Monday, March 26, 2012

The March

Monday, 2012

There is a small San Francisco library branch with large arched windows and a very nice wedding cake like ceiling. I'm here right now. Four books I'd requested have arrived at once. This was not planned. Just a week ago I returned all but one of my library books. I believed it was a waiting stack of books that gave my reading that terrible marching feeling. I don't enjoy marching.

Shari has recently been sharing spring manifestos written by some of her friends. They've been inspiring. I like reading manifestos, but shrink at the thought of writing my own. It seems too grand, too serious. The moment I commit to something of this sort I seem to lose my will.

I tried, again, last year. I was very easy on myself. Still, the result was disappointing. Reading Lisa's manifesto yesterday, and her lighthearted attitude toward it, brought out the optimist in me. I started thinking that it wasn't such a big deal. I should just make it fun, like Lisa. Not take it too seriously.

So my idea (trying to trick myself by not calling it a manifesto) is simple, a subtle behavioral shift I believe will yield big results.

End the march.

There seems to be a nasty little march I break into, without warning. It can begin at just about any time -- marching up a hill with groceries, marching through email, marching through a phone call, marching through cleaning beneath the kitchen sink. I can even march while writing.

Clearly, the march does not always involve walking. It is a state of mind, an abrupt and determined way of moving and thinking.

Turning a task that needn't feel forced to be accomplished into a forced march isn't a pleasant way to move through life. It is a behavior that can suck the fun out of anything, and requires such laborious focus it removes me from all present surroundings not specifically related to the task at hand.

I know I won't be able to stop it from starting. It's too sneaky.

The good news is that I've found I only need to notice it to bring it to a halt and shift into a more steady and relaxed state of mind, see things through a new lens, slow my breathing, feel my jaw unclench, and peacefully take a look at what is around me. Seriously. This isn't dramatized. It happens that quickly.

I just did it now. The march snuck up on me as I was writing and I decided no no no. And there was the wedding cake ceiling, the trees and blue sky beyond the arched glass, the glowing acorn light fixtures suspended above, and the the shelves of books.

I read one of Mark Strand's poems and have decided to read one of Ms. Simpson's short stories, knowing I have other books at home, and much else to do today, but also knowing it can all get done. No need to bring anxiety into the picture. No need to clench the jaw.

Today I am one of only two library visitors without computers, yet I don't hear keyboards. I hear the distant sound of a paper cutter and a man turning pages of a newspaper.


  1. i absolutely love this, denise. the end of march indeed. i needed to read this today and i'm so glad you wrote it.

    the spring manifestos are all about fun. i never try to take myself too seriously. ;) xo

  2. "I know I won't be able to stop it from starting. It's too sneaky."

    I like this. (March, though falling in autumn here, is super sneaky.) I also like how you talk about tricking yourself into taking it less seriously by hiding the word manifesto.

    I, too, have enjoyed reading those spring manifestos. I could never write one, but I love the challenge it presents.


  3. Oh that marching feeling, I know it so well.

    Also, I loved your last paragraph. I could just hear those perfect library sounds.

  4. Feeling my jaw unclench as I read this.
    Finding myself all too clearly in your words.

    We can call ourselves The Sisters Grim.

    xo jane

  5. i often wonder what that feeling is about, besides being the march. in march! mine do step outside the spring month and are lupinous too (as in creeping up).

    i see i have missed your way of offering us a certain atmosphere. more fool me.

    so besides anything else, i hope you're fine. i'm jealous of your cake ceiling to sit under.

  6. hey denise... you are so kind about my "manifesto" - maybe b/c i was writing it for shari it didn't hold the same weight. i never ever really make resolutions for the same reasons you list... ;)

    what i love most was that shari just made me think about what i wanted to do. thinking is just as important as doing - can move mountains - can stop marching

    love your thoughts on that. marching can get old so quick. have been there a lot lately too.

  7. yes yes! the noticing (both meanings) is everything.

  8. I march too, to get the many things that need doing done, and I'll join you on your mental non-marching campaign. It's an excellent piece of awareness and resolution.

  9. And the smell of worn leaves as one turns the page. The most pleasant quiet one can endure.

  10. Where books are concerned I'm also a conscientious objector. Actually I love libraries but never borrow books because having a deadline when I need to return them gives me the feeling of hearing those drums but I love your attitude. It seems like a wonderful place where you go to enjoy reading and how nice to hear only the civilised noise of newspapers being turned.

  11. What a great non-manifesto - and something I need to remind myself of daily. I especially feel this way at work and I really shouldn't - but it's worse when it invades your personal space. Here's to declenching the jaw!

  12. with my own jaw so tight today that it cracks when I open it, I like this reminder to be aware and take it a little easier sometimes. haven't heard a paper cutter in too long a time but love the thought of your library even more for it.

  13. I fall into "the march", too- and also do not like it. You are so right about how simple awareness can stop the automation- and I am always amazed at how often I forget that. Beautiful post, Denise- I'd love to see that "wedding like ceiling". It sounds lovely.

  14. For the most part I agree that marching is just a chore, and when it becomes tedious I like to think of this photograph by Eisenstaedt:

    Hip-hip-hooray to stepping out of tune!

  15. I think everything about this post is perfect. Understanding that putting forth a manifesto may have the opposite effect such that it becomes a burden rather than an inspiration (I'm there with you on that)...recognizing and putting your foot down against 'the march' (I will learn from you)...just noticing it is happening is enough. Perfect post.

  16. Shari, You are wise. Too much seriousness is such a bore.

    Gracia, I'm always tricking myself into something...

    Samantha, That last paragraph, it was a nice moment.

    Jane, But we are only grim(m) on occasion. Luckily we indulge in belly laughter as well.

    n, I happened to write about the march in spring, but it visits all seasons. I'm not sure what it is about. Usually I'd like to squash it, but I suppose it can sometimes be useful.

    Lisa, Those initial thoughts are often the seeds for something much bigger, and hopefully better.

    Monica, Yes, the noticing. It's a beginning.

    Thank you, Mise. I welcome your non-marching company.

    Tracy, And even better on a rainy day like today.

    Hello, Emily Vanessa. Yes, the newspapers being turned is rather civilized. I like it.

    Courtney, The clenched jaw is never welcome. Cheers, indeed.

    Kate, I hope you've found something lovely to loosen your jaw. I know you have wonderful taste and seem quite determined, so I'll consider it done. I hadn't heard a paper cutter in a while either. It reminded me of trimming prints after working in the darkroom.

    Beth, It is easy to forget. I've been reminding myself all day. I'm convinced the reminding will become less necessary with time.

    Rachael, This photograph changes everything. Now I'm totally in the mood to march. Forget everything I've said ; )

  17. Oh, Rachel. You are the best. Thank you for leaving me with a smile.

  18. I like the sound of your library, especially the lack of keyboard noises. And I very much like your manifesto/ fact I like it very much, sometimes it feels as though there's an endless 'list' of things to march through...but consciously stopping oneself (complete with a loosening of ones jaw) and just enjoying the moment... wise words indeed. I shall be attempting to put them to use.

  19. For me it is the chasing - feeling myself start to chase after what I need to do. Rather than ending the march - I need to remember to breath.

    Thanks for the reminder, and the gentle words.

    I request a lot of books and find it fascinating which ones show up in the same week - you just never know what you might end up reading together.

  20. Your manifesto should become my manifesto. I need to get rid of the clenched jaw as well. Learn again to walk rather than march into things. It is hard, but I guess, as you say, it starts with the realization that you're actually doing it. Stopping it is the easy part.

  21. Annie, Keyboards, I avoid the sound as often as possible. Enjoy your moments today.

    kate, Yes, breathe. I've just finished a novel. Time to select what's next...

    Magda, Cheers to a relaxing day.

  22. I love your honesty in words. I too have times when I worry about writing down such things and not following through. I smiled reading that you were one of the few in the library without an electronic device.

  23. I love this. Today I am one of only two library visitors without computers, yet I don't hear keyboards. I hear the distant sound of a paper cutter and a man turning pages of a newspaper. I love how very present you were in that moment. You remind me to be the same.