In Which Belle Ponders The Hours of Her Young, Wasted Life.
(Or, an apology to all my friends for what I am about to do in the next two months)
I don't have enough hours in a day, and I find myself living life not by days, weeks, or months, or even the poetic and vague "moment," but rather by hours. How much I need to get done in one hour. How many hours total I need to work in a day, even if non-consecutive. How many hours I have to spend in class as opposed to writing. How many hours cooking, eating, showering, and walking to and fro take (approximately 3-4 in a day, believe it or not, even if you multi-task).
Everything is in hours. The Hours....the hours.
For having lived in Westminster—how many years now? Over twenty,--one feels
seven in the midst of the traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a
particular hush, or solemnity; an indescribable pause; a suspense (but that
might be her heart, affected, they said, by influenza) before Big Ben
strikes. There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical; then
the hour, irrevocable.
Michael Cunningham, The Hours
Irrevocable indeed. There are so many hours I wish I could have taken back. The two hours spent watching that execrable remake of L'Ultimo Bacio, i.e. The Last Kiss starring Zach Braff, bane of my generation. I wish I could take back so many hours spent enmired in and crying over Law School Drama (both at Bourgie Metro and here at Liberal College Law). I wish I could take back the hour I spent this morning on the phone trying to figure out what on earth is wrong with the people at Cingular. I wish.
I have my good hours and my bad hours. Good hours are productive, they are hours in which I write with great energy, insight, and verve. Good hours are comforting, they are hours I spend cooking homey, one-pot meals (chicken soup, masoor dal, peruvian beans, casseroles) or in bed, reading a novel or The New Yorker. These hours don't come by often. More recently, I've been having bad hours. Hours spent unproductively trying to write even two pages that I don't want to throw out. Hours spent with painful, "is this what it's like to grow old" headaches. Hours spent anxious and bitchy, until I am glad that I live alone and am sorry, later, for the friends who still spend time with me, in silence, as I work--just to share the same space. I take that back--even bad hours have their good moments.
A flock of sparrows outside her window once sang, unmistakably, in
Greek. This state makes her hellishly miserable; in this state she is
capable of shrieking at Leonard or anyone else who comes near (fizzling, like
devels, with light); and yet this state when protracted also begins to enshroud
her, hour by hour, like a chrysalis. Eventually, when enough hours has
passed, she emerges, bloodied, trembling, but full of vision and ready, once
she’s rested, to work again. She dreads her lapses into pain and light and
she suspects they are necessary.
Speaking of friends...I have them, don't I. Notwithstanding various debacles this year in Law School Drama (like the Disney show "High School Musical"...but less entertaining), I have a roster of people with whom I talk/email weekly or biweekly, and they are all long-distance friends (pretty much the only kind of friends I have, apart from school acquaintences and currently French Dandy Dude). Two friends from high school (including The Best Friend), three from college, and one from law school. Most of them know that around finals I go MIA, often for months. I stop writing. I stop calling. I don't return every email or phone call. I become The Bad Friend.
If I have time, I am The Best Friend Ever--hand-made cards, thoughtfully selected gifts, mix-CDs, care packages, baked goods--you name it, I'll do it for you if you're on The List. For those not on The List...well then I'm just Most Mediocre Friend Ever. And during crunch time, I'm just generally the Mediocre Friend (and Sporadic Blogger, and Barely Adequate Student) all around. It sucks. But I fear I will have to pull back, pull away, and become Mediocre Friend. I apologize, to friends old and new, nearby and long-distance.
It struck me, last night. I knew it was time to make a phone call, as it had almost been two weeks, to one of my best friends from high school. I called her walking home from school, those twenty minutes I can spare after class, before dinner, and a long night's work. It came to me again, talking later that night to Friendly Young Law Prof, a conversational window we had to schedule a week in advance, an all-too-short half hour before we both went back to work. It struck me, how lately I measure my life in hours, and in increments of hours, rather than moments and memories. How these non-work hours are spent thinking of work or talking about work, until every social interaction I have is quasi-professional, until all my hours resemble office hours. It is too sad. I want my friends to be friends, and not merely colleagues. I want the days when Suburban Girl Friend and I talked about art history and what to wear on our next date. I want to go back to the days just two months ago, pre-crunch time, when Friendly Young Law Prof and I talked about movies and families and fun things, when I actually entertained fantasies of having enough time to do that trip through Foreign Part of the Country and visit some friends there, and FYLP in particular. But for some reason, despite my best efforts, all I talk about is work, all I think about is work, and the hours I spend not working are hours I consider "wasted"--which is an insult to the good company with whom I spend those hours.
Does this bother me? More than a little. Much as I love talking about my work and getting feedback and support on it, there are times when I would not like to define myself with my work. I vaguely remember once being an interesting person. I generally believe in conversation as an art form, and my dilettante self can talk about anything: art, music, film, urban planning, sports, architecture, history, you name it. I am known for the excitable, hand-gesture laden way of telling the saddest or most traumatic stories of my weird and strict upbringing in ways that end up being both funny and poignant. I am known for trying to reenact funny or strange things I hear on public radio, trying to render verbal into visceral, to strange effect and varying degrees of success. (I have a girlish voice, and so for me to affect a stentorian voice while physically acting out radio bits is....interesting). I am known for trying to have entire conversations in very bad fake accents, in which I try to do an Scottish "aye" and end up saying "arrghh" and thus try to pass myself off as a Scottish pirate impersonator. Well, I guess I should say that I used to be known for these things. Where did I go? When did I become boring? When did this blog become all about the Law, the Legal Academy, or my food and sleep deprived life, and not funny things like my brother, the Asian Cowboy?
Worst was to live by somebody else's time,
the hours scheduled for him, smudged
with clarity and motives not his own.
He preferred the enigmas of early morning
and the neither-here-nor-thereness of dusk,
which gave the half-life he lived an atmosphere.
He liked watching it collect itself,
impossible to tell if it descended or rose.
He didn't care for noon's bustle and blare.
And evenings couldn't be trusted, he felt,
so dependent were they on other people.
Even evenings alone were measured
by who wasn't there. Desire & Need,
how they sat down with him,
helped like untrained helpers
arrange the hours that followed.
Evening was their time.
He remembered, of course, the lovely hours--
the body's sudden holidays, prolonged fiestas
of the mind. He rewound and rewound.
-- Stephen Dunn (from "Different Hours")
The Hours...the hours. I wish I could rewind. To redo this year in different ways, to have more time on my thesis, to go back to last fall and make a few different choices--and take some chances. Life is full of regret, of hours misspent, life wasted, hours that slip away like memories from a too porous mind--or a mind occupied with too much else to make memories worth keeping.
But this is how I'd rather live:
Such fools are we, she thought, crossing Victoria Street. For heaven only
knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round
one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh; but the veriest frumps, most
dejected of miseries sitting on doorsteps (drink their downfall) do the same;
can’t be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that very
reason: they love life. In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and
trudge; in the bellow and the uproar, the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses,
vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the
triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead
was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.
Perhaps June will be better. For now, I disappear, like that irrevocable hour.
But I will be blogging. I have to have something to do at 3 am at night when there is no one else up to talk to and I am done with work.