In less than two days, Karawynn will be arriving for her holiday visit to the balmy South, and I am behind on cleaning. Not because I’ve been particularly diligent; I really haven’t been. Not because I can’t break larger tasks into smaller tasks; I’ve done that already – I even have a list. I can’t actually do the smaller tasks once they’ve been listed.
Some of them have gotten done as incidentals. The bookshelf in the study gleams now, its proud inhabitants tucked neatly into size-coordinated rows. I dusted and reorganized the bookshelf while I was on the phone with Karawynn one night and actually had some motivation. Motivation. I can’t remember what it was like to be consistently motivated to get anything accomplished; I don’t think I’ve ever been that way. Only recently has it started to affect my capacity to function.
I want to keep goals in mind: getting to grad school, going to Europe for our much-belated honeymoon, publishing more poetry. I want to keep this in mind always, and to a certain extent, I do … only as signposts marked “Missed Deadline” and “Can’t Do This Until That Other Thing Is Finished”. It sickens me to think of how many experiences I have missed out on due to lack of motivation. How many people I have not met as a result of it all, really interesting people I would be the better for meeting.
Fear of failure, someone once prescribed to my lack of motivation. Fear you won’t be up to the task, fear that even the mere attempt will brand you as “not good enough” or worse.
I know I am up to it. I do; I’m not afraid. I just don’t know what I’ll do when I get there.
Goals, or any other fanciful notions to me these days, are endings of things. Endings of phases I struggled, cried, and cursed through. Phases I won’t get back. More years spent, and gone, and faded into spotty memory. Pieces of myself I won’t remember when they’re done.
In high school, I was part of the drama club/team called Forensics (having nothing to do with dead people at all, except their plays or poems). I competed in many events, but my favourite was Dramatic Duet Acting. In this event, two people performed a clipping of a scene or scenes from a previously-published play, within a seven-minute time limit, with only a table and two chairs as set. No props, no lights, no music. I still regard this kind of competition as dramatic competition in its purest form, and hope that all students of theatre have a chance to participate.
I was good. My partners were good. Our scenes were good. We did well at almost all of the events we competed in, and I still have some medals and trophies and plaques from that time. But I can’t remember them. I remember the dress I most frequently wore during one season when my partner and I were performing a scene from “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” – a plain, rayon number in some inconspicuous floral pattern on a black background. I remember yelping and hugging her as we placed second overall at one of the competitions. Pieces, pieces. Someone’s gone into my brain with an aluminum baseball bat and trashed the place. The pieces are as small as the fragments of dreams I wake from; watching them slip into the cracks in the floor, I wish over and over again I could have something to keep.
My memory has never been terrific, but it’s getting worse, and I’m afraid I will never be able to hold onto the bigger pieces.
Pieces of paper cover two-thirds of my desk. Old envelopes from paid bills, a flock of post-it notes, taped up funnies, printed pages I’ve never filed, photos, misplaced dustjackets of books. I can’t focus on anything other than the monitor and keyboard long enough to straighten it. If I’m at the desk, I’m typing or scrolling. My hands can’t fathom tidying up.
Junk mail bulges from a small trash can by the front door, so we don’t just drop it on the floor anymore. It is filled with useless pieces of paper that people send us. Coupons laze about the counters in the kitchen. More pieces we won’t trade in for other pieces. Mismatched socks inhabit a special corner of my closet, inside a teal milk-crate; I no longer wear socks.
I can’t turn my head without seeing more pieces I don’t need, and I can only see the pieces I want out of the corners of my eyes.