When Priorities Change

It was only a few days ago but it seems longer. A number of commitments all collided and piled up and the result was long days at work – longer hours with little recognition and no recompense, since you ask – and certain priorities at home, when I had arrived late, with time wasting and a new full schedule of things I’d rather not be doing ready to replace the full schedule of extra things I’d rather not be doing at work. It was a draining time and a time where discretionary activity ceases to exist, briefly, and although I was tired I felt other things too: conflicting emotions and it was almost alarming at first, until I understood.

At the end of the first or second day I got into bed and chatted briefly with Laetitia, as we hadn’t had the chance to talk about anything much that day, and I may have glanced at my book, possibly even read a few lines, and realised my heart wasn’t in it and I wouldn’t be reading – not reading properly anyway – that night. It was a sad thing to acknowledge. At the harmless, almost unnoticed end of the sad continuum admittedly, but sad nonetheless. It was too late and I was too tired and my book didn’t seem enticing enough to have a proper go at. So I closed it up and placed it on the little pile next to my lamp, and I put on my eye mask and turned in.

It was a bereaved kind of sad – empty – and I realised the loss of something was being mourned. Almost bodily mourned, but sadly missed in the brain and the mind too, and I knew what it was and it made me think of a PE teacher we had at school and his memory made it clearer.

His name wasn’t Jezza, but we called him Jezza, and although he was obsessed by doing weights and by fitness and sport – we liked sport too, but he was obsessed – he was a good bloke with a really compassionate streak, which I saw once or twice, and although not very intelligent he was excellent company and everyone loved him. He was telling us once about people like him, people who train (lift weights, run around a lot, maybe swim) every day, and how when those people miss a session they feel really bad about it. This sort of person is apt to feel cranky or otherwise irritable if they haven’t done their session in the morning (they mostly excise in the morning) because something has come up and they had to do that instead of exercise (they aren’t the kind of people to miss a session because they didn’t feel like it or it was too cold). In the bodily activity sense certain hormones have been denied their expected release, or something, when one breaks one’s exercise routine, but I think the lesson is more broadly applicable, and I have never forgotten it.

When I am denied the opportunity to read on the train I don’t like it at all, and it has been known to make me angry. Fed up, frustrated angry, but still angry, still annoyed that I was denied time inside the book and beneath the page and sharing the author’s thoughts. Denial of what I wanted, rather than needed, perhaps, but I don’t know – it feels to me like my mind needs to be taken for a walk and it doesn’t respond well to neglect. Without reading there is only the awful detail of existence; with reading you are at home in a comfy chair with Bach playing and something refreshing in a glass, even when you’re far from home and surrounded by strangers with questionable personal habits on a train. It is a comfort and a release.

But the extra realisation I attained in this period of full agendas and shuffling morning walks up the street to the office was about what I’m doing now. I realised that when I couldn’t write it made me feel spiritually unsatisfied. It was the final blow on top of reading’s absence, but it was an absence in itself. A noticed hole or gap: the lack of something acting like something that was not lacking, like something present and causing a ripple of reactions.  And while I don’t write absolutely every night, and don’t write something very good very often, the full implications of what it means to not be allowed to write at all struck me almost a physical blow. The enormity of being without writing is as serious as being without reading, and this is now obvious to me and I must not forget it.

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Published in: on March 15, 2012 at 7:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

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