- Food prep stuff. Don’t wait to be hungry to fix food.
- Clean desk and living space. Get mentally clear.
- Dye hair.
- Some weeks later do keratin treatment to hair.
- Wash dogs, which can always wait because old dogs, old bones, rainy day. Why not let the old fellas rest.
- Fix carpet shampooer. Shampoo carpet.
- 1 hour per day: WORK THE POEMS.
- 1/2 hour per day: WORK THE BODY (i.e., exercise, fool)
- On some future non-rainy day, power wash rugs outside.
- Change light bulbs (
bedroom, bathroom, above dining table)
- Make appointments for hair and teefs. Call doc about error with prescription.
- Go do stupid fasting blood work!!! Make appt?
- Set up prescription refills by mail and save some tiny bucks.
- Switch to prepaid phone plan and save some tiny bucks.
- Figure out money. What is it? How does it work? How do you save it?
- Figure out life. What is it? How does it work? How do you save one?
Whenever I announce a new plan for improving some aspect of my life, my shrink smiles and points out my love of systems. I can’t just do a thing: I have to have a plan. Often my plans are so ambitious, I never get further than the planning stage. But here’s the thing: I suck at time, and without a plan, I just end up drinking coffee in my PJs and playing Facebook. So I need a plan.
I urgently need a plan because this is the first week of a semester in which I’ve been granted a course release. My chair was kind enough to schedule me for back-to-back Tuesday-Thursday classes in the afternoon so that all my mornings are free–free in as much as in addition to prepping and grading the classes I’m teaching, I have the ambitious goal of making serious progress toward a book manuscript–and I have no teaching on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays. Those are whole long stretches of opportunity I’m terrified of squandering.
Looking back at what’s worked for me in the past, I think the most success I ever had with making a plan and working on it independently was when I made reading schedules for myself as I studied for my PhD exams. As I recall, I ended up pushing my exams back by a couple of months, but it still got done, and I passed, hallelujah, amen. Even when I thought I didn’t always live up to the schedule 100%, I still did more in those months than I ever had before and possibly since. So having that schedule worked. The schedule was a table made up of three columns, one for each of my exam areas, and sections of rows marking off each week and my reading goals for each day. In other words, it looked an awful lot like a mashed up syllabus for three courses. A syllabus that had me aiming to read two books a day, but a syllabus nonetheless.
And that’s what I want for myself now: a syllabus working toward some kind of goal, counting down toward that goal over the next 16 weeks.
I think my instinct to document my planning process here is also a call back to using a private blog to take notes on my readings as I went. I was terrified a house fire would burn my books and notes, and computer, so above all, I wanted some way to safeguard my work outside of my house. This was before I knew about Dropbox. My system was simple. I’d read, noting important passages as I went, and then review my notes deciding which passages were particularly salient and quotable, and finally type up those passages with parenthetical citations–all ready to be used in my exams themselves.
So I’m going to make this block private again. Or something like it. Not searchable via Google. And I’m going be accountable to myself here on my activity.
Let’s begin again.
I have two main things I want to work on in the syllabus: reading poetry productively and writing. By “writing,” I mean writing new poems, revising old poems, and thinking about some kind of way to pull it all together in a manuscript, which is problematic because I’ve felt myself drawn in a few different directions in my writing, and I’m not sure if I can tie all these directions together. So before I can get too deep into my plan, I need to figure out where I am and what I’m heading towards. So for now my assignment is to review what I have–the poems from my diss that I want to carry on with and the poems I’ve written in the last five years.
So my next post will be an embarrassing inventory or reflection on what I have written and what ideas this review gives me for moving forward.
This started out as a facebook post, and then I thought why trouble the world with these sleepy thoughts.
* * *
When I started teaching, I was maybe six years older than my students. Now I find myself giving students, individually or as a class, advice that could be categorized as “being an adult is not nearly as liberating as you think it will be.” Most often it comes with the preface to discussions of literary works that, as a professor, I don’t care if students like a story or poem; I care about whether or not they can read it and discuss it intellectually as a part of a college discussion. I say something like, “Sadly, part of being an adult means doing things you don’t like. I don’t like paying my bills, but I do like my cell phone and living indoors. I don’t like sitting in meetings or grading papers, but they’re necessary for me keep my job, which I do otherwise like.” And so on.
Yesterday, I had a conference with a student who is smart and despite her coolness (wearing sunglasses in the middle of class, not carrying a book bag to stash her phone in so she alone of the whole class regularly texts or whatever during discussion etc), participates in class discuss with an enthusiasm that seems like a compulsion she can’t deny. One day a couple of weeks ago, her enthusiasm led her to talk back and argue and eventually cuss me when I told her that, 17 minutes late to class, she was too late for to come in. I’m so old, that even when I’m kicking students out of class for egregious behavioral issues, I am almost never mad (at least not until they refuse to stop arguing with me) and don’t take it personally; it’s just a fact; according to my rules, if a student is more than ten minutes late, I reserve the right not to admit them to class.
Anyway, in the conference I ended up telling her that I related to her frustration and anger, that I myself had been mostly angry most of the time for many years, but that to be an adult, to move in the professional world, you have to keep your cool, that losing your temper often means losing the argument, that if I talked to my boss the way she talked to me, no matter if I was right and my boss was wrong, I could expect that would have negative consequences (to say nothing of how miserable being mostly angry most of the time made me). Beforehand, I’d worried about how the conference might go, but I made sure that I didn’t act mad and approached it as a skill she needed to work on as she moves into the professional world. She was sweet and apologized. We’ll see what happens in class.
All this leads me to thinking this morning how as a semi-professional adult, I do have less freedom than when I was a child, and I don’t just mean that I have to work, which is what I always thought my dad meant when he made similar comments to me, but that I no longer have the excuse “we’ll, she’s still basically a child” to hide behind when I’ve behaved less than graciously.
That’s all, not-facebook.
- Collections of poems I should have read but haven’t.
- Collections of poems by friends.
- Foundational collections of poems I should re-read.
- At night, novels I should have read but haven’t.
- I am actively not writing because I am not ready, and when I think about writing while I read poetry, everything just breaks down. So I am reading. And when I am ready, I will write.
- I will start writing before I am “ready.” When my poetry reserves are 80% refilled, I will sit down to write again.
- I do not have any plans about what to write, whether something new or a continuation of an old project. I will write what wants to be written. I am reading to figure that out both in my head and in my heart. Yes, I’m talking about my stupid heart. Yes, it’s sentimentalizing. But I mean I will figure out what I FEEL to write.
- If an idea for a poem won’t let itself go while I’m reading, I will add it to a list of ideas of poems so I can keep on with my reading.
- Of course, if a line hits me while, say, I’m vacuuming, and my mind wants to run with it, then I can stop and write a poem. But I will not force myself just yet, not at least for a few weeks, not until I’ve gotten comfortable reading poems again.
I wake up before I’m done sleeping and go back to sleep.
Somehow too late and too early to put into the Coosa and paddle.
So I do what I’ve been doing most summer mornings: read poetry.
And then the poems make my head spin, so I look up articles about the poems to ground me.
And then the articles make my head spin, and I go to Facebook, the comforting solidity of its ephemeral nonsense and muchsense.
And then I think I must document this process of waking and sleeping and reading and reading about reading and reading to not have to read.
And this is called writing. Somehow well into afternoon, the thunder of afternoon showers like a distant booming clock, and yet morning.
Because the brain is new from sleep.
As if each day were a life and each morning spent learning how to live again. Ah, yes. This is how I feed myself.
Last night, full of wine tears, I wanted to write an essay about how there is no suitable prophylactic to avoid the memory of trauma.
Because I file that trauma under “rape” obviously, but also “lavender shower gel” and “aphasia” and snatches of dialogue like “I promise I’ll be a good boy” and how I learned the hard way that when someone feels the need to reassure you that he’s a good guy, he’s probably not.
What I mean is that an index of triggers would include every detail from every iteration of every possible trauma and that, my friends, is like writing a scene description for the whole earth’s autopsy, a list of contents of the whole earth’s pockets, like the wise comedian’s 1:1 scale map of the earth, impossible to fold.
This is the mind of morning, the amnesia of dream consolidation, the mind’s braiding of synaptic routes to last.
I think I am awake now. The dream of whatever I was writing, forgotten.
I’ve had three beers, and I’m pretty sure I’ve posted all that I’m legally allowed to post to facebook without declaring that I’m drunk and just posting a whole bunch of random shit. First, I want you to know that I’ve had this beer for three days. Three whole days. Basically the same amount of time that it took Jesus to resurrect himself and crawl out of a cave. Three days, and I haven’t had any because of calories, colds, guilt, and responsibility.
WELL FUCK THAT.
I taught three classes today, one after accidentally taking two doses of Dayquil, which meant, obviously, that I was slightly high while teaching. Off cold medicine. For a cold. Should colleagues be reading.
Anyway. I was up until two last night doing work for school, and you know BREAKING BAD, so I had to watch breaking bad and drink some Monkeynaut after school today. Damn, Charlie Rose, you sure know how to push Walter White’s buttons. Are we entirely sure that Breaking Bad isn’t an 1800s Russian Novel from the future? Shit, that last sentence was so good, I think I’m going to have to post it on facebook, even if I delete it in two hours.
Ah, so I’m back from posting that wee bit of wisdom to yee olde facebooke. What have I learned? Monkeynaut is 7.+% alcohol is what.
I think here ends my post. Now, I’m going to watch Dexter. I wish I were eating a steak while watching the last episode of Dexter. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.
So I choose the moment that I’m coming down with a bug, fortunately for the first time in a long time, to write a post, which means I find myself facing an empty text field and not sure what to do, when only moments ago it seemed crucial that I log in. A cold brain fog rolls in.
Perhaps the run-down feeling that I’m getting from the cold reminds me of the adrenal fatigue, which for the longest time was the only thing I posted about here. I’m so grateful that I feel so much better than I did. Today definitely took more effort than usual to stay happy, and I think I didn’t quite succeed.
+I did sit on the porch at lunch staring up into the sun behind the trees’ leaves, which was marred only by my ticking brain reminding me how short my lunch break is.
+As I got out of the car coming home from work, I paused to note how the mess of bamboo, wisteria, and other plants tangling along my fence are all the same shade of green–as are the grass and the neighbors’ more tidy landscaping. All that green and the same shade of chlorophyll. No large observation, but it reminded me how all the life on this planet is related, much as mammals have the same limited palette: white, black, brown, red, yellow, gray, and their various combinations (or at least that’s what I’ve observed, but I could be wrong).
+I spent several minutes petting Zoey on the back porch after work. I petted her while Bogie ran off and played. I petted her until he returned and demanded his own pets. I also laid down with her on the couch. She looked so sweet, and I tucked myself around her. No one cuddles as good as Zoey. She’s a ninja at cuddling.
I’ve taken some extra sups–Vit C, magnesium, various minerals, L-glutamine, L-lysine, and Airborne. And now I’m going to bed if I can. It’s the best medicine, but sometimes I find it hard to peel away from the ten thousand things.
On the drive back from my mother’s birthday, I thought, as I often do on long drives, of writing. I took notes for a new writing plan (I always have a new writing plan, don’t I?):
- Live like an artist
- Listen to music, real music, whole albums, not just background Pandora
- Set aside devotional time. Like what some scholar I read about today called sacred time.
- Cultivate silence
- Write in nature after car rides (ha! The long slow monotony of the car ride liberates the brain; nature restores. There is order to my madness.)
- Make my own podcast of favorite poems just for myself, which basically means record myself reading my favorite poems to listen to in the car.
- Journal before bed
Which reminds me:
+ I downloaded and started reading translations of traditional Irish poems by Lady Gregory in The Kiltartan Poetry Book: Prose Translations from the Irish. “The Grief of a Girl’s Heart,” or “Donall og” as it’s often called, is as fresh as ever. I’ve loved it ever since I first heard it on the film based on Joyce’s “The Dead.” I found it in that year or two when I first found poetry altogether in high school. It is one of those foundational poems that stunned me with what words can do. So what if I found it in a movie?
I rewatched that scene many times in early high school, probably warping the VHS trying to transcribe it. It wasn’t until I found it in the school library that I realized the lamb was bleating, not bleeding. My friend Nicole and I made an interpretive dance that went with the poem, if I remember correctly. She’s maybe the only person I ever danced with and didn’t feel like a rhythmless baboon. Or maybe it was a dance that was also a prayer and a spell. I miss Nicole. I wish she still walked the earth. I saw the movie again in college and sat next to Alan Jefferson as we watched it in Bill Cobb’s class. I miss Alan. I wish he still walked the earth.
Here’s Gregory’s original prose translation (from http://www.digital.library.upenn.edu/women/gregory/poetry/poetry-01.html):
The Grief of a Girl’s Heart
O DONALL og, if you go across the sea, bring myself with you and do not forget it; and you will have a sweetheart for fair days and market days, and the daughter of the King of Greece beside you at night. It is late last night the dog was speaking of you; the snipe was speaking of you in her deep marsh. It is you are the lonely bird through the woods; and that you may be without a mate until you find me.
You promised me, and you said a lie to me, that you would be before me where the sheep are flocked; I gave a whistle and three hundred cries to you, and I found nothing there but a bleating lamb.
You promised me a thing that was hard for you, a ship of gold under a silver mast; twelve towns with a market in all of them, and a fine white court by the side of the sea.
You promised me a thing that is not possible, that you would give me gloves of the skin of a fish; that you would give me shoes of the skin of a bird, and a suit of the dearest silk in Ireland.
O Donall og, it is I would be better to you than a high, proud, spendthrift lady: I would milk the cow; I would bring help to you; and if you were hard pressed, I would strike a blow for you.
O, ochone, and it’s not with hunger or with wanting food, or drink, or sleep, that I am growing thin, and my life is shortened; but it is the love of a young man has withered me away.
It is early in the morning that I saw him coming, going along the road on the back of a horse; he did not come to me; he made nothing of me; and it is on my way home that I cried my fill.
When I go by myself to the Well of Loneliness, I sit down and I go through my trouble; when I see the world and do not see my boy, he that has an amber shade in his hair.
It was on that Sunday I gave my love to you; the Sunday that is last before Easter Sunday. And myself on my knees reading the Passion; and my two eyes giving love to you for ever.
O, aya! my mother, give myself to him; and give him all that you have in the world; get out yourself to ask for alms, and do not come back and forward looking for me.
My mother said to me not to be talking with you to-day, or to-morrow, or on the Sunday; it was a bad time she took for telling me that; it was shutting the door after the house was robbed.
My heart is as black as the blackness of the sloe, or as the black coal that is on the smith’s forge; or as the sole of a shoe left in white halls; it was you put that darkness over my life.
You have taken the east from me; you have taken the west from me; you have taken what is before me and what is behind me; you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me; and my fear is great that you have taken God from me!