Work all night

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.

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Up to the exam

Focus has not come. Attention has slipt through all the pages and I’m left with this partial knowledge to repeat on the pages of my exam. I don’t know if I should expend the effort of sitting it, and writing. This could be like those chemistry exams in high school when I knew I failed before I handed in the exam.

Resistance is chemical but first it is contrary. Dislike so strong may cut to the level of animus. There is some limit beyond which continuing is unfaithfulness to your essence. I have been too ready to use this excuse. But I am afraid of the alternative – of progress that is not generative because it ignores the shape of your soul.

Even great minds have been derivative minds. But to the degree that they defected from the grand well-traveled, they have been remembered.

Not every moment is posterity. I don’t know or care much whether I will be great. Chance gives that gift, and I have been humbled down to hoping only for a good life, for some minimal harmonies. I doubt that I have the discipline necessary to be put in the way of chance that gives rise to greatness. But I have my own sanctity to consider, my own sanity.

The small cradle of my mind might be telling me something. But the lesson could be either learning to push through this resistance, or recognizing when to find a new road. And I don’t know myself well enough to recognize which.

Inevitable Sound

My musician friend compliments people’s voices. She comments on lower and higher registers, on properties of sounds I don’t listen to. I get caught up in words.

Words are doors and gates – always in the way. I fell out with my musician friend before she moved to California. I loved our friendship, but our connection fell apart over Facebook and so many messages sent without context or personality. Messages without the same weight or depth found in voices or laughter.

But now I know the importance of sound through her laugh, through her voice, which bubbles up from memory now and again, when provoked by the pitch or quaver of atmosphere.

She taught me what to look for by showing me how she played with frequencies and rhythms through her recording software. And in return, I gave her visuals, describing her different songs as waterfalls or hardware stores. It felt like adding substance to ambiance. But sound was always the stimulus or driver and it relegated me to a backseat in this kind of creation.

Sounds start and they don’t end. That’s why there are rests in music. Rests are punctuation. They do not change or increase the likelihood that sound or silence will follow and they don’t dictate whether or when or how relationships will be reinstated or terminated or put on hiatus.

 

When I fell out with my friend, I stopped writing. Because I failed at communicating with her, I wanted to stop altogether. To redirect my energies away from computer keyboards and notebooks and insensate visuals. Writing again, after a long hiatus, I can hear the words drop onto the page. My thoughts enunciate. I am so self-conscious when I hear myself. But this sound I can’t escape, I am. It’s a relief to find this susurrus alive in spite of pain and a thousand attempts at self-abdication.