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Thoughts on Time

In the style of The Waves by Virginia Woolf. Kind of.

Times plods on. It rushes, it streams onwards. An era, a year, a day that’s passed will never be again. Ever. Except for its shadowy vision that exists in the minds of its survivors, its victors. When they pass, when their memories are lost, it’s gone. Except for in the words that have attempted to capture it. But even it cannot fully live in those words as it lived in its time.

It is 6:03 pm on Tuesday March 5, 2013. It will never be this date and time again. Even as I write this, that moment disappears. Now it’s 6:05. And the hands of my watch move along, even as my fingers caress this keyboard. They’ll look the same in a mere twelve hours, but a different number will occupy the circle where the date resides. Everything — the rotation of the earth, the hue of the sky, my level of consciousness — will be changed. Except fo the position of the minute- and hour-hands on my dainty rose gold watch.

I will never have this moment in my head and hands and lungs again. There. It is gone. It has passed on to be hazed in the land of memory. It is replaced by a new moment, which will pass on in the next moment’s birth.

Every minute, every second a piece of my youth is buried without a eulogy. I am also reborn, each moment, older and wiser or younger and acting foolish. Just for the moment. And each moment is a choice. Often nothing changes between moments. They are fluid. They pass without informing me. But still, a piece of my life becomes the past, to make room for the present and future. If I learn from it, and release it, and let it.

And time slides on. It doesn’t notice this, any of this, because time cannot notice. It just slips and slides onwards, forwards, backwards. Into infinitude. Whatever that is.

And what about us. Me and you. Do we notice? We can, because we are not time. How do we spend these moments that we’ll never live through again? We choose how to spend each moment. And even when we do not choose, that is a choice. It is 6:28. 6:29. And now it’s dinnertime.

Shooting for the Moon, Landing on the Ground

I haven’t really written much this summer. There, I said it. I mean, I’ve written plenty. I’ve been somewhat prolific. But it feels like I haven’t written anything at all. Same goes for reading. The two activities, for me at least, are completely and utterly intertwined. I planned on writing so, so much this summer. I thought I was going to blog nearly every day, I thought I was going to write some stories, I thought I was going to write a novel. I was also going to sit around reading all day. I was going to read every book on my somewhat vague, somewhat ambitious, somewhat long (and ever-growing) “to-read list”. And this is all on top of my handful of other household responsibilities, occasionally interacting with other human beings and sleeping in until noon. There were also TV shows to watch, plays to see and places to go. I was also really going to clean/thoroughly organize my room. So, while technically I had “no plans” over summer break — no camp, no job, no major commitments — I planned on getting a lot accomplished.

I did accomplish a lot. I “published” some blog posts, I wrote a story or two, made some decent headway in Novel Number One during Camp NaNoWriMo — at least as far as word count goes — before abandoning Camp NaNo along with that failure of a “novel”. I started planning Novel Number Two — although, at the rate planning is going, I may be ready to start actually writing the thing by 2020. I read about seven books in the past three months, which for me is pretty good (it probably would have been more if I hadn’t tried out the habit of reading more than one book at a time, but that’s a whole other discussion). I’ve travelled and slept in and just hung out this summer. I socialized, I watched TV, I saw some great movies. I even made some form of dent in the room-cleaning endeavour (by which I mean that now I can totally see what colour my floor is).

So, I had a great summer. A somewhat productive summer. But doesn’t really feel like it. And I think that’s because I aimed too high.

“Shoot for the moon,” some guy once said, “even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Generally I hate inspirational/motivational quotes, mostly because they tend to be nauseating, thoroughly overused clichés. This is one I hate in particular, and, looking back over my summer, I’ve decided that I strongly disagree with it. I just don’t believe it. The higher the stakes, the farther you can fall — and the more that fall will hurt. At least in my experience.

The font and background in this image are about as tacky as the actual text
Credit: recoverygraphics.com

I tend to have a very “all or nothing” personality, so when I do set goals, they tend to be big and somewhat vague, and then if I don’t meet those ridiculous and all-encompassing goals in the ridiculous and arbitrary amount of time I’ve given myself to meet them, I see it as a failure. Furthermore, for me, just the setting of these enormous goals is enough to keep me from meeting them. I get overwhelmed and paralysed by what I have in front of me, so I just avoid starting. Forget the moon and stars; if that’s where I’m aiming, I’ll just end up dawdling around on the sidewalk, trying to work up the courage to get started on my upward trajectory.

I think “shooting for the moon” is often the clichéd equivalent of “biting off more than you can chew”, or piling up too much onto your proverbial plate — both things that the mighty clichés warn against.

I’m not against ambitions — I certainly have plenty. Ambition and goals are important, but I think it’s also important to remember that whole thing about moderation being key. Last summer, I had a couple of little goals that I wrote down on paper. The only one I met was along the lines of “write something, anything, every single day.” I have a nice journal filled with all sorts of ramblings from that summer and I was actually able to meet that goal. Sure, that journal contains nothing “publishable”, nothing that will directly achieve any of my hopes and dreams. But it was something I accomplished. Something I kept at. Something I felt good about having done. The self-confidence, and creative exercise, that it gave me led to more creativity and the confidence to move on to bigger, more substantial goals. Sure, I imagine I wasn’t completely satisfied by the end of the summer by how I’d spent my vacation — who ever is? But I had accomplished one of my goals and so I was okay. I look back at that summer as being very prolific, although, in terms of quality, I would venture to say that this summer has been far more of a success.

It really just depends on how you look at it. My plans this summer were too grand and so the results fell short; I aimed too high so missing made me feel like I had landed on the ground. Whereas last year I aimed just high enough. Writing (something, anything) every day was something I’d never done before, so while it wasn’t difficult, it was new, it was a challenge. I didn’t write everysingle day. There were days I missed, days I skipped. But there was always the next day and the day after that. Because I didn’t aim to high, I was able to stumble at times without much more than a bruise and then keep going.

Maybe this summer wasn’t a failure, I simply didn’t manage to reach an impossible, insane, unspecific goal. I think the real failure, isn’t that I didn’t meet that “goal; the failure was in the nature of the goal I set.  And if you remove the vague, all-encompassing plans and aspirations I had for the summer, and just look at what I accomplished, I think you’d find I did pretty well for myself.

I guess it’s all just a matter of perspective.

Do you set yourself up for failure by setting absurd goals? Did you get what you wanted out of the summer? Is this post starting to sound kind of like a super lame self-help book about how you can most effectively shoot for the stars? Would this be more interesting if I was giving out chocolate? (That was a joke. There’s no chocolate. Sorry to get you all excited.)

Running Around in the Rain

I should really be doing something else. That seems to be the most prevalent theme in my life. The constant internal conflict. I want to do this but I should be doing that. And then, as soon as I can do the thing I wanted to do, I don’t want to do it anymore. I want to do something else, and the previous want becomes the current should. During the school year, I want to be blogging or writing creatively or sitting around all day reading or even just finding some time to clean my room. What I should doing is homework. Of course, I procrastinate the homework, but feel that if I’m not doing homework, how dare I do anything else, so the things I want to do get procrastinated as well. I certainly have time to do both, but the things I enjoy always seem to take back seat.

So, I make all this wonderful resolutions. I decide that when the summer comes, I’ll do all those things I would love to be doing during the school year, but just can’t. I never plan to do very much in the summer, like get a job or go to camp, and I tell people that I don’t have plans aside from a week or so at the cottage and a week or so on vacation. But I do have plans. I plan to read — smart books, enjoyable books, any and all books — I plan to write — blog posts, short stories, a flipping novel — I plan to organize — my closet, my room, my life. In short, I plan to do everything that will make me happy, I plan to conquer the freaking world. But then, because I plan to do all these things and have the best summer I’ve ever had (and do all this because it’s what I want to do), all these wants become shoulds.

And it isn’t just that I should read, because I like reading, but then it’s about what I should read. I should read smart novels and stories and poems, that will expand my mind and make me seem smart, but then, I should also be enjoying what I’m reading. And so, if I decide that I’m going to spend this moment reading, and even if I’m not thinking of all the other things I should be enjoying, I worry that maybe I should be reading a different book. It’s the same with writing. Should I write on my blog now? In a journal? Should I instead be writing ficticiously? Should I be trying out a writing prompt? Maybe I should give my “novel” a go?

This moment, I’ve chosen writing on my blog. But now I feel that maybe I should abandon this post, because who wants to hear me complain about my pathetic problems? I should really be writing about the trip to England I just got back from. I should tell you about my visits to Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare was born or to Bath, where Jane Austen once lived. I should review one of the three Shakespeare plays I saw. I should be writing about those experiences or any of the other very cool, very literary things I saw and did. But I just don’t feel like it. Probably only because that’s what I think I should be writing about.

One of the pictures I took in England that I feel like I SHOULD post. Taken at 4 Sydney Place in Bath — where Jane Austen once lived.

That’s really the problem with me. I never want to do anything if I actually can. If I should. Only if I can’t. I never feel as compelled to write as when I don’t have a pen and paper with me or as when I have stuff to do that I don’t feel like doing. I never feel as compelled to blog as when I don’t have internet access or my laptop handy. I was itching to post on my blog for the two first days of my trip when I still hadn’t gotten internet set up. Then, as soon as I did, I wrote this post, which didn’t have that much to do with the awesome things I was actually doing in England. The next day I wrote another post, also not really about what I had been doing and seeing. Neither were what I felt that I should be writing. After that, I had internet access the entire rest of the trip and we were back at the hotel fairly early a few nights. But because I knew I could blog, I didn’t really feel compelled to. I’m on vacation, I reasoned. I’ll post when I get home. Because that’s always how it is with me. I’ll do it later. I’ll do it at this or that future date. Then I’ll have the time. I’ll have the motivation. It’ll happen. Later. I hadn’t posted what (or as much as) I had wanted. I felt okay with my justifications and I had a marvellous trip, but I still l felt a little uneasy. I had all these nagging shoulds. I enjoyed everything I did, and everything I did was something I wanted to be doing, but I was in England, so they felt very much like wants I should have. And I still felt the compulsion to blog and write about it, but without the desire and drive to do so.

But then today I tried something different. My room is still in a messy state, as I started cleaning it a couple of weeks ago and decided to finish it later. Add all the stuff I brought back from England to that mess and it’s really not looking so good. So I have to deal with that. Then there’s the stuff I should be doing because I want to. The reading, the blogging, the writing. I was going to do all of this today. I was also going to go run some errands and then come home and sit out in the sun because it was beautiful outside today. The latter two items involve getting dressed (something I tend to avoid until I actually leave the house). So I woke up and spent a few hours taking a shower and eating breakfast and figuring out what to wear — because these are totally things that should take a person a few hours. I was all dressed and ready to leave the house and about to go out, when the clear, blue sky clouded over and began spewing drops of rain.

I was stuck. It was another should versus want to situation. You see, I love the rain. I love the sun even more, but when I have no need to remain dry and a warm towel is at the ready, nothing gives me more joy, nothing is more exhilarating, than running around in the rain. Not only was it something I desperately wanted to do, but it was the epitome of a should not. Who would go out and run around in the rain? What was I thinking? Surely I’d catch my death. Besides, I had just, finally figured out what to wear and gotten dressed. I had things to do, things that I should do.

So I did what any reasonable person would have done. I changed into something I didn’t mind getting wet and I went outside to run around in the rain. My sister refused to join me. Someone who was at my house laughed at me when I came inside with water streaming from my hair and clothes. My mother shook her head — I think ‘crazy’ was the word she used to describe me. But you know what? I didn’t catch my death. I felt as though I had caught my life. Sure, when I came inside I was dripping and shivering. But outside, despite the rain, it was warm, peaceful. I love the steady sound of rain, hitting the wooden deck. I love walking barefoot through warm puddles. I love the warm wind whipping around, throwing raindrops in my face. It feels so good to just let go sometimes. To forget what you should do, forget what other people think, forget how cold you’ll be the moment you come inside and get hit with the freezing air-conditioning.

And because let myself do that, I felt like I had accomplished something. I felt really good about myself, about my decisions, about my life. And now I’ve finally been able to just sit down to blog — something I should do — without feeling like I should be doing this or should be doing something else.

Of course there will always be things that should be done and have to done. Things I don’t want to do, but have to do anyways. But maybe sometimes it’s easier (and more enjoyable) to do those things, if I give myself permission to do something I want once in a while. To do something unreasonable and unnecessary and perhaps a little crazy. Just as long as there’s a dry towel waiting for me when I come inside.

What about you? Do you have a constant should versus want to debate inside your head? How do you reconcile with doing things you’d rather not? Do want to’s ever become shoulds for you?

Getting Back on the Horse

 

When I was small, I was literally almost thrown from a horse. Luckily the lady who worked at the horse riding place (would that be called a stable?) caught me, so no damage was done. This was before I had developed my fear of animals, so supposedly my response was something along the lines of, “next time, I’m riding a pony.” My mother, trying to avoid the development of an animal-phobia, insisted I get right back on the horse. So the story goes, I did and lived to tell the tale. Regardless, I somehow managed to develop that fear of animals. I have a few theories that explain this phenomenon, but those are for another time.

That’s always what I think of when I have to figuratively get back on the horse. Now, that horse is this blog. I fell off during the last couple weeks of school, so I could ‘focus on exams and final assignments’. I planned on writing far more frequently once school was over, when I would have ‘so much more time’. But then I felt stressed to write a really impressive, partially explanatory I’mmm Baa-ack post, which I ended up procrastinating for a while (a while being a week or so). Then, I decided to jump  into Camp NaNoWriMo, my post about which you can read over here. Since I was working towards a goal of about 2000 words per day on my ‘novel’, I felt that I could take another little break from blogging, posting less frequently, if at all.

And then, a few days ago, I decided that Camp NaNo wasn’t working for me. So I stopped. I don’t look at this as quitting, so much as making a decision to spend my time on other things which I’d rather be doing, like blogging. Since then, I’ve been trying to post something, anything, but it just isn’t working out so well. I tried writing one about my choice to duck out if Camp NaNo early, in attempt to justify this decision to myself and others. That post got abandoned after a few forced paragraphs, because I had already worked through those feelings in my head (and with my mommy) and had convinced myself that it was the right decision, so writing about it and thus analyzing my choice further just felt stale.

Then I tried to write a post about the fact that I’m re-reading Northanger Abbey  by Jane Austen, but I had too many things to say about Jane, her novels, irony and re-reading that the post was just a long, rambling, tangent-y mess. I felt the way I do when I start making an outline for an English essay: I had too many thoughts and I needed to work on streamlining them. However, writing blog posts should be more fun than writing essays for English class, so rather than bothering to streamline, I just saved it as a draft and left it alone.

But look at me!  I’m back on the horse! And it wasn’t that hard or that scary! Maybe tomorrow or the next day I’ll try riding it around a little. Perhaps I’ll even share my theories as to how my fear of animals developed (if I can make it entertaining enough — otherwise it’ll share the fate of the other two aforementioned posts). Or maybe I’ll streamline and publish that post on Northanger Abbey. Of course, by then I’ll probably have several thousand new ideas that need streamlining, but now that I’m back on the horse, hopefully I’ll stay up here for a while — there’s a great view.

Is anyone else in a beginning-of-summer blogging rut? How do you combat blogger’s block? How about you in the back? Any thoughts?

 

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