“A writer takes earnest measures to secure his solitude and then finds endless ways to squander it.” -Don DeLillo
Do you do it? I do.
I’m at my computer when I realize that I’m thirsty. A walk to the kitchen turns my attention to my feet. They’re cold. Time for socks. As I pull on my socks I see carelessly strewn pajamas on the floor, then my eyes fall upon an unintentional collection of hair ties that I’ve removed just before sleeping. They’re in a small pile on the carpet, next to my bed. (So that’s where they all went.) I gather the PJs and take them to the washer, return for the hair ties and deposit them on the bathroom counter. Back to the computer…until I realize I’m still thirsty. My feet are also still cold, though I tell myself to be patient and let the socks work their magic.
In front of the fridge, my red seedless grapes look divine. I snack — and, yes, I continue to thirst. Time to nip this in the bud already. Tea? Not in the mood. Water? Had enough for the day. My cat wanders in. He’s hungry, not to mention pretending to be oblivious to the buffet of options he just passed by. I swear he can hear the fridge door open from a mile away, the same way our dogs would come running at the sound of a leash being fetched, and the way they’d salivate when the word “walk” was uttered.
Out of the cabinet come his treats. He’s ravenous for them, and munches away happily. Back into the cabinet they go. I still haven’t figured out my beverage. Maybe I really don’t need one. I shuffle back to the computer.
My space is clear. It took a while for things to become this way. A couple years of the office being nothing more than a catch-all room ended during the summer, and the space I craved — quiet, calm and dark, save for a dim light in the corner behind me — was finally here. I can’t say I’ve made the best use of it, although I don’t know what I’d consider “making the best use of it” to be.
Sometimes the best use of something — an object, a ritual, a schedule — simply leads to that which fulfills a part of us. If the object is scripture, reading it may quench your spiritual thirst. If it’s a ritual, sticking to it may simply fulfill our desire to not stray too far outside the lines. If it’s a writing space, going to it on a daily basis is a grounding, humbling experience; no matter what makes its way into a post, the need to do this crazy writing thing every day has been fulfilled — for better or for worse. Sometimes it’s good to be kept on the straight and narrow.
Benjamin Franklin’s daily routine, rigid though it was, was outlined down to the hour. He awoke around 5am, and was back in bed by 10pm — not unlike my day, although everything in between is vastly different. In the morning, he asked himself, “What good shall I do this day?” At the end of the day, he’d follow up: “What good have I done today?” I’m not sure how long he stuck with this hourly road map, but that’s not the point. It was crafted with good intention. And if every hour has good intention behind it, one would suspect that the nightly question wouldn’t be that difficult to answer. And that’s a good thing.
Tonight I am thankful for to-do lists, as well as for the myriad ways we find to squander our productivity and solitude on our way to checking off our tasks. While our lists may not be fully complete — while we might’ve been sidetracked and we may only have begun one or two items throughout the course of the day, we can proudly say we’re no longer at the starting line. We’ve taken a step, and that can lead to a lot of wonderful things.
That — that is the good we shall do on this day.