light is the reason I love fireplaces so much, as I burn fossil fuel powered initially by the sun Too scientific for me. For several years a psychiatrist friend lent me a DayLight, a portable lamp about the size of a make-up mirror, that i sat and read in front of for half an hour before 9 o'clock every morning, from November to March. It helped, until my cataract lenses clouded over and I had to have them scraped. (ugh) Perhaps, a friend suggested, they had been blasted by the light. So this year I didn't use it. But this year I went to Saskatchewan, so I was okay. What will I do next year? I'm not the only one, of course. The Festival of Light, however and wherever it is celebrated, is people's response to the darkness over the centuries. We all light real or metaphorical candles to keep the darkness at bay. May the light shine upon you!
I was out of it yesterday, not only with the Sunday NYT but also with a wrenched arm and shoulder. Couldn't swim, though I tried but it hurt too much. Never got dressed. I did do some work. Have to justify my existence each day, after all. But no blog. You don't have to know all this, nor do you care. Writers are so arrogant. They think what they do each day matters. In addition to being a marvellous poet and arguably the best metricist of the 20th century, W.H. Auden was a witty, often profound, essayist. In one piece he was considering social workers and he wrote a great line I've never forgotten. "Social workers," Auden said, " say, 'We are put here on earth to help others. What others are here for, we don't know." I think that's true of writers' attitudes, too. I know what I'm here for - which is why I feel it so strongly when I don't do as much as I should do each day. That way of thinking, I fear, makes me very hard to live with, so I guess it's a good thing I don't live with anyone. I have to keep reminding myself that other people need recognition, too. That's why I keep taking soup and goodies to neighbours and try to remember birthdays and give jollies. Jollies was my father's word for little prezzies. A jolly is not really a present, it's just a little something to jolly life along. We all need jollies. Me too. I'm running low on power now. A bientôt.
Here's a couple more words I bet you don't pronounce correctly: patina and flaccid. And that's all I have to say about that.
I have a sore arm (I was doing wall push-ups and pushed too hard), so I'm giving it a rest from swimming because it hurt. My father was a doctor and when people came to him and said "Doc, I can't lift my arm higher than this," he'd say," Well, don't." Excellent advice. Pain, he explained, is a limiting factor and by limiting your movements it enables you to heal. It's a nice excuse to scunge. That was a verb my father used to describe the inactivity of a person who lounged around in bed too long, in his estimation. I looked it up; it's a noun, referring to a not-very-nice person. I like the verb better. While I'm at it, here's another verb I like: guddle (I had to persuade SpelChek to accept it). It's what bears do fishing with their paws. I used it when I had 5/8 of my stomach removed. I said the surgeon guddled in my insides. There goes SpelChek again. And then there's hurple. As I understand it, it's the kind of movement an arthritic old woman makes when she's in a hurry. The poor old dictionary in my computer can't cope with words like that. I have Mrs. Byrne's dictionary of obsolete words. I think they're in there. But I'm scunging in bed right now and I don't feel like getting up to guddle in a dictionary. And that's all I have to say about that.
It's a busy, guilty time of year. In addition to procrastinating about your writing, or whatever you have to do, you have to start thinking about all the people you must greet seasonally. I think we send season's greetings for several reasons. One, you have to assure everyone that you are still here, and hope they are the same. The older you get, the more necessary this is. Gradually over the years your recipient list shrinks and you have to keep it up to date. Two, you must write people you've been meaning to get in touch with for at least a year and you make wild promises like "next year, for sure". There is a sub-category in this item, that being the person or persons you met on a trip/vacation in the past year with whom you expressed undying friendship and another promise to keep in touch. (I'll have to go into a tangential description of what happens in these cases at another time.) Three, it's a good time to sum up your achievements, if any, and those of your children, if any, every one of them a genius, if any. Four, if you do that, you can expunge your guilt for another year, especially if you get in first. SOW, that's when I start wondering why other people don't feel guilty about me, why they don't try to keep in touch with me, why they don't make the first move. Maybe they don't feel as guilty as I do but they should feel guiltier, shouldn't they? Oh dear. The fact is that greeting card lists are fraught with emotion, and you can never start dealing with therm, too soon. (That's why I write generic letters now, every month or so.) Also, there's Canada Post to worry about. Last year, for the first time in several years, I didn't go to Boston for Christmas to spend it with my daughter and her family. I send them a large (for me, pretty large) amount of money. I sent it in US dollars in a money order, Express Post, early , before the Christmas rush. It didn't get there. I was assured it would, not to worry. After a few weeks I cashed in the money order and put it back in the bank, costing me the US exchange and a service fee, but the substantial amount returned to me. In the meantime, I kept on tracking, nagging, in fact, trying to find out what had happened and where that Express Post was. Just before Easter, I had an acknowledgement that the letter was, indeed, lost, and I was given reimbursement for the cost of the postage - about $15. So I went to Boston for Easter and delivered the money in person. Good excuse for a trip?
Not only is it tomorrow but it's almost over. Again, no blog before I swam and then busy, busy, busy. Does anyone remember Dorothea Brande? Well, me neither, I mean not in person. She was born in 1893, died in 1948, and John Gardner, the novelist, drew her to my attention. I haven't read his novels.There aren't many of them because he died prematurely - car accident, I think. Anyway, I have his excellent books on writing: THE ART OF FICTION; ON BECOMING A NOVELIST; ON MORAL FICTION. Actually, I see she's not in the index of his books, but he wrote the foreword to a new edition of her book, BECOMING A WRITER (J.P. Tarcher, Inc. Los Angeles, 1981), so I must have heard of it elsewhere. I checked Amazon and she's still in print, the 1981 edition, plus a paperback published in 2002. Oh, she was ahead of her time. She was into meditation, never used the initials TM, but that's what it was, and a strong devotee of "harnessing the unconscious", as she called it in one chapter (5), and of writing on demand, which I do because of her, but haven't yet applied it to my blogs, not enough. Simply, she tells you to get up a little earlier in the morning (much earlier and I wouldn't go to bed), and go to paper/computer as fast as you can. Don't do anything else. Just do it. Catch the alpha waves before they subside. Just do it. I'm going to re-read the book right now. It's mine, it's all marked up. I'll be back tomorrow.
It takes a lot of discipline to be disciplined. It isn't as if it were automatic; it's not, at least, not for me. Just because I know something is good for me, or I have a deadline, or I made a promise, when my action, in other words, is mandatory and unavoidable, I still have trouble getting down to it. Or up, as the case may be. Of course, right now I'm referring to my blog, my inexorable daily blog that I have missed for two days. What was I thinking? What was I doing? It wasn't only that I was tired or busy. I am, like most people, always tired or busy. I think it was timing. The ideal time for me to write my blog is first thing in the morning, before I swim. If I sleep too late, like 5 o'clock, there's not enough time to write a decent blog before I hit the pool. (Hit the pool sounds unnecessarily energetic. Actually, I wade softly in and gently slide into swimming position, thinking all the while, usually about my menu for the day, but this morning it was about my blank blog.) Well, then, by the time I get upstairs and have breakfast, tidy and fiddle a bit, and attack the day, it's too late to blog. Later, I say. Then later, I say later. And later. Pretty soon the day is over, the date has changed but I haven't. Oh dear. I am not disciplined enough. The way to do almost anything I have to do is simply not to think about it, just do it. LIke "just say no" only it's "just say yes." The hitch is that that simple rule does not apply to a blog. To write a blog (believe it or not), I have to think, and I do, a lot. I find notes scribbled to myself all over the place with ideas or triggers for a blog. Unfortunately, I don't run into them until it's too late. Something else pops up, if I'm lucky. This morning I had no pop-up; it was late; I swam. It took a long time to be disciplined enough to get up and swim without thinking. I used to think about swimming the way I thought about sex: it was great once you got into it but it was such a nuisance taking off your clothes (it's obvious I have a fading memory). That's why it's so nice to swim first thing in the morning; you don't have many clothes to take off, if any. Well, I ramble on. Tomorrow I will be so disciplined you won't even know me. Anon, anon.