Bovary is not exactly racing along: two pages in a week! Sometimes I am so discouraged I could jump out a window. ~Gustav Flaubert
Last weekend, the mister and I went on a hot date to the public library. We went out to brunch, went for a walk in the rain, and then hit the stacks in the downtown branch. As I stood at the computer looking up books to check-out, I overheard a librarian talking to a man who looked really irritated. He looked a bit like Ginsburg who hadn’t trimmed his beard since 1981.
I didn’t catch all the details, but I did hear the librarian say, very calmly: “It seemed like you two were about to fight, so I don’t think you should sit by him today.”
To which the surly bearded man said, “Not my fault he didn’t like what I had to say. Mother Fucker needed to hear that shit tho!”
I couldn’t help myself. I started laughing. Hero! That’s exactly it. When a buddha-like yogi talks about how we can’t control others, we can only control our reaction to them, we see it as gospel. We see it as truth. Wisdom. I prefer the honesty of the Ginsburg truth teller using the free library internet.
Recently, a reader of my work told me she didn’t like the use of “we” in my writing because she “doesn’t feel that way and I shouldn’t impose my worldview on her by using we.” For fuck’s sake. “I don’t feel that way, so I felt excluded,” she wanted to remind me. (Heard it the first time, but okay, continue). We (ha) use to call it the royal “We” but now that we (ha) live in an era where even the royals don’t want to be royal, I think we can agree that this word choice might be annoying to some readers. True. For some purists, one should never use “we” and I get it, but I wasn’t imposing my worldview. K. Thanks. Bye.
I think what’s going on is I’m totally done with this sharing-my-work-for-feedback-thing for a bit. Next week, I graduate from this program I signed up for almost a year ago, and I’m really thrilled to take a break. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so glad I’ve done this program, and I absolutely love the people I’ve met, but I need a break. Ready for it. Here for it. I’ve given up time with my friends to make space for this, and it’s time for holiday from it all. Do I have a book ready to put into the world? No, but it’s shaping up nicely into something I love working on. I now schedule time to write, and I stick to it, so I accomplished one of my goals. What does finished look like? We shall see.
I don’t write a whole lot (nor do I really talk about) my mister’s struggle with his dissertation. His fancy-dancy-R1 program has changed their rules for what qualifies as a “finished” dissertation recently, and I have very strong opinions I will save. Nobody cares. In order to help him get to the finish line, I’ve rented him a sweet little tiny ocean view cabin so he can squirrel away for a week as a present for his birthday. My little cabin experience inspired him, and I do think there is some wisdom in an ascetic solo life away from everyone and everything. I’ll join him for his last night, and if I dig the space, I’ll rent it too.
This week, I read John Acuff’s Finished: Give Yourself the Gift of Done (checked out from the library). It is a snappy little book written with a southerner’s sense of humor with reflections at the end of each chapter to help you sort out how to finish a project. To help you sort out what might be a barrier.
Here’s what I copied in my journal as worthwhile advice:
- Find three relationships you need to pause
- Lose perfectionism
- Dial back your goals
- Make the thing fun
- Collect data
- Figure out where you work best
- Decide on a timeline
Okay, while reading this book and discussing dissertations with my mister and my friend/colleague, who has struggled for different reasons with being All But Dissertation, I finished my third course for my project at work. As I described what I had done for a colleague who is presenting on this work as I write (bless you, sweet soul), I realized that I’ve only just begun. To live. White laces and promises. A kiss for luck and we’re on our way. (We’ve only begun). Okay, wait. These are lyrics from The Carpenters.
Quick digression. The made for TV movie about Karen Carpenter’s anorexia destroyed me as a young girl. Shit haunted me. I mean, she had this beautiful voice. Killer hair. Bitchin’ clothes. She could play the drums. A brother to rock out with. She was on The Muppets. I could not understand for the life of me how and why she could let herself die like that.
Years later, when I met women who struggled with this eating disorder, I got it. Shit still haunts me. Makes me sad. Recently I shared my ongoing woes with my teeth, and a woman said, “All of my mom’s friends who are your age are totally losing their teeth from…you know.” She looked empathetic. Sad for me. Pity.
I asked, “What do you mean?” I was still reeling from her loose reference of “my mom’s friends.” When did I become that old?
“Oh, like, when you make yourself throw up. The acid. You know. It hurts your teeth. You’re not the only one your age,” she said.
Whoa, I said. My teeth issues are hereditary. And I should have flossed more. I can trace this back to what my mom struggled with. Possibly her mom. And so on. Genes, not the horrific pressure to look a certain way.
We changed the topic of conversation. Totally awkward. So sad.
Where was I? Right.
Finishing The Thing.
Yes, I’m going to start working on a new course on Monday, but I have decided (with help from others) what I can finish-for-now and what I/we can return to later. And I’m pretty excited about that at the ol’ jobby job these days, so I’m going to bring a bit of that joy into this hobby job project too.
I started to think about the word “finished” and what it means so I looked it up. And according to Merriam Webster’s definition, I’m working in the transitive form of the verb. As in, I’m writing more today about finishing the thing instead of actually working on the thing.
But this is a nice break to think about something else. When I think about the various French terms associated with the word finish (that I remember), we–WE–can think about finish as an action (terminer) or as a thing (le fin) or as an ending (la fin). In my epigraph above, I quoted Flaubert because it made me laugh.
Here’s another Bovary quote that I love, so you know, we can finish this post and move on with our day.
Accustomed to the the calm aspects of things, she turned, instead, toward the more tumultuous. She loved the sea only for its storms, and greenery on when it grew up here and there among ruins.