Monday, March 26, 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.