In Which At Least Three Things Are As They Should Be

19 July 2003

My grandpa always used to say, "I don't want excuses, I want results." Grandpa, however, didn't really mean it, at least not with me. There's a corner of my brain that takes the same attitude, with much less grinning and elbowing than Grandpa. In general, I think my brain is much less kind to me than my grandpa is. I suppose this should not come as a surprise to anybody. I wonder why they haven't had a pop psychology book about finding your own inner grandparent. Maybe they have and I've just missed it. Despite my rich and varied reading in the field of pop psychology.

It is not a particularly good morning. I was hoping it would be, but it is not. I tried calling Michelle, in hopes that that would elevate the general tenor of the day. Instead, it elevated the general tenor of that hour-and-a-half or so. Generally I prefer basses to elevated tenors, but that's another story.

(Trent, Trent, Trent. You're not allowed to stack the deck so far that all thought about any aspect of writing and literature is on your side. Well, I suppose you can if you really want to, but I think you'll end up with a position you don't really want.

And "pretentious" may be used sometimes to describe something someone doesn't understand -- but it's also used on things that actually are pretentious. It's like "racist" and "sexist" and "homophobic" that way: sure, there are people who use those words to shut down an argument. But there are also genuinely racist, sexist, and homophobic behaviors. (There are also anti-homosexual behaviors, which I think should be distinguished from homophobic behaviors, but for whatever reason that's not the word that's most commonly used in that context.))

That digression aside, here's the thing: my back still stinks, and Dr. Bill is not going to be back from fitting glasses on the Bosnian refugee children until Monday, so he won't be back at work until Tuesday at the very earliest. And this kind of constant pain is very easy for me to partially ignore. It's not that I forget it's there, exactly; it's that I forget that it's the problem. Then I demand of myself, "What's wrong with you?" in varying levels of intensity, and myself is generally not smart enough to reply, "My right shoulder, dummy." So then I'm scowly with myself for not getting more done -- even though, I might add, I get a lot done -- because I forget that the pain is an issue. It's still there. It's still making me tired and cranky and sad and a little nauseated. It's just that I forget that part and keep the tired/cranky/etc.

I keep telling myself that I do not actually have to write another 12-15K of novel, "Gilding the Dandelion," "Make Me a Match," "Seven Point Two," and "Thresholds of Pain" before it becomes August. Really and truly, I do not have to. The world will not come crashing in on my head. Or on anyone else's head. Fish will swim, birds will fly, people will sing show tunes but generally not in my house, and all will be as before. This sounds a lot more convincing from the outside, I'm pretty sure; follows rudimentary logic and laws of causality and all that.

And I am determined to do fun things sometimes; I'm determined to see and do and enjoy things around here. I don't want to be that annoying kind of person who lives in a city for years and never even knows anything she enjoys is around her. They have a free art museum down in San Jose. We haven't been, and we're going this afternoon. And once we get in the car and go, it'll be fun; we will enjoy each other's company and the company of the art (even if it's bad art), and then we'll eat sushi and buy groceries and watch a movie or maybe just "Trading Spaces." And if we watch "Trading Spaces," we'll talk about our house-to-be and how we will never never never paint it any variation on a theme of celedon, inside, outside, the floor of the laundry room, anywhere. It will be good.

This morning, though, I keep saying, "It'll be okay, though, right?" And I'm not talking about the trip to the museum this afternoon, or the sushi, or the groceries (and certainly not about the celedon). I just have a deep and abiding sense this morning that It Is Not All Right, and I'm not sure how to shake that.

The problem with back-induced sadness is that you can't talk it through. I told Mark this already. It's not like being sad because I'm in California and being able to make happy-California-thing plans and plans for leaving and talk myself through it. It's just there.

Luckily, so will Dr. Bill be.

I did substantial outline work yesterday, getting rid of some whole pages of notes, and I think today will be good in that regard, if I don't hide under the mental bed in terms of my work today. If I don't decide to give myself a sick day. Which I might, but I don't know that I'll be able to. Anyway, I'm happy with what I figured out and what I incorporated and what I'll need to do. That's all really good.

I finished reading Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, which ended rather abruptly, and it's a good thing I was told that there's a second volume of this memoir somewhere out there, or I'd be significantly disgruntled. I started reading Stephen Jay Gould's The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister's Pox, which claims to be his last science-related book. (They always manage to dredge up another book out of dead people these days, so I'm not convinced.) It's supposed to be about reconciling The Two Cultures ( la C. P. Snow -- those Two Cultures), but I haven't gotten far enough to see whether I think he's got something on this. We'll see. I also borrowed many books from David. On top of what I got from the library and what's left on my stack to read, I should be satisfied well through my birthday. And then, someone just might buy me a book for a birthday present. It's been known to happen before. It's been known to make me happy before, too.

I wanted to read the Gould, I think, because it seems calming to me. Even if I think he goes awry and I end up scowling at him and rolling my eyes, he has a pretty firm, steady hand with these things. It's not an adventure to read his books, for me; he's not like Sacks or Hofstadter that way. I didn't want an adventure. I wanted some information and maybe a little speculation, a little theorizing. Solid. Something to hang onto, stylistically.

There are kids outside having a car wash across the street. They're haranguing passersby at the top of their collective lungs: "Car wash! CAR WASH! Two dollars! Car wash!" It is less than charming. It has been going on for an hour and a half at least. It has not grown more charming with time, and I'm not convinced that their business has improved. We were talking about middle names for the small one I'm not trying to be pregnant with yet, or else for his/her younger sibling, and Mark at one point suggested "Carwash." Emily Carwash Gritter. I vetoed that and then preemptively vetoed Twodollars as well. Just, no. Pion and Yaobang are also out of the question. Perhaps we will all change our names to Starshine. And if you don't know that old story, I'll tell it on e-mail, I promise. It might put me in a better mood.

Sometimes house stuff and dog stuff and kid stuff and future stuff like that is settling for me. Calming. It's a good conversational resort, not a minefield like where on earth we'll find our sushi for dinner tonight and whether they'll let me have a bento the way I want it, or whether we'll use up a new bottle of ketchup and a new bottle of soy sauce before we move. David mentioned yesterday that he was helping someone else move this weekend, and my eyes glazed over, and I started muttering about how many books Jenn had and how many boxes it had taken her, and I just wandered off away from the poor guy, conversationally. It's just a permanently dangerous tangent in this brain.

Maybe the problem is that I haven't partaken of the lovely fruits in my kitchen enough yet. We have strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherry tomatoes. The strawberries are past their seasonal prime out here, but I just couldn't resist one more box of them. And the blackberries and blueberries and cherry tomatoes are just perfect. They are what they should be.

Sometimes it's nice to focus a little bit on things that are what they should be.

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