Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back to school

This is the time of year when I usually click my heels together and skip around the house: back-to-school.  As a kid, I longed for that first day back when I got to wear my new school shoes (usually sensible and brown) and hug my best friends after a grueling hot, boring summer playing tether ball by myself in the back yard.  As a parent, I admit, the glee is two-fold: I get to watch my kids get excited about school (and they both genuinely are), shop for school supplies and smell the wide rule paper packs, and hug teachers I trust and admire so much I get weepy; but I also get to send the kids off for a full day of learning while I finally get quiet time.

Quiet time isn't what I'd like it to be just yet.  I have gone back to teach Intro to College Writing (aka, Comp 101).  There's three days a week blown to bits (plus the grading and prep).  So, okay, I get Tuesdays and Thursdays, not to mention weekends.  Actually . . . not only am I going back-to-school as a professor, I am mid-semester in my grad program, so Tuesdays and Thursdays are writing days.  But wait, don't I have evenings and weekends?  Ah, yes, well this year I gave up the PTA and added a Writing Festival to my list of volunteer responsibilities.  It's not terribly time-consuming, but it also isn't happening for two months and I have to put the program together!  Let's not forget the freelance work.  This month I volunteered to write not only my regular column, but an additional article to promote a friend's business.  I don't mean to sound complainy.  When my husband asked when I could clear of my stacks of books and papers off the desk in the family room, however, I nearly broke down in tears.  Each stack represents each activity to which I am obligated, each persona that currently defines me.  What am I supposed to do without the stacks?!?!

With the kids gone, I also have more time to feel the anxiety of my responsibilities.  I hear the voice in my head saying, "Now you're not only responsible for your two kids, but the 46 first year students in your classes!  Wheeeeeeeeeee!"

These Flyt Magazine Files are only $1.99 for 5 at IKEA, of course.
In an effort to quell the chaos in my brain and on the desk and on top of the printer and on the swivel chair and the dining room table and the easy chair in the living room and the kitchen counter top, I am going to invest in some magazine files and see if that won't help.  It won't make the clutter magically disappear (I have hanging files.  They are crammed with crap.), but at least I won't feel like a failure before I even begin if I look at a nice row of color-coded files.  My husband suggested I just empty the old documents - purge, if you will - in our file drawers.  Shopping for a new tool is so much more fun.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Not ready to let him go: David Rakoff

David Rakoff (photo by Don Denton) 
I awoke this morning to sad news: essayist and humorist David Rakoff passed away at age 47.  I have been a fan of Rakoff's for a decade, ever since hearing his nasal, whispery voice on This American Life.  Rakoff's humor was droll, wry, more Robert Benchley than David Sedaris, a friend and fellow This American Life featured essayist.  His topics ranged from covering a soft core photo shoot for the Latin American Playboy channel to his emigration to the U.S. from Canada to hiking with a naturalist who eats wild berries and leaves in New York's park system.  With every topic, there was always Rakoff, sitting back and observing the absurdities of the situation or just contemplating his own neuroses or loneliness.  Openly gay, distinctly Jewish, and candid about his recurring cancer, Rakoff was a gentle man with nothing to hide.  As my friend Sarah said this morning on Facebook, I'll miss his voice, both his creative voice and his soft-spoken reading voice.

Rest in peace, David.

Here is a lovely remembrance of Rakoff from This American Life creator Ira Glass.

Here is audio of David talking to Ira.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

I am not my stuff

My husband likes to quote Fight Club every now and then.  I never saw it or read it, but I get it.  I'm not my fucking khakis.  I read over the in-your-face, admonishing take control quotes from Fight Club over at The Minimalists.  It's a bit preachy, but all in all I agree.  So why then do I spend untold hours mooning over stuff on Pinterest?  This is a disconnect and I'm trying to muddle through it.  I know I need to be more present in the moment instead of dreaming about my perfect master bathroom that will only happen with a sizable home equity loan.  (Aside:  being present is not something I do easily, thank you ADD!)  I am cognizant that I am failing at the whole Zen thing.  (My husband also likes to quote Buddah.  Be a reed in the water.  It get's old after so many obvious failures, but I know he's trying to be supportive.)  We have come a long way, however.  I look around me and mostly see - in our house - furniture and the kids' artwork and toys.  We attempt to escort paper from the mailbox to the recycling bin on a direct flight.  It's not totally minimalist, but we're getting there.

I also realize, I (hooray for me) am not a hoarder.  Unclutterer checks out a Washington Post article by self-professed hoarder, Michael Rosenwald, and cheers him on for not being his stuff.  I don't buy things like crazy and stuff them in crannies all over the house.  I've even stopped going on my weekly Target runs.  (Again, yay me.)  But most of all, I am relieved to realize and announce to you that I am not my stuff.  For if I were my stuff, what would it likely say about me?

For starters, it would say, "I'm broken."  Or, "I'm stained beyond wearing."  Or even, "I'm broken and stained."  In a better case scenario it would say, "Hi, I'm Amy.  I am a pristine LP of Nena's "99 Luftballons" (a gag gift from my husband) sitting atop a box marked "Wedding."  In said box, I am a slog of unprinted negative sheets (dating myself) from my 2001 wedding.  If I am my stuff, I am a sad sack of unfinished projects and silly-assed crap.

But, fortunately, I'm not my stuff.

Damn, I loved that song.