My life, filled with people I love to spend time with and things I love to do, is very, very busy. My schedule is bursting with things I want to do, so much so that at times I feel anxiety about getting it all done. I have many goals concerning my art, my work, my learning to fly a plane, my band, my speaking French and more. I didn’t realize until today that all these goals are only of interest to me. I know that seems obvious, but there you have it. It somehow never dawned on me that nobody really cares if I achieve any of these things but me.
I spent this last week sick with some undiagnosed incapacitating illness. I had a week that was full of these I “had to” do, and none of it got done. Each day I had to cancel plans, lessons, or meetings hoping that maybe tomorrow would be better. But tomorrow would come, I’d still be terribly sick, and I’d do the whole cancellation round again.
I know that I often think, when returning from vacation, how overbusy my life seems and how I should tone it down. I’m sure I’ve written here about it before. I think this was the first time though, that it really hit me on a gut level: this overbusy shit is bogus.
Maybe all these goals are a bit absurd. What does it matter if I get a gallery show this year, or next year, or the year after that? What does the time really mean in terms of achieving the goal? I keep settings up these deadlines, but they are all artificially contrived. They are all invented by me, and it really doesn’t matter if or when they happen. Having all these deadlines just makes me anxious, plus I’m always evaluating (perhaps judging) my progress, which is another energy drain. Look, things are going to get done or they won’t. As I saw from my week of being sick, nobody cares if my stuff happens or it doesn’t. Nobody. They just care if I’m happy.
Also, maybe I just can’t keep in touch with everyone I want to be in touch with. W. said recently that he was trying to “free himself from friends”, a phrase I could only hear him say. He has a point, though, as absurd as it sounds. Sticking close to the good and important friends and maybe letting some others slip away isn’t the worst idea. In my case, it may be an idea whose time has come.
Here’s my post-illness resolution. No more fake, self-created deadlines. I’m just going to enjoy what I’m doing and try letting some things slip through the cracks, let some things take their course, and others take their time. I bet, just like this last week, it’s not going to matter at all other than I might be a whole helluva lot calmer.
I’m in Québéc for the Winter Carnival. The temperature is hovering around 0 degrees fahrenheit, sometimes a bit above and sometimes a bit below. Everyone knows I hate winter. Mostly everyone knows I refer to snow as “sky vomit”. Just what am I doing here?
I’ve talked about my friend I. before (here and here). Since we first got back in touch five years ago or so she has been bugging me to join her here for a fun-filled trip. I protested, and protested and protested. But I. was so persevering and convincing I finally said, “What the hell? I’ll go.”
I did like the idea of spending a vacation with her, having an adventure with her after all these years. Two friends of her would be joining us, and even that — a vacation with complete strangers — I accepted.
When I told people I knew I was doing this, they were dumbfounded, or confused, or mocking. Some people accepted my premise that I would approach it like an anthropology study.
And now I’m here. I have to tell you, some parts of this is really hellish, and then some parts are great.
The hellish part isn’t actually the frigid cold. It’s that I didn’t realize that when I signed up for this trip, that I was signing up for a tour bus filled with a gaggle of retired people and a relentlessly talking tour leader. On the the eight — count ’em, eight — hours up here, I had to play bingo, watch a movie about Québéc which showed all the things we were about to see in person, watch an incredibly trite Hollywood film, and other delights. Here in Québéc we were shuttled around in a huge herd on this bus, this huge, huge bus and oh! It’s just awful.
Today my pals decided to break off from the herd and that’s when things started to improve… for a bit. It turned out that they wanted to break off to go shopping. LOTS OF SHOPPING. I said, hey, why don’t I just meet up with you ’cause you know what? I HATE SHOPPING. They said okay, let’s meet up in an hour and a half and then we’ll go tubing. I really want to go tubing.
I walked down to the frozen river for a while and thought about my messy life while watching giant chunks of ice flow by. Then I went to an independent bookstore and drooled over the all the books in French. I was so happy to be free! Free! Of the herd and on my own to walk down the slushy sidewalk and get a little lost. It was so great to not no exactly where I was and I briefly fantasized about disappearing forever.
Then I met up with them. You know what? They had decided they didn’t want to go tubing after all because they wanted to do MORE SHOPPING.
I kept standing outside the shops, waiting, waiting, waiting and finally said to I. if you guys want to keep doing this, just tell me and I’ll go meet up with you somewhere else. Somehow this snapped her out of the stupor and she said no, let’s go for a walk instead.
I’m writing this in the hotel which has a little private office for anyone can use. I’m in here all alone. It’s wonderful.
There’s some great irony because currently I live alone and complain a lot about how I don’t like it, how I hate sleeping alone and waking up alone. Yet. Let me say that all this togetherness, especially while doing things I don’t want to do, is far, far worse.
And the good parts? Maple taffy made on snow. My god is that something crazy. Hearing French everywhere. I do have a weakness for that language. Even better is that I get to speak it a little bit. Another fun moment is when I went on the ice slide. Shit was hella fast.
But of course, the best part is being with I. There’s just something about her that makes me smile. I guess it’s the same thing that could make me take this trip, something so unbelievable not me, and still have some good laughs. There’s something about my friends, each one, that always seems extraordinary to me. I. is no exception.