Saturday, November 18, 2006

Spending Time

I had a spine-tingling revelation tonight on my walk back from the video store. It was the kind of giant, monster thought that sometimes pounces on your head, usually when you're least expecting it. I find when that happens I'm best off to simply go with the mental flow, and see where it takes me.

I'm a person who is constantly battling nostalgia. Sometimes I allow myself to simply indulge in that mental state, but more often than not I fight it; after all, I don't want to be one of those vaguely sad people who cannot have a life in the now for sake of living in the then. I always try to keep a positive anticipation of those things in my future that mean so much to me: time spent with friends, with get the idea. Tonight was a little different, though. As a person who is pretty comfortable in his own mind (I've often thought that, if the circumstance occurred, I'd be fine locked in solitary confinement), I sometimes consider what the ME of now would say to my 10-year-old self. How would I tell that kid: "Look, someday you're going to long for these summer days in 1978...enjoy them! Have more fun!" Tonight, for what I think is the first time ever, I actually reversed the process and wondered what the ME of 10 or 15 years FROM now would tell me, tonight. I actually think I got a metaphysical visit from that person, a ghost-in-the-machine Myself who came to remind me of a few things.

Myself told me that, just as I am now nostalgic about times past, I would also be nostalgic about THIS time. How, then, do I enjoy THIS tonight MORE? Understand, I've been stressed this weekend because I seem to be accomplishing about 1/10th of what I actually WANT to accomplish. I worked all day, on the premise that I'd be able to relax with the cat and watch some movies once night had fallen. (I'm in a "solo weekend" as Tess is away doing her symphony thing.) Myself reminded me that, 10 years from now, I would never remember those fucking ear training tests I hadn't graded. Myself insisted that, as time tends to turn memories golden, so MY now would one day be gilded and rosy, irritating not-gotten-dones long since flushed out of my system. Therefore, what WOULD I remember about my now? Well, I'd remember a time before family obligations kept me from solo nocturnal meanderings to the video store. I'd remember the quiet of being alone in the house, reveling in the almost-silence even as I miss Tess so much I can hardly breathe. I'd remember that part of the fun of walking to the video store at night is that you can peek into other people's lighted homes, checking out THEIR shit and comparing it to YOURS. Seeing other people sitting at a table, laughing and living, and smiling that my table is often full in the same way...and hoping that people peeking in at US would walk on with the same undefinable happiness.

I tried to defend against Myself, arguing that, "well, yeah, but what about staying up late copying my fucking Master's thesis out by hand with 3 different markers, a French curve, and a ruler? (This was before the days of reliable computer notation software.) THAT certainly isn't all golden and rosy!" Myself chided me: "Who do you think you're foolin'? You LOVED that rush of activity, of coming down to the wire...just like you loved sitting around the marching band table copying music, relying on your good friends to remind hangers-on not to bump the table!"

Damn Myself! Fucker is always right.

As I thought on, I slowed down my pace at Myself's insistence: "What's the rush? Someday you're going to remember that you could walk without your knees/hips/ankles hurting, and you'll wish you'd savored it more." As the cool air flowed over my face, bringing with it the smell of wood smoke from someone's fireplace, I realized this about time: you cannot save it. We always talk about "saving time," as if such an absurd thing is really possible. Save it for WHEN? Like, you'll save 10 years right now, in 5- and 10-minute increments, so that you can have it tacked on at the END? Bullshit: it doesn't work that way, and we all know it. No, the only thing you CAN do with time is SPEND it. Our only choice is in HOW we spend it, the QUALITY of the end result re: the time put in. (Anyone who wants to riff on Pirsig's quality vs. quantity is welcome to at this point.)

I remember the summer of 1978: riding my bike, buying comic books, listening to Kiss and moving the stereo in Eric Keidel's upstairs playroom so that I could get to the closed-off back stairway, the BEST place to be during long games of hide-&-seek. I remember the fall of 1990: living with one best friend and marching with another, drinking too much vodka (is that possible?) and fucking a drowsy freshman girl who smelled of patchouli and tried to get me to recycle long before I gave a shit. Those times are past, belonging to a person who is only dimly related to who I am now. When I'm feeling overwhelmed with adultness and nostalgia jumps on my head, I beat it back with the thought that when I'm 50 I'll remember now in the same way: Monday night dinners full of whirlwind discussion, my achingly gorgeous wife before a grey hair had touched her head, and my sneaky cat Ramona, my surrogate child all these years, probably long since buried under a nice rosebush planted for that express purpose.

Spend your time wisely. Remember that all the bullshit you think you have to deal with today will seem really unimportant to Yourself 10 years from now...if that person even remembers it. You'll never remember that you didn't put the hose away today; you'll always remember the cat curled up on your lap. Speaking of which: someone needs me on the's movie time.


Blogger Steph said...

My husband likes to say, "Nostalgia is a cancer." I kind of agree. Whenever I start to get all wistful about something in the past that I crave, I envision this big, heavy, scary door with drooling gargoyles and evil devil faces carved into it, leering at me, tempting me, and I think, "Just don't open that." It's the Anti-Nostagia Door. Actually, I use the same technique to avoid dwelling on unpleasant stuff from my past that I know there's no point in thinking about. It sorta works.

I really would like to get better at Enjoying the Now. Unlike you, I find it somewhat difficult to be comfortable in my own mind. Lots of drooling gargoyles in there...

Good advice, dude.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Animal said...

Ha! My only problem with that big, evil, gargoyle-encrusted door is that I absolutely MUST open it and go in...

that's where the HEAVY METAL is!

12:59 PM  
Blogger L*I*S*A said...

I think that perhaps I enjoy the Now because so much of my nostalgia is still here with me.

You, along with a select few.

Thanks for the memories.

1:43 PM  

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