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A few things I did today instead of writing
"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives"
Today I thought I would write something on my Substack. All you nice people have been sitting on this list idly, undoubtedly having forgotten how you got here or that you were on it. I spend most of my days telling writers to do this, to draft a post and just send it out, not to overthink it. Today I woke up determined to do it. Conditions were prime for it. It was definitely something I intended to do.
Before I sat down to get to it, I made myself a pot of coffee and remembered to water the plants. They, too, were shocked by the attention, they’ve learned to survive on very little of it, but today I stared at their leaves for an inordinate amount of time, got lost in their veins and greenery. I then returned to my blank draft and nothing came, or all the things I had thought I would write about seemed both silly and too ambitious: the concept of failure, and middle-age, and why the two are synonymous. Relatedly, it was now noon and I had failed to write anything.
I had spent some time answering emails that did not need to be answered on a Saturday, I had called my parents—both of them, separately, though they were sitting next to each other—as well as some other people who did not answer their phones, perhaps because they sensed when my name flashed on their screens that I had nothing to tell them. I even watched Neil Patrick Harris’ “lazy Saturday” Instagram stream, something I would never normally do but did today. It was all sleepy dogs and video games and bliss and avocado toast, and I watched it all to the very end, with mild interest that matured into mild self-loathing. It was time for a second pot of coffee, decaf this time because even though the day was still young I had already tasted some of its defeat. I sat back down to write but ended up contemplating the weather instead, and whether I should take advantage of its unseasonableness.
I now found myself with two things I could fail to do today: write and go for a run. I put some lycra on and returned to my computer thinking that if I did not produce a draft by some unspecified hour that would deliver its fatal “too late!” I could at least urgently break into a run and salvage the situation. But my body, suddenly conscious of elastic fabric meant for physical activity, could no longer relax and fade into a background that would allow invention to take over. Before long, I started itching.
One of my friends finally returned my call, and I half-listened to her listing all the possible outcomes of the SVB failure while I spread Nutella on a bagel—activities that did not require me to be in a sports bra.
“Want to go see Jules and Jim at Film Forum in an hour?” she asked me.
I thought about telling her that I had a very intelligent post to write about failure today, that I was also going to go running.
“Yeah, sounds good,” I said.
Here’s a poem by Jane Hirshfield. Hope you’re wasting your lives pleasantly.
The quote in the subtitle is from Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life.