I look around and see so much that needs to be done, so much I want experience, that I just get brain-lock. I still have my eyes set on walking across Spain again, maybe Siberia, leaning toward the Continental Divide Trail, definitely the Canadian Rail, and even biking to Coos Bay, Oregon, isn’t out of my peripheral vision just yet. Also, hiking around Ireland.
I want to grow a bountiful garden and I’d love to raise a goat. I have books to write and old friends and family to visit. The list goes on and on and the time does not, it simply does not. It took me decades to realize I just need to pick a direction and go, see what happens and then bounce from there. But sometimes I sit on my porch and look out at the property and end up walking along the water thinking about sailing. Or once in a while we drive around taking pictures and we end up at this abandoned building on a bluff over the river and I think how I’d love to open a pub there. It tires me thinking of it all and I can’t even write because there are so many words and I know I should just chose one to get going, but instead I sit on the porch and look out, tired, but not really.
I often wonder if seemingly lazy people aren’t unambitious as much as they are simply overwhelmed with possibility without firm decision-making skills.
Artists can be like that. Writers and musicians too. I remember a line from a song written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman: “I pity the poor one, the shy and unsure one, who wanted it perfect but waited too long.” Love that.
Idleness leads to chronic immobility, both physically and mentally. In writing classes I tell my students to just go, pick a direction and go, and it might not be the right way but I swear somewhere in paragraph three you will make a left turn into exactly where you want to be next. Or as in the words of my friend and adviser, Pete Barrecchia, “Just write the fucking thing.” And so in all things, just go. Sometimes we are afraid we might miss something if we go, or stay, or change or remain idle. That’s funny since no matter what happens we’re going to miss something. The list of things we’ll never do will always be infinitely longer than the things we attempt.
Okay, so this was all brought on because I was listening to very old James Taylor, which isn’t always a good idea. This time it reminded me, as music is apt to do, of times in my life I sat staring at so many possibilities I couldn’t focus so instead lost my direction. Some call this situation a “First World Problem.” They laugh and say to stop complaining when there are so many unfortunate souls who’d give anything to have even one of those opportunities.
No, they don’t get it. This isn’t about “appreciating position” or any sense of privilege. Indecision is a sign of depression, borne of the inability to express something inexplicable: the razor-thin line between the beauty and grace of existence and the torment in knowing we can never experience it all, and so many don’t even try. Some suicidal people don’t think about killing themselves because they don’t want to live, but because they can never live enough.
(note to readers: I’m not suicidal)
I’m getting better at simply choosing one direction and committing. I do it in my writing, my daily walks, and my mental wanderings through the vague world of “what’s next.” Tomorrow I’ll work on one specific chapter of a project and remind myself that while there were fifteen other projects I really wanted to get to, I will end the day having made significant progress on “this” one.
My idleness is not indifference, most certainly not. It is the same reaction when a server brings a tray of fifteen delicious-looking desserts and I turn them down. I don’t want to make a choice only to regret it later because “as it turns out I would have rather had the raspberry torte after all.” I need to just point to the triple-berry pie and forget the other options ever existed at all (which is, unfortunately, getting easier).
It reminds me of a method of advice we used at the club when I worked for Richard. I told people I had no intention of helping them lose 50 pounds, but I’ll be thrilled to help them lose 3 pounds this week. And it worked.
The world has more choices now than ever before, and for each nuance of life the decision-making options have increased exponentially. So if I’m sitting on the porch starting at the trees, or on the sand looking out over the bay, it isn’t idleness, it is…
Okay, well, sometimes it is idleness, but it is an idleness I have chosen, a specific quiet motionless moment which I have hand-picked to work on.