Summer in New York City has been mercifully mild as far as the heat goes, but a dense humidity has kept most of us scrambling from air-conditioned building to air-conditioned building, forever packing a cardigan just in case. My apartment can feel like you’ve been wrapped in plastic and left to sweat no matter how closely you sit in front of a fan. The pressure of hazy days gives me a headache that makes me prone to distraction, and no matter how I want to start writing, I can’t seem to get my brain in order for the job. It’s been a laborious summer of tiny setbacks and frustrations, but I’m powering my way through a gloomy day headache here and now.
I can be a stubborn individual as well as someone wedded to routine because there’s comfort in familiarity. I’ve been struggling with writer’s block on a project because I’m not sure if I should stay close to the characters or make a Grand Political Statement with a dystopian setting. I’m a huge lover of dystopian literature, and now seems like a great time to take a stand with the way women’s reproductive rights have been routinely attacked in America as of late. But I’ve also never written anything while deliberately thinking, “Here, THIS is my theme!” As an English major, I always felt like a bit of a fraud when writing essays picking out those strands because I could hardly envision the greats wanting to say something deliberate more than simply tell a story. Now I have the urge, and I now I have to approach the writing with more care than my usual, haphazard “write it and never look again in shame” style. If I go that path. I’ll get past this fork in the road, but it’s okay to fail at it for a while.
That’s what I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately: the act of quitting, the ending of things. A friend of mine recently gave me a book called Fuck It. It’s “spiritual” in the sense that it borrows much from Eastern religious practices, but the main idea is to say “fuck it” to the stresses and unimportant hangups of our lives. Some things aren’t quite as simple as the book makes it out to be, and you can tell that the author isn’t America since nowhere does he address the lethal consequences of abandoning your student loan debt and pretending it will just go away. Still, even if I think some of his ideas are a bit too pie in the sky (most of us can’t just quit a job or move to another country just because we feel like it, because money), it’s a smart practice to apply every day. The MTA has messed up yet again? Fuck it. People in New York are rude? Fuck it. Work was stressful? Fuck it. I can’t remember the last time I went to the gym and feel guilty? Fuck it. I’m a sadder, more anxious person than I let on, but it does help to at least try to remember the power of perspective.
Right around when I was finishing that book, I received news that a dear friend of mine is facing a health scare of sorts. I won’t go into detail to respect her privacy, but we talk on a nearly daily basis, so I care very much. It’s awe-inspiring to see someone take this news and, yes, struggle, but also come to the best choice for her body and her quality of life while planning other things in her life, things meant to bring joy. She keeps coming up with these ridiculous things to do soon and while on the mend: paddle board yoga, a party, a tattoo, an ’80s movie marathon. Nothing really brings life into perspective like those big issues. When life itself is on the line, it really doesn’t matter if you wear the same pair of pants two days in a row.
This week, a friend lost her grandfather, and then I arrived home to the news that Robin Williams had taken his own life. There is no shortage of grim, depressing, overwhelming news every day, but Robin Williams really hit home for me. Aladdin was the first movie I ever saw in theaters, and so many of his films were important to me as a kid: FernGully, Hook, Jumanji, Jack, Flubber, Popeye. He struggled with demons, as the saying goes, for so many years, and even bringing such joy to so many people through his warmth and humor wasn’t enough to balance out the effects of his illness.
Before I heard the news, I was struggling with the idea of dropping a book I was reading. I was over three hundred pages in, but I just wasn’t enjoying myself. I am a fan of the snarky read and the hate read, but this was neither. I appreciated nothing but knew that some friends enjoyed the book. Every page made me avoid reading rather than face it. I went to The Strand after work to pick up some new novels I promised myself I could have once I was through with my chore. Then there was that stark reminder that life is a short, unpredictable journey. Why make it harder? I gave up. It happens. I’m reading a new book now (The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce, who is a wonder if you’ve never encountered him), and my day started out with so much more energy and joy because of it.
I guess what I’m getting to, sorely neglected blog, is that we have no guarantees in life. Sometimes we just have to indulge ourselves, even if that means walking away from stories until we’re sure we can get them right. We’re really the only ones in charge. Take your time, if it means you aren’t going to waste it.