This morning one of the twins fondled my earrings as I held up her brother’s underwear for him to climb into. She asked if I was going to go to school with them and I explained that, no, I was instead going to visit a friend in Totnes. “Have you made a friend already?” the boy asked, holding up his arms for me to put on his shirt.
I have, I said, and warmed with the knowledge that I might finally be addressing one item on the to-do list that sent me fleeing New York: being at least half as good a person as I am a professional.
I enjoyed my visit to the aforementioned friend, stocked up on charity shop goodies, and got home just in time to successfully bake the sausages, whip the mash and steam the broccoli before the kids got home from swim class.
I asked my boss if I could have the recently liberated kitchen desk, which will give me a workspace (hurray!), then went downstairs to gloat to my mom about the eight cold-weather shirts I bought at Animals in Distress.
I have another date on Friday night with Mr. Hotness, am inspired after my visit with the Totnes friend to continue working on the novel I blogged about yesterday, everyone I know is in touch and doing well, and I look forward to an autumn during which I will be fabulously dressed.
So why, starting in on the large salad I made for myself for dinner, did I suddenly think, “You have to work again tomorrow,” with a dullness that made my world gray for a moment? Why did I stare across the dining table with zero sense of who I was or where I was headed?
I horrified my go-with-the-flow mom yesterday by telling her I wanted a to-do list for my time here. Even if I’m making it up, I like to give myself a mission statement or goal, usually seasonally or when I move to a new place, to say, “This is what you’re supposed to do right now.” A mental dissection of my dissatisfactions and how I should, theoretically, be able to solve them, my to-do list hangs at the foreground of my thoughts, held in space with a shiny red pushpin, always reminding me of my failure to conquer my universe. See there on the list, I think, you’re supposed to be in a healthy romantic relationship, ten pounds thinner and leaping joyfully out of bed every morning to fulfill your creative destiny.
Small surprise that I love Bridget Jones Diary.
Ironically (considering how depressing my lack of purpose struck me at dinner) I don’t have a to-do list right now because there isn’t anything I want to change about my present situation. The big things are too big: the likelihood that a flight home to see my family would be a one-way trip out of England, and therefore currently impossible; the knowledge my pet is pooping all over my brother’s carpet as I type these words; my seventy pounds a week earned in a job that is, if you look at things rationally, likely to ruin my future working prospects. These problems are both enormous and theoretical, so enormous in fact that about a week ago they threatened to drown me. I had no choice but to stick them in the suitcases under my bed and forget them. The only other way to silence them was to go back to the US, and since I’m not ready to do that, listening to them is futile.
Meanwhile it seems less and less necessary to put my immediate, practical problems on my list because they resolve themselves whether I worry about ’em or not. I’m not asking for diamonds, just friendship and a reliable bus system, and as long as I get out of bed and try my best, I’m going to sort those out, aren’t I?
So the to-do list hangs white and wordless, depressing me with how pleasant my life is and how useless that pleasantness makes me. Remember my conversation with my brother before I left Buffalo, related in an early blog, about my purpose in going to Europe? “I don’t usually do things just because they’re fun,” I told him. “In fact… I’ve never done things because they’re fun.”
Over-achievers don’t do fun. Over-achievers achieve. Yes, this attitude often leads me to medication, alcohol and sleeping with strange men so I don’t have to think about myself for at least one night, but ultimately, isn’t it a waste to waste that energy? Isn’t contentment, un-shared, just placidity?
Let’s find a challenge, or I’ll wind up building a twenty-foot statue in the backyard from tin foil and popsicle sticks.