I’ve not been feeling well lately and so I’ve been moping around, achieving little. At least that’s what I tell myself, whilst successfully discounting those bits and bobs I am getting done between bouts of inactivity. Yet all I can focus on is the inactivity, which is very unfashionable these days, to be slothful, unless you listen to advice from C. who called me up to tell me how important it was to build boredom into my day. ‘Phoning to expound the virtues of boredom to me is about as useful as carrying coals to Newcastle,’ I told him. I explained he had little to teach the queen of loafing; that I should change my name to Doolittle; that mine had been a week of indolence fuelled by lethargy, the bedfellow of which is often boredom.
Remember when smoking was the big bad wolf? And then it was red meat. Then eggs. Then red wine (until it had its moment of antioxidant filled glory), then it was sitting (and everyone got standing desks), and then it was lack of sleep (and we all lay awake worrying, counting the hours we weren’t clocking up). Now it’s the turn of inactivity to take to the podium. There’s nothing like it to have a week slip by unnoticed – like a teenager skulking away from a sink of dirty dishes – and be left with nothing to show for it. It has been my constant companion this week. Yesterday I was going to write, until I got distracted by inactivity. Specifically, my distraction was working out how I was going to de-mildew the shower curtain. (Note my use of, ‘going to’ – inactivity is filled with plans for the future.) The mould had been colonising it for months but, just as the writing beckoned, did I decide that its eradication was urgent. So what if I’d already bought a new one in Lidl – there was a reason it was still in its box: it looks as cheap as it cost, the flamingos are loud and vulgar, and I do not want rude squawking through my morning shower. I want and need the peaceful bliss of a softly fringed white curtain enfolding me in my morning shower, and now that peace is sullied by mouldy mottled ends. I spent an urgent half hour on the internet researching home remedies for said shower curtain (vinegar, baking soda, salt), got distracted by a newsfeed and found myself, as powerless as Dorothy, sucked into a further half hour of watching wildfires tear through Oregon. Those poor people.
The phone rang. It was work. Good, I could do with a chat about last night’s meeting. (Didn’t she get tetchy!) Am I busy? Are you interrupting? Not at all, I’m not doing anything! When do you need it by? This afternoon – no problem. I set my writing to one side; work has jumped the queue. But I could really do with a cup of tea before I start. Boil a kettle, open the fridge for milk. What is that smell? Yuk, it’s half a bag of open spinach that has stuck to the ice on the back wall of the fridge. How does that build up so quickly? I take to it with a knife, a bone-handled one with a round edge. I chip away at the hulk of ice and think of that girl I know who is writing a book on mountaineering. I’ve not heard from her in a while. I wonder how she is getting on – pay attention of you’ll pierce the fridge! I open a jar of pesto and sniff it. Label says, ‘consume within three days of opening’. I opened it in June. I think if I scrape off the top it will be fine. There isn’t even any fur on it – eww, there most certainly is! I hurl it across the room before the devil creeps deeper into my brain, tells me to eat it and poisons me. Yes! A straight hit. Then I feel guilty about binning a glass jar and retrieve it to scrape it out the growing contents and recycle the jar. What’s that beeping? Fridge door, still open. When the sun hits the floor at this time of the day it really shows up the dirt. I should wash it now as later the sun will have shifted, and I won’t see if I’ve got it properly clean. I should wash the windows too. I walk to the window and see A. in the garden below turning the compost. What am I doing? Once upon a time I would be down there helping her, before I got so busy with all this inactivity.
I phoned up J. who gave me permission to change my name to Doolittle – for the time being. She’s right, my energy is low, but it will return, and in the meantime it matters not, this inactivity. I tell her that everyone else is getting on with great things, living their lives with a deep sense of purpose, achieving, producing. She’s not so sure. Later that day, I read an article from the Guardian by Oliver Burkeman. “Remember,” he tells me (me specifically), “the reason you can’t hear other people’s inner monologues of self-doubt isn’t that they don’t have them, it’s that you only have access to your own mind.” Sometimes I wish I didn’t!