I woke up empty-headed and grouchy. It’s a great but disorienting feeling to make a deadline. All my energy had been focused on that one project and, with it done, I feel both accomplished and flat. Accomplished for obvious reasons. Flat because I look up to notice that my house is in a shambles: I don’t remember the last time the baby had a bath, there is a headless playmobil figurine on the changing table, my measuring tape is on the floor under my desk (why? it takes me a couple minutes to remember that I went on a shopping spree for running clothes during this whole frenzy & had to measure myself), the pantry seems to consist, inexplicably, mainly of Starburst and Zweiback. And my family, reasonably enough, is more focused on these facts than on my individual achievements.
I went for a run: the second of the season, the first without a stroller and with my iPod. That’s when, after a deadline, I really know that I am mad as a hatter. Miriam Makeba came on and I picked up the pace. I went from
- remembering that I wanted to blog about the interview with Tsitsi Dangarembga in Transition to
- remembering that I wanted to purchase her new novel—only available in the UK—to
- thinking about contacting her publisher, who used to work for Heinemann’s African Writer Series, and interviewing her (a good idea, sure, but something that ordinarily makes me really nervous), to
- imagining applying for a Fulbright to South Africa so I could dance with Makeba and, perhaps, as I reach the outer edges of sanity, that nice French scholar from Cape Town I met who invited me to visit some time to
- frantically, parenthetically, trying to remember how long ago I did meet him and how to say “I have been busy” in French to
- somehow envisioning myself at a big dance party in the courtyard of Oprah’s new South African girl’s school with Miriam Makeba, my daughters & husband, Dangarembga and her family (visiting from Harare, don’t you know), the Cape Town Frenchman, and the whole Jolie-Pitt clan—maybe Nicholas Kristof could come, too…
And I remember all the things that I have pushed to the margins in order to finish.
That’s the thing about deadlines. Everything narrows down to a point and when that one project is done, there’s the illusion of open space. But the world quickly obliges by rushing in to remind me of, oh, let’s see—laundry, the book review that’s two months late, the essay that’s three months late, the articles I need to edit, the edition I need—urgently—to begin, the books I want to read, the loved ones I’ve neglected ….
The mix on my iPod is new. It was on shuffle. A few songs passed. Suddenly, I’m back in Boston--
Every time that I look in the mirror
All these lines in my face getting clearer
The past is gone….
Dream on, indeed.