this is a tendency toward division

"Even after an hour of good work, the day might be lost: he would feel that a fruitful afternoon was opening up for him, and on the strength of that feeling would take a break, stretching his legs in the garden. He would look up at the sky, his attention would be caught by an unfamiliar bird, and he would take up his bird book and follow the bird over the wild acres outside his garden, plunging through the underbrush, scratching his face, and gathering burrs on his socks. Returning home, he would be too hot and tired to work, and with a sense of guilt would lie down to rest, reading something light."
-"Sketches for a Life of Wassily," Lydia Davis


I have a tendency toward division. For mental peace-keeping, I must divide the day into its polar parts: inside vs. outside, alone vs. in company, connected vs. disconnected, digital vs. analog, loafing vs. working, puttering vs. producing. The day is never about balance but rather about punctuation; time spent inside staring at a computer screen must be punctuated with walks outside, which I take regularly, when I remember to. The trouble is that I do not like walking senselessly and without direction, for it increases my sense of malaise and resignation, which is not a spirit or mindset that is conducive to creating or writing or communicating anything. Malaise and resignation make me want to nap, which I do not do on principle. A walk must have purpose, so that when I return home I feel purposeful and can continue the work I had paused with gumption and motivation. Thus I have devised a way of making every walk purposeful: if not walking with a friend, or walking to the library, then I walk to the grocery store and purchase a single item, like an onion or a stalk of broccoli. Only one item can be purchased at a time; other items are purchased on subsequent walks, or the next day. No walk is frivolous; each walk entails the retrieval of a necessary food item, which feels particularly precious and instrumental in being a solo purchase. This has been a successful solution for many reasons: I have many opportunities to take purposeful walks during the day; I feel thrifty; I get my grocery shopping done; I have become fairly adept at keeping an ongoing mental catalog of groceries; my outdoor breaks (alone, disconnected, analog, loafing, puttering) are satisfactory punctuation within stretches of indoor labor (inside, alone, connected, digital, working, producing).

One must devise small systems of order (inconsequential task lists, break options, minor chores) as reliable and comforting structures (or semblances thereof) as well as distractions from general disarray, unpredictability, and chaos.


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