09 December 2009

Bed, Rest

My great-grandmother (or maybe my grandmother, since my mother inherited them from her) used to have these lovely little bed jackets. A bed jacket is an item you don't see much anymore, given that the time when women used to spend their mornings lounging around in bed, even receiving visitors there, is past. Today, however, I wish for a bed jacket, as I am self-confined to bed for the second day in a row.

I love bed. I used to spend hours in bed. At night I would get in bed and do my grading there, assisted by my handy bed desk. In the morning I would wake up and do my reading there, assisted by my handy knees (incidentally, best way to create a secure prop for your book with your knees: get yourself into position and then pigeon-toe your toes. For some reason, the grip
is much stronger, so your knees don't slide down). After I finished a paper or a chapter I would climb in there to revise it. But now I don't spend so much time in bed, and I don't know why (although I do still spend a lot of time on the floor reading. Don't knock the floor, baby! Sitting on the floor against some sort of perpendicular solid, preferably slightly scrunched up, is to me the most pleasant and comforting of reading positions). I've opted to spend a second day in bed because I'm trying to recover quickly, but so far the only result is that when I get out of bed, or when I sit up, my head swims and I get the sensation of sort of being stoned. I feel like the woman who wrote Seabiscuit! And it's so boring. And I have no visitors. Although I could have visitors if I wanted, but I don't really want because, although there's almost no more delightful vision than that of sitting up in bed talking to a visitor (more delightful might be the visitor getting on the bed with me), if someone came to visit I'd have to put on my pyjama bottoms, and that's a drag.

Anyway, confined to bed as I am, I discover that suddenly all the stuff I hate doing seems like the most desirable activity in the world. I want to go to the gym! I want to work on my book! I want to write student recommendations! Instead, I am experiencing forced leisure - except it isn't really leisure, because I can't really concentrate, so I can't read, for example.

A couple of days ago I was talking to someone who said, "I don't really think about work when I'm not working." I found that a most extraordinary fact. But...but...who doesn't think about work when they're not working? Well, this person, apparently. But I think about work all the time. But then, I'm working all the time.

Or so I thought.

I started to think about how often I work, and in my rudimentary calculations it's not a lot. If you add up the time I spend on facebook, or doing tango, or watching stuff on youtube or iTunes, I don't work much more than most people - in fact, I probably work less (although God bless O., who said, "Well, as a writer you're working all the time." I love it that someone thinks creative writer is my real job). The difference is that work is always hanging over my head. In fact it's been that way ever since I was in grad school: when I was working on my Ph.D. I used to feel guilty every time I went to the movies, feeling that I ought to be at home waiting for an idea to come, or working, although ideas rarely came, and I rarely worked, when I was at home for those otherwise-movie-wasted hours. Also, I intersperse my work with so much play that I frequently have work "left to do." So perhaps what I ought to do is just do my work, and get it over with, and then have my fun. This is not a new idea, but it's one I'm going to try again in earnest.

When I first went to Otherhome, in the first semester I was there, on the days I didn't have to teach I would do my own work from 9-5, with an hour or so for lunch, and then at 5 I would start my preparation for the next day's classes. And it worked a treat! As did the working earlier this term, where I read all morning and afternoon without checking e-mail. But I'm thinking of something even firmer. I'm thinking of just working until the work is done, then stopping, rather than filling in the time with more work.

Once or twice over the last few years I've tried imagining what I'll do when the book is finished: not what I'll do next, but what it will be like to have nothing to do for a bit, what I'll do with all that leisure. And always, not so very far beneath the surface, is a feeling of confusion and cold dread. I really have no idea who I'll be without some ongoing work. And that's not good.

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