Becalmed

I hesitate to use the word “doldrums”, though “doldrums” is what it is.

I just can’t get anything done. But I’m not doing anything much. It’s not like I’m busy or something, I’m just idle. The devil, no doubt, is already eyeing my hands with delight.

The real doldrums are an actual place, well two places– one in the Atlantic ocean, the other in the Pacific. (So you truly cannot be those two places at the same time.) It’s the intertropical convergence zone (don’t glaze over, this is quick) an area of low-pressure near the equator where the air heats up and rises, traveling south towards the horse latitudes.

This causes periods of absolute calm, and boats under sail power used to be stuck there for weeks. In the “Rime of the Ancyent Marinere”, Samuel Coleridge describes it “as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean.” But the winds come back, as trade winds, and can kick up storms and squalls with little notice. It’s a perfect metaphor for my life.

Norton Juster, who wrote one of my most favorite children’s books, The Phantom Tollbooth, in which he describes the “Doldrums” as a place inhabited by the Lethargians, “where nothing ever happens and nothing ever changes.” (Perhaps he didn’t get the memo about the trade winds.)

This isn’t despair. It’s just nothing. Last night I couldn’t even bring myself to write. This is spreading– I’m not reading, I’m not walking, I’m certainly not running or cycling or hitting tennis balls. I’m just killing time. And frankly, I don’t think I have so much time left that I ought to be killing it off. I’m 50 after all, surely I’m halfway through.

Part of this is too much family togetherness. I love my husband and my son. My son is off to university. But my husband is retired. He calls me from the living room to leave my desk to come see a clever television ad, or a bit in a political speech. For as much as he does it, the DVR controls are inexact and it sometimes takes four or five minutes for him to return to the clip, and I stand and wait. If I don’t come when summoned, he sulks a bit. (To be fair he doesn’t spend all day in front of the television– but when he’s doing other things around the house he still wants an audience. He is not much into solitude.)

It’s not just that of course. That’s fairly minor. It’s just one interruption after another, so why even bother to try? There’s noise and distraction and fifty things I need to be doing, so I don’t do anything. I play Snood on the computer and watch the minutes fly by, utterly pacified. The television chatters away in the background, all day, all night Maryanne.

I’ve forgotten to write down what I ate– the most basic part of this project. I mean how hard is it to write down a list of what you’ve eaten? But you forget one day, and then the next, before I know it the whole week will be blank.

In the doldrums, the sea is so calm, it’s flat and glassy, without a swell. The line between sea and sky becomes ambiguous, especially at night; as if you’re in the midst of an enormous blank canvas, floating in space, praying for the sound of a sail beginning to flap.

Today’s target 70. Steps 1865 (Yesterday 3763)

Breakfast: yogurt with granola. Lunch: barbacoa, rice, a tablespoon of refried beans, quarter avocado Dinner: small bowl of beef stronanoff, yogurt. 

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