Anxiety

This blog is fast becoming my secret baby. You know, like in a romance, when the hero has a secret baby that becomes an emotional roadblock for the heroine? Okay, to be fair, I didn’t know about the secret baby until I worked in romance publishing. But I may have found it’s genesis–I read Samuel Richardson’s Pamela last week. 18th c. novel. Dude imprisons his dead mom’s beautiful serving wench at one of his estates and threatens to rape her for many months. Then, because of her resolve and chastity, he has a change of heart and decides to marry her instead, which is when she finds out about his secret baby, which of course she vows to love as her own because the only reason he’s become convinced not to rape her is that her Virtue is so strong. Like the Reeds on the Moor that stand stiff against the Winds. That’s the book: rape threat, virtue, secret baby, all nouns capitalized. The nouns gave me a migraine at one point. The saving grace of the novel is that it spawned at least two contemporary (to it) satires, at least one of which is pornographic.

What I mean is: I’m not really supposed to be writing anymore. I made a loose schedule for my reading year today, and what I came up with is that it’s possible to read all that I need to read in about a year if I do not do things like socialize, take naps, or write. I know everyone in my program goes through this, and that of course it’s possible–look at all the people who have come before me. But fuck. Putting it all into iCalendar has really made it horrifically apparent to me how much needs to be done. I have been averaging a book a week and that is when I really read a lot–what feels like all the time. I need to average three. And yes, some of the “books” (really, they are line items, which may be books, novellas, short stories or essays) are 100 pages long, but most of them are not. And many of them are far less than 100 pages long, but are written by Derrida and Foucault and Kant and whatnot. And now I feel frozen. What do I read next? How do I know that what I’m reading next, at any given time, is the thing I should be reading next?

I should say I’ve just taken two days off of work (it’s fall break here–yes, that’s a real thing) which have been wonderful, but have also just reminded me of how awesome life is when you don’t have 120 texts to read and have deep thoughts about. So: Anxiety! But it’s not the same anxiety as a paper. I’ve never lived with anxiety that had this kind of shelf life. I mean, I actively chose not to write a senior thesis in college because I couldn’t deal with the idea of a long term assignment. I’m great with short deadlines. I write my best shit on deadline. There is no hard deadline here. There are just waves and waves of books with many ideas inside of them. Ideas that I am on my own to discover and talk pretty about. I’ve never encountered this kind of long-term anxiety of my own making. Which makes me feel like an idiot. My coping strategies are: read a lot, as fast as I can, and try to be physically active. Swimming, yoga. Soft, humid muscle-pleasing activities. I have learned not to eat pasta for lunch. I have learned that I require a very specific sort of relaxation while reading–my head, arms and feet must be supported or there must be the possibility of support but I can’t get too comfortable because then I fall asleep (always after a pasta lunch). Laps, proteins, generous padding. I have rearranged my office to include a reading nook. I must remember not to sit down in my nook too hard because the rabbits like to lounge there, underneath, and there is always the possibility of squishing.

So it’s a new life with new rules. I’m going to read Robbe-Grillet’s Jealousy tomorrow. And some theory by Culler, Watt, Ortega and Armstrong. That is a lot to do while also living a life. Maybe this is my next step. I’ve never been good at manning my own time. Now is when I start.

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