Day One Hundred and Seventy-Seven: Cleaning House

I’ve been putting off doing something. I feel really gross about it, but mostly, as one does, I don’t think about it. I won’t go into the details, except to say that this thing requires my desk and my brain.

Making the connection between those two things is easy for us. We have all those expressions, usually intended to justify a certain junky-ness of desktop: “Clean desk, empty mind” is the one I heard most often during my brief tenure in the corporate world. This wasn’t, alas, a beautiful zen thing. It was a criticism. If your desktop was bare, you obviously didn’t have anything better to do. Just now I searched for “clean desk” on google, and the sheer volume of articles suggests that this is indeed something we have a serious anxiety about.

I am a clean-desk person. That is, if there are things on my desk, it means I’m not working very well. I don’t mean bare, exactly. I have a knickknack or two, and a pen cup, and a lamp. (Although, my favorite desk experience ever was as an undergraduate. We had these never-used study carrels down in the library basement, where I would lay out my homework like a surgeon. I even kept a time log of what I was doing and for how long. Sometimes I wonder what happened to that person.) My desk for the last month has been a place to put things, not a place to use. Physically this wasn’t a huge problem. I’m too short to really type effectively at the desk, so mostly I don’t use it. But there, buried under all the things to file and all the things I’d taken away from the dog was THE THING that I am putting off.

So yesterday, when I realized that I had progressed to the “nightmares” stage of procrastination, I cleaned the desk. And then I cleaned the office area. And the entire upstairs. And the living room. And the dining room. And the kitchen. And the bathrooms. I cleaned things that have been bothering me for ages, which will make you think I’m crazy if I even try to list them here.

Today I woke up ready to do THE THING. (I am not procrastinating by blogging. THE THING cannot be done until the dog takes his nap and he’s oddly alert this morning.) Not only that, I feel so much better about everything.

I could extract a moral here, maybe, about how bad it is to suppress your feelings, even if they’re about the dust under the bookcases and files on your desk.

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Day One Hundred and Seventy: Really Slower

I’ve just come back from vacation.

I think there are two kinds of vacationers. One is looking to “do stuff”; the other is not. We were emphatically not. The problem with taking a vacation to relax in modern times is, of course, that you can’t get away from all the stressful technological things you do at home. Twitter, blog readers, e-mail, you name it. It isn’t even a matter of just leaving the computer at home, because it’s all on the phone. The phone that you have to carry with you, because you no longer function without it. (We’re such horrible cliches, my husband and I. His work phone is with a different carrier, so we now carry three phones everywhere we go, just in case one of them doesn’t have reception. In our defense, he mountain bikes solo in some remote places, so we’re trying to be prepared for a not-too-improbable accident.)

I seem to remember watching a commercial one day where an SUV full of guys drives around all day until they’ve “found it!” The “it” in question being a spot without phone reception. I felt a little pang of recognition. When we lived in New England, I was crushingly disappointed that we had service even in the wilds of Vermont.

But on this vacation we got exactly what we wanted. There was no wi-fi. There was no phone reception. When we drove out into town we could make important calls and check that no one had called us in an emergency, but mostly we were technologically adrift. We had a radio and a TV, but we didn’t turn on either.

It was really satisfying. Every day we woke up at the crack of dawn, because the dog was SO EXCITED that he couldn’t sleep anymore. Then we would leisurely make our way to some kind of outdoorsy thing, either for hiking or biking, come home for a late lunch, take a nap, eat some dinner, play outside with the dog, go to bed. I read four novels, and K reread the first volume of The Lord of the Rings.

In the midst of _Gaudy Night_, my favorite of the Dorothy Sayers books, I had a stunning and satisfying realization about my career path. I had to wonder, later, if the whole time the answer had been right there, just waiting for me to be quiet enough to hear it.

I also had to wonder: if life was so much nicer “low-tech,” why do we work so hard to fill up every moment with electronic noise?