Monday, December 2, 2013

one thing at a time

This past weekend I took a modified "stay-cation". Typically the idea of a staycation is that rather then leaving your home to go relax somewhere exotic or interesting, you stick around and get done the things you just don't have time or opportunity to do while carrying out your activities of daily living. House renovations for example or cleaning out the basement.

My never realized dreams are much less outcome driven then a house project. I just want to read an entire freakin book. Front to back, left to right, consuming every tasty word and absorbing the author's full intention into my soul. Not just turning pages but reading thoughts, stories and ideas.

I do read lots of books nowadays, and maybe should feel more satisfaction every time I follow the escapades of Pinkalicious as she navigates the mysteries of garden fairies or eating one too many cupcakes. There is a beautiful element of familiarity in the Very Hungry Caterpillar and watching Knox anticipate the ending is so rewarding.

But I want to read my own books. Dig in to the stack on my nightstand that keeps growing because even though I have no idea when I will have time to read them, obtaining books that grab my attention is a habit formed in college that I have not and will not break. I love Amazon and eBay and the Library and my friend's bookshelves and any source of book material.

I read when I can. If the babes are feeling snuggly and want me to watch Dumbo with them, I try and sneak a book on the couch, balancing its weight on their little backs while they sit in my lap and watch the ridiculous 10 minute song "pink elephants on parade" that was obviously created by several cartoonists smoking weed or stronger hallucinogen in the 40's. But a page here and there doesn't let me really lose myself in a book, it just helps keep me sane and reminds me that I do love reading.

Thus the staycation of 2013. I booked two nights at a local hotel and Grant dropped me off on Friday evening with three bags and a kiss. One bag contained clothes, make up, shoes, toothbrush and phone charger. The other contained a six pack of beer, two trays of fresh sushi, two large bags of popcorn (my hands down favorite snack and one of the few things I refuse to share with my beloved husband and children) and dark chocolate covered almonds. These things would sustain me in case I decided not to leave my room until check out Sunday morning. The third bag was full to the top with books. I prioritized which books from my stack I most wanted to read, and still the bag was full.

Friday night I sat on the bed and ate my spring rolls and watched bad TV. At the commercials I jumped on the bed, looked out the window at the lights of the city and sat on the love seat in the corner, marveling that I was responsible for no one but myself. My children were in great hands, I had left Grant with a full kitchen, clean house and Pursy's gymnastics outfit folded up and ready to go. I was free to relax.

Saturday morning I went downstairs in my pajama pants to the cafe on the first floor of the hotel and got a coffee, which I took back to my room and partook in, in my opinion, the most fun you can have in a bed alone. Reading. I got back under the covers and grabbed my first choice of reading material, Michael Pollan's Cooked and opened to page one.

And realized I have forgotten how to read.

Every other sentence made me think of blog posts I could write. Reading the chapter about making barbeque in North Carolina made me want to grab my phone and call Grant to tell him what I was learning about being a pit boss. The hum of the mini fridge made me think about the half eaten tray of sushi in there and wish I had grabbed that croissant in the cafe when I saw it rather then focus so exclusively on coffee. I started skimming paragraphs and flipping to recipes in the appendix. I looked over at my coffee mug on the dresser and thought about which Instagram filter would be the coolest if I took a photo.

I couldn't do just one thing. My brain was trying to do multiple things at once and figure out ways to publish them. I was trying to simply learn something for the satisfaction of self knowledge, which is what reading is supposed to be, and I couldn't do it. It was as if the simple pleasure of doing something for myself wasn't enough. Others needed to know I was doing it, learning it, reading it.

I have gotten out of the habit of living privately.

I realize I am conflating two separate issues, but maybe they are more related then I think. One is my ability to do one thing at a time, such as read a book and absorb the content without being distracted by other things. The other is my habitual practice of sharing my life with others. These two elements collided and became impossible to ignore in the quiet of my private hotel room. When no one is around, do I even know what I like to do?? And would I be okay sharing (or not sharing) the answer if I knew? I haven't lived privately since January 4th 2004 when I invited Grant to share a life with me. One or both of my children are around me at all times, not to mention this blog, my smartphone, Instagram...I am never alone. Sometimes by choice, sometimes by necessity. But these lines have become blurry for me.

Grant warned me about this recently, and I blew him off. I already knew how bad facebook was for me, just as a time suck, not to mention the potential for deeper harm. We have both read research articles about affects of social media and talked about the dangers of living too publicly. We have talked about how much of Purslane and Knox we want to share with the world before they are old enough to give us their permission.

Living privately is obsolete now. Every thought, every action, every article, every position- out for everyone to read. And my struggle to have a weekend away without broadcasting my actions was mind blowing to me. Funny that I write this on my form of social media, my blog. Maybe it makes me hypocritical, but if my readership numbers are any indication, my thoughts here are still pretty private. At least you have to purposefully come here to read my words. And its my digital journal, so that allows me a little more freedom. Shall I justify more, or just stop now??

The rest of my weekend away was an exercise in doing one thing at a time. Taking a bath without my tablet to read food blogs while I soaked. Eating sushi without the TV on so I could fully enjoy the adventure of chopsticks and wasabi. Reading a book without activating the separate area in my brain that invents blog post titles. Enjoying every activity for its simple organic pleasure.

Michael Pollan is a fantastic author. I read half of Cooked and have tried to find pockets of alone time to hide away and read the rest. Preferably before I owe the library TOO much in way of fines...

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