Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Center Does Not Hold

It's two in the afternoon. I haven't eaten lunch yet.

This is bewildering. For most of my adult life, the current boss cat got me up at six and I ate (generally the same breakfast, which I could cook and consume regardless of how awake or how well or how cheerful I was - one soft boiled egg, hot or cold cereal, fruit, hot tea). I was working - whether at a soul-sucking day job or at my own stuff - by eight. Eating lunch at eleven was essential, as along about 10:30 I started getting hungry and by 11:00 I was going critical. My blood sugar would be doing things that blood sugar should never do and if I didn't eat anything could happen, from fainting to laughing jags to bursting into tears to hurling random things at people. (You think I'm exaggerating. Because you were never trapped in a soul-sucking day job with me. Nobody ever forced me to take a late lunch twice. I was fired, or my lunch hour was sacred. There was no in-between.) Afternoons I worked till three. If in a soul-sucking day job I'd stick it out till five, but nothing intellectually taxing I did after that could be trusted - I was bottoming out physically and proceeding on stubbornness and strength of will, of which I once had a considerable amount. If in control of my own time, I knocked off at three and that was time to read or play games or something. Sometimes I'd get a second wind in the evening - during soul-sucking day jobs I needed to, so I could put what I'd written on my lunch hour and coffee breaks into my word processor, and this was generally when I wrote absurdly long newsgroup posts and so on. Plus, reading. But I read all the time; the reading goes without saying.

And I want to do this now. Repeatedly I plan days based on the assumption that, as I always could before, I would spend the morning from 8 to 11 writing, the afternoon doing housework, sewing, researching, and the evening cooking and relaxing.

But it doesn't work. I may not start writing till ten - even if I sit down to do it. I may not be able to eat breakfast till nine, and it may only be the egg, or the fruit. Lunch is all over the map. Supper, which has always been a problem because Damon doesn't get hungry till 7:30 and I'd be hungry at 5:00 (so I'd get a snack), is a problem no more, except that I tend not to make such nice ones. Because when I do get hungry, I still have to eat right now; but, not knowing when it's going to hit, it's harder to make myself start eggplant parmesan, or spinach rice casserole, or anything that requires a lot of chopping and stirring.

Nobody prepares us, mentally, for the way changes in the diurnal cycle affect our intellectual output. I've always relied on my habits to carry me through. The old advice, write a page a day and you have a novel - it's good advice, but it assumes that you can declare a consistent time and place to sit down and write the page, and put your butt in the chair, and do it.

At the moment it is not true.

At some point, I'll adjust. Either I'll settle down into a new rhythm and build new habits; or I'll recognize the waves of capacity as they come at me and be prepared to seize them, to write now and get housework done now and now is the time to start cooking but now is the time when I can face writing queries and get this stuff back into the mail where it belongs. I will become flexible.

But I am not there yet.

Which is one reason the current project is the way it is. This is a book that can only be written flexibly, weirdly, from odd angles and at strange times.

Anyway, since no one talks about this, I thought I'd better bring it up. I'm certain I'm not the only one who has ever had to adjust like this.

I'm consistently peculiar, and in a thin part of the bell curve, but in a world so thickly populated, I never am the only one.

But I may be the first to speak. So this is me, speaking.

For what it's worth.

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