It’s ten in the morning. The kids are off to school, Gil is at his office, and for the past hour I have been trying to decide whether to go grocery shopping, clean the bathroom, catch up on emails, start working on an article that’s due next week, continue wrestling with Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, or write a blog entry. Now that I’ve quit my job and have had four months in a foreign city to do anything I fancy, without any obligation to do anything in particular, I feel so overwhelmed by possibilities, that everything seems equally pointless.
What I would like to do most is crawl back into bed, but I worry my whole life will unravel if I let my discipline slide: I let myself go once, and next I will stop getting out of bed in the mornings, will stay in my pajamas forever, will stop brushing my teeth, will stop caring about my children and husband, and will eventually spend my days watching daytime soap operas while sipping artificially-flavored cherry liquor.
I always have trouble with beginnings: getting out of bed, starting a new project, writing the first word on a blank page… I don’t know how others do it, but for me it takes superhuman effort to summon the energy to move from inaction to action. Every morning I feel as if I have to recreate my world from scratch.
The idea of doing things is always so much simpler and smoother than actually accomplishing them. In my calendar for today, for instance, I wrote: pay bills; organize Miki’s birthday party; edit essay; draft article; piano lesson Dina Miki. How beautifully simple: five assignments, and a whole day to complete them!
Only, I didn’t take into account that the first hours of my morning are always taken up by my Herculean struggle against the impulse to go back to sleep, followed by a paralyzing attack of self-hatred about my inability to turn myself into a more wholesome morning person. I also failed to take into account that the fridge is empty and that mold is growing in the cracks of the bathroom wall, and that, as much as I try to suppress my house-wifely instincts, my conscience sometimes just gets the better of me. I didn’t realize that organizing a children’s birthday party is more complicated than setting up a conference, and I forgot that my American phone company’s customer service operates in a different time zone. Besides, I should also have realized that when I take on an assignment to write an article about a philosophy class on Kant and Hume, I can’t resist the temptation of downloading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and postpone the writing of the article until I have finished reading the whole treatise because the actual reason I took on the assignment is that I’ve always felt deficient for not having read Kant. And I’m still feel deficient now because, after wrestling for two hours with the preface, I already know that I won’t ever reach the first chapter, and I now realize that my to-do list for today was hopelessly overambitious. And not only were my expectations for today unrealistic, my whole life-plan seems unfeasible.
Around three o’clock in the afternoon, I have usually gained enough momentum to start accomplishing things and feel more hopeful about the future, but by then I must take Dina and Miki to their piano lesson and start planning dinner, and I have no more opportunity to regain the hours I’ve lost by wallowing in morning inertia.
Theoretically, life seems so simple, but when you actually live it, the passing of time complicates everything. It takes an instant for plans to appear in my mind, but it takes hours, or even a lifetime, to accomplish them in reality.
Or maybe I should look at it the other way: Instead of fretting about the incongruity between my goals and their realization, I could adjust my expectations and marvel that it’s possible to accomplish anything at all.