The Tyranny of a Blank Piece of Paper

Time becomes the interstitial spaces between activities

The tyranny of a blank piece of paper is know by anyone who writes or needs to get a proposal done. It is not very different from the death of a spouse, each day begins with a blank page.

I will repeat my mantra about closure because during a class I am attending a fellow student reacted in horror when I said ‘Closure is indifference, it is denial said pretty’. I guess not seeking closure following the death of a loved on is abhorrent to some. You can find my various posts on closure here, here, here, and here and why it is not a bad thing.

It has been six years since Donna died. I can say I am largely out of woods of grief though there is a new grief. The grief of how am I going to find my way forward when the fabric of my meaning and my purpose is in tatters. The path forward feels as treacherous and riddled with obstacles as anything that grief over Donna’s death has presented.

Filling The Silences of Time

During these blank page days I find myself filling silences of time with unimportant activities. Those small meaningless tasks flash a moment of purpose and just as quickly are replaced by ‘this is what life has devolved into: stacking books in size order, cleaning the glass coffee table (again), empty the dishwasher (that is never filled), do a load of laundry, etc’. Let me not gild the lily here, I do volunteer at an animal shelter and other organizations. I have written a book and am pitching it so all is not desperate. I am taking classes.

Time becomes the interstitial spaces between activities. Compare what I am doing today to what I did prior to Donna’s diagnosis or during her caregiving. The value my time has for me and how I feel about that time is profoundly different today than it was then. The time I have on hand now is greater and echoes in the silence of my own breathing.  Previously the spaces of time between ’things’ was compressed. It had its own heart beat and rhythm. I was able to do all that I wanted to do and needed to do plus run a business or care for Donna or consult. The busier the person the more they can do seems to fit here. I am a slow-mo version of who and what I was.

Another and more apprehensive comparator of then and now is enthusiasm. Not sure I can quantify enthusiasm then to now. Then, the activities were keeping the business open and going. Pay rent. Paying salaries. Pitching business. Those tasks may not qualify as enthusiastic endeavors. They had to get done or else. They were part of a larger life and movement though time.

Comparing Then to Now

Today am I enthusiastic about emptying a dishwasher? It doesn’t have to get done. The dishwasher got done before because it was in the way of the next thing to do, watch TV with Donna or make dinner or go to a movie. Meet with Donna’s oncologist. Now the dishwasher gets emptied because it is an activity that fills space and time. The word enthusiastic may overstate what I am saying but, it felt like there was drive to do and do more then and in doing those things feel accomplished and enthused. Now, not so much.

I have been noticing that I am looking for things that I can loose myself in and relish the time spent lost. In this day and age of WWW and social media there is an abundance of things to do, watch, read, and follow. Those all become a passing moment, literally a glancing blow to my attention. Why?

My curiosity is as active as it has ever been. I want to devour as much as I can especially new things. Though the  bouncing from activity to site to podcast to book is the blinking neon sign of ADHD. I feel as if i am trying to find something to lock onto. I was locked into caregiving or my business. Now?

Case in point, I am a fan of the video game Destiny. I’m new to gaming. You can read about me and gaming here, here, and here. Truth be told I am not playing many if any other games which right there is a bit of this dragon fly behavior, darting around a pond touching the waters surface for a second and moving on. A new Destiny, Destiny2, will drop in September. I have been listening to Bungie Podcast and following players. My excitement extends beyond the game to thinking about what is like to create something to launch it to test it. My comparison point is working in pharmaceuticals knowing what it takes to get a drug to market and how similar this feels. All the phases of testing the product, identifying messages based on the outcomes, marketing, and launch. I wrap the warm blanket of my past around this new world and have a burst of enthusiasm. Dare I say focus. And …

And

I had lunch with my lawyer who is retiring this year. We were at a lovely little Vietnamese hole in the wall called Pho King. (Howard has been to Vietnam many times and remarked how good the food was. As good as the street carts in Hanoi he said.) I was bitching that I need to buy a new oven. He said without thinking, “That should take up three weeks of your time.” And there you go. Filling time with activities. In a way it is the theory of brief cases. Have a big brief case you fill it up. Have a small one not so much. That is time these days a big brief case that you need to fill sans enthusiasm, meaning, and purpose.

I remain undaunted to find that one or two activities that motivate me that fill me with ongoing wonder and hope where I can loose myself in. The poem below seems to capture that, discovering a place for the first time. I look for the return to the place I started for the first time.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
                        Little Gidding V,
                        Four Quartets.
                        — T.S. Eliot (1943)

2 thoughts on “The Tyranny of a Blank Piece of Paper”

  1. It is most interesting how a task can still expand to fill time on occasion-although purchasing a new oven over a three-week period might be excessive. 🙂 The reality is that, now that we’re widowed, there’s twice as much “stuff”–and there are times that it all seems like nothing more than “stuff”–that needs to be done. Division of labor or shared chores are a thing of the past. If we do the task now, it’s done; if not, then it sits there, glaring at us from a distance. Some days I feel motivated, some days not. I guess that we also share the curiosity and learning issues

    Your choice of Eliot for the closing quotation is a good one.

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