It’s ok to keep some things to yourself

It’s 11am and I only just realized that it was Wednesday, and that I should go sit down and post my comic. This is good news for me: this lack of awareness of time and space, this decoupling from the mania of scheduling. When I quit my day job in January, I struggled to take advantage of the principle benefit: a sudden abundance of time, and freedom with it. I understood the abundance of time part, but not the rest. You’ve always had eight working hours per day, my subconscious seemed to be telling me. Eight hours to mess around with, mostly waste, while you finish the tasks assigned to you. I had quit, but my body hadn’t quit, my lizard brain. So I sat at my desk for eight hours a day, and still felt like something was holding me back.

It felt unfair to sit outside in the morning with my coffee. It felt unfair to read books, voraciously, even though this was one of the benefits I’d most looked forward to: instead of writing marketing copy when I wasn’t working on a novel or comic, I could read books. Instead of further emptying myself out, I could fill myself up. This was true, but it felt like I was cheating someone. Myself? Other people? I didn’t know. So I sat at my computer and opened Twitter. I skimmed articles online. I wrote, too, but in the moments when I wasn’t writing, I continued to hang myself on the scaffolding of my old life.

Then I went to a residency for six weeks. It was, as I’ve mentioned, the Lighthouse Works Fellowship on Fishers Island, NY, and it was wonderful. In that time, I frequently slept later, stayed up later, read over breakfast, biked around, went swimming in the ocean. I wrote a lot, I improved my watercoloring and learned how to use paint for shading instead of markers, which was a big goal for me. I spent more time with people than I usually do, which is weird, because I was away from all the people I usually spend time with.

Now I’m back and some part of me has uncoiled. I realized, the morning after I got home, that I could still read in the morning. I could still move between projects, un-pin and re-pin my bulletin board, organize pieces of my subconscious mind on the physical plane, lie on the floor and look out the window to crack my back and rest my eyes and think new thoughts from a new perspective.

On the way home, my flight got delayed out of New York and I ended up stranded overnight in Houston, at a Red Roof Inn near the airport which had—bafflingly, troublingly—a whirlpool tub in the bedroom. (There was also a regular tub + shower in the bathroom.) The whole time I was sitting on the delayed plane (2+ hours on the tarmac, plus at least three in the air), and lying on the bed in that strange motel, I could feel my body hemmed in by space. I used the probably disgusting whirlpool tub, because it was relaxing, and the fact that I did not contract some bacterial infection is, perhaps, the result of my mom’s “A little dirt won’t hurt” philosophy of child-rearing, which I also survived.

At home, I upgraded my phone, and as a result of technological indecency to boring to relate to you, I lost a bunch of my contacts and most of my texts, and spent an additional 2+ hours on the phone with a very nice Apple support person who helped me as much as humanly possible. (To go beyond the help I received would, perhaps, have required the empathy of a machine, which I would have welcomed, but which was not forthcoming.)

(I always had a weird, workmanlike relationship with my old smartphone, a iPhone 6s which I guess I was mad at because I’d really loved my first smartphone, a 5s, which was smaller and had better battery life and more memory, and which I still dearly miss. I cannot help personifying, humanizing the objects that I interact with—since childhood I have assumed souls for everything I’ve every touched, and it was inevitable that someday one of my possessions or tools would be one to which I’d feel, at least, a mild animosity. We nonetheless made it work—my disinterest, my phone’s seeming awareness of it and revenge for it, meted out in small deletions and petty misdirection when I needed a map in an unfamiliar city, our mutual need to work together even despite this mutual antipathy—for almost four years, and so I’m almost impressed by this final, biblical vengeful push. It tried to infect my new phone, but I erased its remnants with a factory reset, and now everything is new and I’ve lost several apps but I’m free to start fresh with my new technological companion, with its unbroken case and lack of baggage.)

To be clear, I’m not so much complaining as marveling at the fact that these minor, nagging irritations have now rolled off my back, along with my manic need to be visibly productive every hour of the day—either productive or deeply slothful, in an effort to replenish myself. I feel hopeful about the future, is I guess what I’m saying. In early July, I’ll be teaching in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, and I look forward, too, to that manically scheduled ten days, and the restfully unscheduled future that follows it.

I will do work and be alive. I will do both. Have a good week, friends.