Breaking it Down
I read an essay last week that inspired me to think about what I would do if I suddenly learned I had two years left to live. Two things came immediately to mind: travel the world and learn to play fiddle. (Mind you, this list is different from what I would do if given three wishes, which would be more benevolent and include things like world peace, enlightenment, and safety for my family.)
Since I tend to overcomplicate things in general, I was surprised by this sudden moment of clarity and even more so by the simplicity of my desires. While such a list may be different next week, at the time, it seemed lucid enough. Travel the world and learn to play fiddle? Heck, I could start enacting those things right now!
It’s been a trying month. Traveling the world and playing fiddle (an instrument I associate with wild, glorious abandon) seem the perfect psychological fix-its to over-exhaustion, self-doubt, and loss of perspective due to excessive amounts of reading. Likewise, entertaining the thought of my own mortality makes plausible sense given the number of hours I put into physical therapy just to keep up with my karate infatuation.
The indecent hematoma brought things to a head, and before I knew it I had an attitude in the dojo and a mind that preferred to fantasize about touring Ethiopian coffee plantations, trekking the Himalayas, and perhaps a sweet rendezvous in Jerusalem. Saturday, my attitude turned to anger as Jeff and I chatted on the steps of the dojo after class and he let me vent for a good three or four minutes (employing a healthy dose of expletives).
This emotion escalated this morning, when I officially finished ALL OF MY HOMEWORK for the MFA and still couldn’t even get myself to smile, clap, stomp, or cheer about this milestone. Why did I feel so angry? Because as soon as my homework was done I looked at the next things on my list—two writing assignments for magazines, an editing contract to write up, 12 submissions to read, a West coast publication to research, graduation invites to address—and didn’t allow myself any breathing room from one task to the next.
How did I get this way? There’s nothing to complain about on that list of things to do. There’s nothing to lament about having the priviledge to train with Hanshi. There’s nothing to moan about at all, really. At this point I realize the anger was entirely my own creation, which also meant that a solution could likewise come from me.
I took out my calendar, scheduled work time to attend to that to-do list starting Wednesday morning, and gave myself permission—no, required myself—to NOT touch anything on that to-do list until Wednesday. Then, I put on suntan lotion and sunglasses, stripped to my skivvies, and proceeded to lie on my back for the rest of the afternoon, staring up at the cloudless sky.
When the desire to attack the to-do list struck me again, I packed my bags and left for my parent’s house. I bought a pint of ice cream at the store on the way. Tomorrow? Shoe shopping in BigCity with my friend Amy. Tuesday? Nothing planned except karate class.
Wednesday, a new view.