Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What Is Now

Endpapers, 2016

I was reading a book of poems written by a woman who decided to take up poetry at the age of 90, a book offering more illumination than I was prepared for this evening. Illumination of so many things.

What it might feel like to lose a spouse and miss that spouse, desperately. The experience of reading your own writing, many years after the words were written, and realizing that beautiful part of yourself is gone. The gratification of taking a stand on a small thing, but one that will change each remaining year of your lifedemanding no one buy you birthday gifts, at 90 years old. The relief felt. No more false gratitude required. The energy of those little lies, returned to you.

And just as she gets me thinking about my future, I turn the page to find an interview where she is quoted:

It is very constrictive and destructive to always be living beyond the moment; to be preparing.

So I lean forward, resting my right elbow on this book, my chin in my hand, and look at the wall for a while, appreciating what is now.

Poems from the Pond

Sunday, July 24, 2016

On Perfect Schedules and Saint Barthélemy

Design Your Perfect Schedule. What would you do, say, on Tuesday at 10 a.m. or on Friday at 3 p.m. to make your life meaningful? What, when you really come down to the quotidian details, does it look like every day to have time to do good work, to spend quality time with your family and friends and to refresh your soul?

July 24, 2016, 5:08pm

I’m in my husband’s office, hiding from the sun on the desk I’m using and therefore awkwardly positioned beside some file cabinets stacked with books. I found the questions above somewhere in January of 2015, and although at the time I thought answering them would be worthwhile, have put them off, until now.

A perfect schedule. There cannot be such a thing, but I’ll try and pretend there could be such a thing, for the sake of this exercise, with the hope it will at least move me closer to perfection than I am now.

Let’s begin with Tuesday at 10 a.m. Okay. Where am I? Is this only a perfect schedule? A perfect schedule seems as though it would require a perfect setting. I have no idea where the perfect setting is located, but I once spent several days on an island named Saint Barthélemy, in a beautiful bungalow with a small private pool, and room service.

I was young and impressionable and had read it was a favorite getaway for young attractive jet-set celebrity types, and that was all I needed, along with a credit card. I was in. It was a long time ago, it seems like a different life, but I do remember quite a bit about this place, especially the general feeling of being there. I recall details such as appreciating the bar soap in our bathroom, and I don’t even like bar soap. Everything was white and beautiful and impeccably clean.

There was a boombox and the hotel had a library of CDs. I borrowed a pile of these CDs and settled into our small but luxurious backyard area and was as pleased as I’ve ever been on any vacation in my life. It was the absence of stress. No, it was the ability to ignore it. Unfortunately, my companion did not appreciate this extraordinary space as much as I did, so I went about my business without him. I don’t recall really minding. Maybe there were a few fits of rage, but they were small fits, very small.

I had sun. I had shade. I had music of my choosing. I had beautiful food. And I had time, so much time. I ran around the island and did other things with my unhappy companion—jewelry shopping, restaurant going, bar hopping—but none of it was as enjoyable as the time I spent in the backyard of our bungalow, alone, swimming breaststroke, slowly, back and forth, in our small pool, while listening to Tears for Fears, General Public, and The The.

I recall reading about this hotel suffering hurricane damage shortly after our stay, but when I look at the current photographs of the place all of the old memories return. It looks the same to me. I would not be surprised if a hurricane or two have hit Saint Barthélemy since then and some special force has protected this magical place. It seems impossible for a place to be so perfect, and that I would have had the pleasure of staying there at such a young age. The whole memory, it must be a mirage.

So my perfect Tuesday at 10 a.m. would have to be spent in that pool on Saint Barthélemy, in its perfect mirage state, of course. I would have just eaten a late breakfast of fresh bread, fruit, and chocolate. There would be a breeze, obviously gentle. I’d exit the pool, dry off with a deliciously soft towel, and put on a robe of the same sort, climb into my chaise lounge, and then I would sip coffee while scribbling perfect paragraphs into my journal.

Yes, that would be my perfect Tuesday at 10 a.m. I do believe my life would feel wildly meaningful. I know it all sounds rather shallow, but I don’t usually live this way, and when I’ve tried it has failed miserably. I hate feeling disappointed, but no one would be disappointed with this Tuesday at 10 a.m. No one.

Friday at 3pm I would be taking a nap with my husband (not the unhappy companion), after a perfect 60-minute massage. We would have eaten lunch around 1pm, something like a delicious cold soup and salad, on the terrace.

The good work would be getting done, the quality time with the one I love would be happening, and my soul would absolutely be refreshed. Yes, it would all be covered.

But I’m still here at the file cabinet with this laptop pushed up against some books, feeling fairly sure this exercise hasn’t really helped me move closer to perfection in my day-to-day life. Whose idea was this?