I used to carry a little notebook around with me everywhere I went. I’d steal the notebooks (they were like miniature legal pads) and ballpoint pens from work, and had dozens stacked in a desk drawer. In them, I’d just write down observations about whatever I happened to be looking at. I was in college then, riding the bus a lot, so much of it was about the people riding with me, or the bus drivers, or the weather, or the ways the dirt collected on windows, or how I was feeling about life that day.
I developed a unique shorthand discernible only by me. It was basically my fastest, messiest handwriting, with lots of vowels subtracted (amazing how legible words are without the vowels; try taking the consonants out and you’re screwed). The scrawl had another unusual quality; the more time that passed, the harder it became to decipher.
These things are still in a box somewhere in my bedroom closet, beneath old dress shirts and dusty boot-laces. I bring up the whole exercise to remind myself how much more dedicated I used to be; to being creative, insightful, and aware. Or at least pretending to be. I had so much less fear of making mistakes then. Now I can’t be bothered to bring a notebook around with me, much less do anything with the notes afterward. To be fair, I never take the bus anymore, and it’s impossible to take notes while you’re driving with a two-year-old screaming in the back seat.
Still, something about my former self’s attempt to develop artistically makes me feel kind of ashamed. Like I had abandoned that person’s dreams in favor of laziness, sufficiency, competence and small victories.
I just hurried back from an hour-long walk that I cut short to ten minutes. It’s four degrees and I wore inadequate clothing (especially pants; my dick was freezing), but that’s not why I turned back. After a third day of sitting around the house doing nothing, feeling mildly depressive and uninteresting, the brisk walk sparked some inspiration.
I noticed burnt-red dried grasses sticking out from under the piles of snow, like slender, pretty girls with fat men sitting on them. A retaining wall had a sheet of ice hanging off it, with an inch of space between, melted by the magnified afternoon sun. In the alley, I (rushing home already, somewhat crazed, I guess) passed by the opened trunk of a minivan, full of trash bags, with a darty-eyed young person looking out at me from the back seat. She looked like a raccoon stealing from a garbage can.
I thought about my notebooks, about whether I’d be able to bring back my shorthand, even with gloves on, and despite many years of disuse. Meanwhile a pajamed lady walked a dog and tapped a piece of firewood on a stack of its brethren. I wanted to write it down, thinking how good it would be, and knowing, actually, that it probably wouldn’t. I raced, non-literally, back home, noting the clock (really, just ten minutes?) and flipping my boots off, and the laptop open. And here I am.
I am plagued by irresolution. I keep setting up little disciplines to try to adhere to, but I never make them stick. Thirty pushups every morning; lasted eight days. A walk every day before lunch; two days. Keeping a daily journal about my daughter, three weeks, variously interrupted. Makes me wonder why I insist on committing to doing things every day, or every-so-many days, when I’m obviously unable to do them. The little notebook observations, which was so long ago, I managed to do every single day for months and months. That feels like an accomplishment to me, though the notes are now mostly illegible and probably not very interesting anyhow. But compared to that I have now only a crushing sporadicism.
So I decided to start blogging again. That I would dedicate myself, unambiguous and single-minded-ly , to writing down something every day in a form other people could read. Something funny, something boring, something honest, something sad. But something. What a stupid idea; I will never be able to do it.