Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Taking one's time.


It would seem that I'll be doing repeated rounds of stock-taking while I'm here, something that should not surprise me--and something that I'm trying to figure out how to keep under close enough control so that I don't let it overwhelm the actual living that I'm here to do.

I love the concept of embracing one's imperfections; I love it enough that when my piano teacher said to me, a couple of weeks ago, that she wanted me to work toward perfection because I'm capable of it, a red flag went up in my head. And yet, toward what else do we strive? I think that what I'm aiming for now is the perfection of the imperfect: the ability to recognize how necessarily partial my aims are always going to be, simply because I can't do every single thing that I want to do. "How is the piano?" my newly-returned Canadian friend asked me when she turned up for formal dinner tonight. "It's wonderful," I replied, "but I think it's cutting into my work time." "Of course it is," she said. "That's what you're here for."

I needed her to come back and say something like that to me, because I've been tipping over into feeling bad about not getting enough done these past few days. My emotions about my work and about my life, and about what constitutes each, and about what I think about when I think about "home"--all of these things have been in vast and varied flux in the three months I've been here. Some days, and today was one of them, when I do my best, it doesn't necessarily seem to yield much: I'm tired from the beginning, there's a conversation I need to have, there's a practice I need to do, there are errands I need to run, and then by the time I'm sitting down to read, I'm even more tired than I was when I launched into it all. And then there's dinner, that institution.

I know that things are slipping out of whack when I feel myself starting to think about skipping dinner--not formal hall, certainly, but the regular weeknight dinners--so that I can try to get some work done. I could hunt back a couple of months and re-read myself extolling the virtues of being on a schedule, getting up early, eating regular meals. But I don't need to re-read myself. I was here; I remember. What I will spend that time doing, instead, is remembering what I tell my students: progress and improvement don't happen in straight lines. Sometimes there's a doubling back. This is even more likely to be the case if one is trying to build a healthier life than if one is trying to learn to write an analytical essay. But sometimes I feel as though I've always been figuring out how to live. And here I bring myself, once again, right to the threshold of this thing about which I want to write but through which I am still feeling my way: the place of waiting in my life, and the function of the not-yet-here. I am still collecting my thoughts. You'll get them soon.

The picture: that's one of the little streets up which I walk to get to and from the grocery store, which was behind me, just over my right shoulder when I took this picture at 4:30.

4 Comments:

Anonymous ModFab said...

This photo reminds me vividly of Van Gogh's Cafe painting. Exquisite work, as always.

And don't skip meals. I fall into that work trap to from time to time, so maybe we can support each other in taking time for ourselves, yes?

9:54 PM, November 28, 2007  
Blogger Dr. S said...

Yes, thanks, dear. Dinners here are too good to skip, as well. The worrisome thing is that thinking about skipping them is also thinking about skipping out on socializing. This is less the case when I'm back home, since I'm usually eating alone there anyway, so skipping a meal is only ("only") skipping the food.

I won't skip them here; for one thing, I have to sign up in the morning, and I have to pay even if I don't show up. I'll just figure out how to use this time.

4:01 AM, November 29, 2007  
Blogger KYlitprof said...

I'm starting to think that life is--in part--about figuring out how to live. Since I've reached adulthood (more or less) I've learned how to write a dissertation and how to throw a good wedding (both things I hope never to repeat). Now I'm learning how to be a mom and soon, I will figure out how to write a book. What I'm trying to say is, by all means try to have patience with the process. I like the word "practice" as in "practicing faith," (or piano, though that's a little different), because it implies learning, effort, and not-yet-perfection. I'd like to think I'm a practicing human.

8:18 AM, November 29, 2007  
Blogger Dr. S said...

I love the idea of a practicing human. That's what I am, too!

8:20 AM, November 29, 2007  

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