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Wednesday, August 22, 2001
Cast Away Envy
I'm on the verge of snapping. I just want some uninterrupted time, some time to work on my ideas in the depth they require. I've been anxiously awaiting this time since what is starting to seem like forever, but house guests are just miraculously landing here end-to-end, and just when I think my anticipation of time alone has been stretched to it's limit and will finally be satisfied, it gets stretched some more. I have these ideas in my head I want to work on, and I can't start until I know I have enough uninterrupted time. I'm afraid they're going to fade before that time comes, and this would be a bad enough thing that the very thought makes me angry; I want to just swipe my arms and clear the world of people, enter the Day of the Comet.
It's not that I have anything against house guests. I have a guest room, after all. It's just the uncertainties and changing plans that have been fucking with me -- I put all this stuff on hold in my head, stored in a package with an expiration date on it, set for the day or hour or minute I know I'll have time. And then that time comes, and other people's plans have changed, and my workspace is otherwise occupied--so the package just sits there in my head festering and turning into garbage. Every ounce of my subconscious processing has been gearing up to put it all together at this moment, and then the moment is snatched from me with such casualness as to trivialize my own relevance entirely.
It's one thing to have a flexible schedule, to take things as they come, but my time and life has been at the mercy of other people's whims for such a continuous stretch I am starting to feel like a whipping boy.
I need to find more people like Amanda*, who are habitual hard workers like myself. Hanging out with people with too much free time on their hands rubs my nose in my own sacrifices while simultaneously evaporating my rewards. Productivity is such a tenuous thing -- so hard to set up, so easy to topple. But I like its rewards -- the novelty, the intrigue, the puzzles, the solutions, the insights and the experiences, unparalleled in any less challenging endeavor. If only I could have my life back to pursue them.
As part of my idling, my mental toe-tapping while on hold, I escaped to a cafe this evening. As long as I'm going to be in interrupt-driven mode, I may as well embark upon compatible endeavors. I sat down with my Aztec-style hot chocolate, filled a slot in a circle of people surrounding the fire, and immediately recognized the mid-40's woman next to me as someone I've seen perhaps every time I've ever been to this particular cafe. I've never talked to her -- never seen her talking. She's just always sitting there, looking like she's part of whatever group she's sitting near, but never is. I took any opportunities to throw her a humorous comment, or other random observation about the context; her replies were short, almost slurred, something you would expect from a homeless person. I asked her what she did. "Oh, nothing any more... not really sure what I'll do next... done so many things..." I asked her what the last thing was she did. "Oh, tailoring... I had a business. Before that, I was a doctor." I asked her what kind of doctor. "Oh, a surgeon..." she said. I asked her more questions, progressively more specific, and with each one her speech became more articulate and clear, her answers more full of content, and pretty soon she was regaling me with stories of her life for the last forty years, until they came and took our seats away and turned off the fire. I said goodbye and told her I'm sure I'd see her next time. I'm sure I will.
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