Oct 26, 2007


Some days, I want to: recycle every piece of tin foil I use, carefully rinse out plastic baggies, turn out all the lights except for those I absolutely need, never waste any water while cleaning, answer every single email I get with full attention, do every single item on my agenda, keep on schedule, save even tiny quantities of food in miniature containers, pick up wrappers on the ground outside and put them in my pocket until I can throw them away, brush my teeth three times a day, hem my pants so they don't get muddy and ripped, bring an umbrella everywhere, and generally do my part to save the world one step at a time.

On other days, I want to: let the hot water run over my hands for way too long in the morning, throw away anything I don't want any more just so I can be rid of it, unclutter the refrigerator because I'm not going to eat that last bit of mashed potato anyway, let the covers on my bed become completely tangled, ignore the mail, sit and have real conversations late in to the night and ignore my homework, play video games and forget to eat, stand in the shower longer than necessary, linger over dessert, spend 3 hours on an extra credit problem that's interesting and 45 minutes doing a hack job on the required problem, and stay up late for no reason.

Louise Erdrich has a rather nice poem on the subject:

Advice to Myself

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.
Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.
Don't even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don't even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don't answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

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