In third grade at midnight my Mother and I wrote a book report and assembled a puppet. I sewed the eyes on and pinned on a yellow silk shirt. I got a C for sloppy construction.
For the tenth grade science fair, I built a tower that would withstand a certain amount of weight. It sagged and swayed but held up under pressure, beyond all expectation. I was just relieved that the glue had dried.
At some point, the shoddy construction stopped. But so did the late nights of grinding through.
The expectation was that editors at my college newspaper would stay all night in the office, editing prior to deadline. But in two and a half years, I never once stayed. I was in bed by eleven.
Social anxiety was part of it. To show them all that I struggled might have embarrassed me. I allowed myself to be fallible only at the distance set by a computer monitor.
Now, in law school, I ask myself if I should stay up all night. I realize that somehow I lost the habit of driving work through to completion in one sitting, and I ask where it went. Lost to anxiety, lost to a desire for quality control, it lingers as an option.
I could expend myself. I could challenge the limits of waking hours, push through exhaustion to achieve an empty to-do list. Maybe I will build the stamina to face the danger of shoddy construction.
I woke, I ate, I thought, I ran through the park. I stared down the self-assured eyes of statues. I sat on a bench and meditated. I felt the bench through sweat-wick gym clothes, and let life flash through me. The day is still fresh and damp hair from my shower runs down my back. Today is my day off, and energy has been traded for quietness.
I treat myself with slow care, as if I am a child. I alternate tasks to keep my mind engaged. I take naps. I call to myself to disrupt wandering or painful thoughts. I remember the clapping rhythms used by primary school teachers to bring focus, discipline. Early instructions to my mind, they echo up. It hurts.
When I am alone with myself I ruminate. I wrestle past events into a coherent line that then breaks down on analysis. Jags of pain stem from attempts to solve the behavior of others. Faces come up and, tied to them, all of the love and weight of relationships that broke into confusion.
I wash my face. I sit down in a cafe. I focus for an hour or so, and take notes. But no immunity comes and the thoughts keep running, the tide of the past rushes over; it gives weight without grounding.
I know that I am here, in this chair. I know my name, how to spell, and how to shape the letters. I know addresses of childhood homes and the phone numbers of old friends. Through mastery of these practical skills, my mind has gained time to consider the life of my barista, the businessman with his wide stressed eyes, the mother in a sun hat, the seven year old scootering by.
Today, on my day off, I realize my incidental situation, in the backdrop, with partial information.