11 July 2005

A Good Day

Wow. It's been a while--too long, really. I wish I could say that I've been overwhelmed with things to do and people to see. Actually, in the last week I've probably had more free time than I have in months. Work now occupies only three hours of my day every morning, my Mortgages class is thankfully over, the research project for this one professor is on hiatus while he bandies about the Outback (the one in Australia). Basically, I have no pressing obligations to anyone, and the next month may very well be one of the last truly free times I'll have until my hopefully early retirement at age 45. But still, that's twenty years away.

The problem is that I've become so accustomed to having things on my plate, that now my chief problem is having no idea how to occupy my time. Part of me wants to be productive. Get a head start on bar exam studying. Start working on the giant paper that you'll be doing Fall semester. Clean your room, again. Actually do the daily exercise regimen you've planned out in your head. But the part of me that says "screw productivity" is winning out lately, and I'm glad for it. Still, I was left with wondering what to do, since I refuse to just watch television, and since cooking only takes up so much time.

Yesterday was the turning point. I was going grocery shopping with Elvira--one of those long, involved shopping trips that requires going to four different stores, because Sam's is the only place with really good onions, while GFS has the best deal on frozen vegetables and bottled water (not a package deal, of course), and between Kroger and Meijer one is always missing a decent buy on something you need. It was hot again--another 90 plus day, the intense heat this summer becoming almost routine. Almost, I say, since heat is never typical in Michigan. We had to go to the library first, because she had some items on hold. It's one of those very tiny branch libraries, about the same size as the one in my home town, maybe smaller, with the intimate feeling of a non-corporate bookstore, but no dish of day-old biscotti. She had some books and CDs waiting on a shelf filled with items being held for dozens of patrons, and I had decided that even waiting in the car a few minutes was intolerable, the heat being just too much. How people once survived without air conditioned cars is beyond me. It was cool and stale at the same time, like all libraries, but it was somehow completely different than the law library or any of the college libraries I had trafficked over the past seven years. Whatever it was, it suddenly awakened this urge inside me to check something out, anything. I didn't care. The decision wasn't even negotiable. I felt that if I didn't get something to read, at that moment, that my life would take a very different turn. Strange, of course, but I learned a long time ago not to ignore feelings like that.

So I did, and now I'm two thirds of the way through Elmore Leonard's "The Hot Kid" and will then tackle "Kafka on the Shore" by a Japanese author, Maruyama I think. Apparently he's rather well-known--I'm hoping that he's not so well-known that my not knowing his name means I've been living under a rock, with respect to my reading habits, but if he is it wouldn't surprise me. Both are newer fiction books, but I like fiction and haven't read any in some time. My sister reminded me that the best way to know if a book will be good is to read the opening lines, and these lines grabbed me. Totally different--Leonard snappy, while the other guy is more ethereal-- but both thoughtful.

And that, I realized in bed last night, made all the difference. A whole afternoon spent between pages of "The Hot Kid," measures of Chopin's Ballade in F minor, and lines of a short story idea I'm working up on my laptop. I finally gave in to my passive entertainment urges and watched an Inspector Lynley Mystery on PBS, but I think that was acceptable. It reminded me of how days used to float by when I was much younger, and I guess whenever you can recapture that feeling of buoyancy for a handful of hours, you know you're doing something right.