It's January 22nd, and I'm finally sitting down with the intent to think about 2014 and be all thoughtful and centered and what happens? I get hiccups. Try being thoughtful and centered when you have hiccups.
Oh man, I love a new year. And this year feels especially sparkly and new, since finishing Dreams of Gods & Monsters wasn't just finishing a book, but a trilogy that has been my writing life since 2009. And it's done. That story is told. I keep waiting for -- hic! -- a sense of profound contentment to set in, but I'm feeling scattered and off-balance. Jim and I are both experiencing this altered sense of time, like: you're either working ALL THE TIME or not at all.
Like, when I was hurtling toward the deadline, life became very simple: I wrote, spent some time with Jim and Clementine, then wrote some more. Nothing else. Sometimes I went on retreat and skipped the family time, and that was sad but productive. During this time of hyper-intense focus, I daydreamed of normal life. I would actually fantasize about being able to spend the morning cleaning the house! There were more rewarding fantasies too, like beach holidays and dinner parties, but even the humdrum and hassle of normal life was appealing.
Now that I'm done with the book, and even the copyediting and proofs are behind me (it's going to be an actual book soon!!!) I can do those normal things! Mysteriously, I'm no longer so keen to clean the house! And I am doing them. Breakfast with friends. Dates with Jim. Crafts with Clementine. Family days. Straightening up the office. Back on the treadmill. Planning and cooking healthy meals. And it's great! But it feels impossible to fit even a small amount of WORK into it! Like it's either all one or all the other.
This too will pass. Everything is phases. This year will be different from last year. There will be a lot more travel, both for fun and for book promotion. That will make it even harder to wedge work hours in. Exciting but scary. It will, no doubt, pass far too quickly. I feel like I need to grab onto it. Like I'm waiting at the side of the road for something to race past and I'm supposed to jump on. Like, to a speeding train or a rampaging dragon. Or else I'll just be breathing dust and sulfur in its wake, and the year will be OVER. That minor sense of desperation.
I have this half-formed idea haunting me lately that the internet gives us weird expectations of life. (I know, categorize this idea under D for Duh.) Pinterest, blogs. It's like: beautiful, organized people are flaunting their ... lack of flailing ... in our faces.
Look at my beautiful home and my artfully presented meal. And now I'm going to show you how perfectly I pack for a weekend getaway to our second home on a Swedish island, built with timber we milled with our own hands. (Scandinavians, I'm looking at you, with your beautiful homes and smiling faces! :-) After I arrange the library by color.
I know, I'm totally guilty of doing this! (well, the library thing, not the milling timber or island home thing.) I'm infected with these urges! I want an effortless beautiful life too! But life RESISTS. There's real life and there's "Pinterest life", and of course we all KNOW that "Pinterest life" is a lie, that those people's houses don't always look like that, and that they come home from work tired too, and have to actually spend time achieving those organized closets, etc. But knowing this is fantasy doesn't diminish the desire to achieve it. Like, I know there are no dragons, but I still want one. I know there is no perfect, rich, organized, effortless life, but I still want it. Damn you, internet!
Do you know what "sprezzatura" is? I learned this in a Renaissance lit class and it made a big impression on me. It's the term that expressed the appearance of effortlessness that courtiers and courtesans strove to achieve. Effort was gauche. Everything had to seem come to one with ease and elegance. You might stay up nights composing sonnets and memorizing them, so that you could pretend to come up with them at the spur of the moment the next day. (Those courtiers must have been tired!!) So, lifestyle blogs and Pinterest are 21st Century sprezzatura. People never change, right?
Like I said, these thoughts are half-formed, because even as I shake my fist at these smug blog folk, I think that striving to achieve beauty and order in our lives and environments is a worthwhile pursuit, creatively, for pride and enjoyment, if not quite for peace of mind. What am I saying? I don't know. The usual refrain of: THERE IS NOT ENOUGH TIME! I want three hundred years of hundred-hour days. Is that so much to ask?
So what about the 11 months remaining of 2014, 24-hour days, the roughly 8,200 hours that remain of this year? Focus, Laini. (My hiccups are gone, by the way; I can't use them as an excuse anymore.) I just don't know. I know that there are groceries to put away. After that, maybe I'll have time to ponder!