austerity 3: write a schedule
Still haven’t broken the news of our imminent breakup to the good doctor, who’s still on holiday, but yeah I’m leaving psychoanalysis. Not only does it cost too much money (I go the private route here, ugh) but it does have a tendency to weigh my weeks down with non-stop existential crisising, when really I’d be better served, you know, putting my head-down and working and being decent to those that I love. And I’ve already decided something to replace it with. No! Not more booze!
Sex with strangers, of course.
Just kidding. Ahem.
But here’s on thing that psychoanalysis did give me a bit of insight on. I’m a little hard on myself. No! I am! I’ve learned a bit about where this all started, but I’m not fixed yet. Beyond all the other mental murk and mutter, there’s one persistent fantasy that drives me mad, that makes me exceptionally mad at myself. And that is the fantasy of strict efficiency, of optimal organisation, of using my time so very wisely that it hurts.
As they say in the supermarket business, my life feels like it is defined by shrink. I get these blocks of time to work, I’ve always had these blocks of time to work, and I persistently underfulfil! Despite the things I’ve done, the things I’ve earned, I am convinced way down deep that I am an incorrigble slacker, that I’ve not spent a day correctly since I was in college. Back then, wow, did I work. Day after day after day, my now-wife and I sat in the library reading and reading and reading. I have a terrible sense that ever since then, I’ve been coasting on those four years of hard labor, spent without a social life (Friday we’d go to a movie and eat some pizza, and once in awhile we’d drive up to Montreal and drink on a hotel room balcony), without friends, mostly without drink, but with reams and reams of literary and language study and papers so exquisite that they stopped marking them at a certain point.
Downhill, downhill, since then. Perhaps more rapidly lately. Perhaps more rapidly since the advent of psychoanalysis?
Here’s my dream day, the day that I intend to have but never do.
7:00 – Wake, quickly read the IHT front to back while eating a healthy breakfast and entertaining my older daughter, who gets up at 7 AM every. single. day. It used to be a problem getting up this early, but not since kids. Left alone I still am lucky to make it past 6:30 without waking. But generally I fuck around on the internet after parking my kid in front of Ceebeebies. I drink loads of coffee but eat nothing.
8:50 – Leave for work. I take a bus and then the underground. During this time I should read something pleasureable yet useful. Check on this part of late – I do read during the commute, at least lately.
9:30 – Begin working, preferably writing, and preferably somewhere condusive to this sort of work, such as a library or my office. Generally, this doesn’t happen, at least not smoothly. I check email, I check blogstats and comments, I continue reading that pleasurable but useful commuting book, I do other things. I do these things and then I smoke a cigarette, and another, and further I’ve pre-convinced myself, tacitly, to work somewhere where it’s easy to jump out for a cigarette (i.e. Starbucks). Trashy. Only hours in, or so it feels, do I finally buck up and get to the actual work at hand.
12:30 – Have lunch. As a rule of thumb, though, unless a woman makes me have lunch, I will not have lunch. This goes back to the beginning, to mom of course. Today somehow, someway, and with no woman present, I purchased a double cheezburger with bacon at Burger King and ate it, ate it standing up. American-style fast food is the only thing that can break the needs-a-woman curse. At a boozy end-of-term party, a female colleague actually fixed me a plate of food – I have the look of a man who does not eat unless a female implores him too. This is a blessing and a curse at once.
13:00 – Resume work. If I have written well in the morning, which I never do, this is a good time to read Hard Books. Instead, this is the time that I either continue smoking or actually get to the writing I was supposed to do in the morning but didn’t quite do.
15:00 – Shift gears and write some fiction. This is what I did last summer, and it yielded something at once unpublishable but that I was proud of. This is the first time that I should be allowed to step into Starbucks, but unfortunately I’ve generally already been in three or four of them by this point.
17:30 – Head home. Read morning book or freepapers (I have no problem with the freepapers! Some people don’t get this but they are totally wrong!) during train trip home.
18:00 – Enter home, eat dinner, entertain oldest daughter, bond with infant daughter. This generally happens, there’s no choice in the matter really, though tonight my wife was an absolute saint and allowed me to have nap while she bathed and bedded the children. Absolutely saintly, that sort of gesture….
20:00 – Watch entertaining yet edifying programme with my wife, probably downloaded illegally, as this is Britain and there’s nothing on, ever. As if, though, the kids are all snug in their beds by 8 PM!
22:00 – Head to bed to continue reading my commuting book. Now, herein lies a major problem. The major problem. Generally speaking, this is when the lagering starts and the reading and writing stop. Except, um, blogposts. I should go to bed, I should read in bed and then go to sleep. I should not maintain some sort of fiction, as I head ever more deeply into middle age, that this is When The Writing Happens. Because it doesn’t. Except for blogposts. Like this one.