IT is 1pm. I should be cutting wood. I should be tiling the shower. I should be replacing the wall where the termites ate it.
Instead I am sitting at the computer staring at the screen. At 10.30am I straightened a paper clip. At 11am I folded it up again. It can’t be done, you know. A straightened paper clip is never the same again.
I have toyed with the idea of trying another one, to see how well I could reconstruct it. Sort of like a scientific experiment. But I know it will just be another way of avoiding life.
I have been here since I realised the wood needed cutting. Then I thought it was silly to start that because the thing that really needed doing was tiling the shower. Common sense told me that it made much more sense to rebuild the bedroom wall where the termites destroyed it. I even took the tape measure and measured it.
Then I remembered I had a story in my head that I really must set down on paper (well, on the computer, actually) while I still retained it in my thoughts.
I have started. I have switched the computer on. I have created a new document and I have called it “Story idea”. I have tried a number of different openings and erased them all.
If my creativity flies no higher than calling a story idea “Story idea”, I probably shouldn’t be writing anything more taxing than a shopping list anyway.
Does everybody suffer days like this, or is it just me?
I am restless and yet nothing I do — or that I pretend to do — seems to offer a solution.
It’s because the thing I am restless to do is… nothing! I want to be bone idle; I want to straighten paper clips; although even that seems too strenuous to meet my needs at the moment; I want to let my thoughts drift on the wind while I stare at the wall, or the computer screen. But more than half a century of Christian work ethic has left me with a nagging feeling I’m letting everyone down.
I read somewhere that in the Bible it says idleness is a blessed state. I clutch at that idea like a drowning man clutching a straw. I’d read the Bible to find it, if I had the energy, but I’d rather be idle. If it’s true (about what it says in the Bible) then I am one of the more blessed people in the world.
Because although I’m uncomfortable being idle, I’m not so uncomfortable that it stops me. I read somewhere else that having a guilty conscience doesn’t stop you doing a thing, it just stops you enjoying it. That’s true, but I’m working on it.
It seems to me that if you want to be good at something it requires practice. I don’t see why idleness should be any different.
The silly part is that if we — my wife and I — go away from home, we’re much better at it. We can loaf in bed for hours; take a whole morning over breakfast, blend it skilfully into lunch and afternoon tea, then go to bed early.
Only occasionally do we feel the dangerous stirrings of thoughts like, “We ought to go for a walk. It’ll do us good.”
Well, sod that!
I shall sit here and practise, guarding myself against the subtle and insidious tricks the mind plays on those who strive to achieve.
I am not bending another paper clip.