* A.L. Major *
I’ve been told by more than one writer friend that to write a novel you must every day chain yourself to your chair for as long as necessary. So that’s what I do. I sit. On average I might spend eight hours sitting—though four of those hours I’m probably checking Facebook. A few months ago a friend posted this article by Susan Orleans about the perils of sitting and how sitting can cause obesity, high blood sugar, blood pressure, excess body fat. While reading, my initial thought was, “Wow. This is proof! My job is killing me.” I became overwhelmed by a certain kind of panic that felt to me very American— only those who live in privileged countries, after all, have to the time to worry about how many hours they are sitting during the day.
Maybe what we sometimes call unreliable narration is not deception—but rather a person expressing two truths, albeit ones that exist uneasily in the same space. Pleasure and longing. A desperate feeling that pulls in two directions at once.
I read this Salon article about GenXers and mid-life crises which hones in on a few particulars of one generation’s anxiety about growing old. Author of the article, Sarah Scribner, citing economist and demographer Neil Howe, spoke of how the Boomer generation’s mid-life crisis was marked by a kind of claustrophobia over the constrictions of family and career, whereas with GenXers, the opposite fear prevails—an agoraphobia that paralyzes with seemingly infinite choices and options…I’d like to speak to what Scribner calls a ‘survivalist’ tendency in this demographic—that quality of enterprising restlessness, fashioned by economic crises, war, and two terms of a Bush presidency.
Some days, the best of intentions fly out the window, and all I want to do is drink a buttery glass or two of white wine, stream episodes of Orange Is the New Black on Netflix, and take a long, luxurious nap. Who cares if it’s a Tuesday? As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to listen to the part of myself that is calling out for rest, for a day on the sofa in pajamas. I’ve decided to roll with these, to quote Pilgrim’s Progress, “Sloughs of Despond,” without (too much) self-judgment. Forget the gym. Forget returning emails with any semblance of timeliness. Forget the dishes waiting patiently in the sink. Forget it. Today I’m slothful, morose, and sleepy.
Since I’m of the literary persuasion, on days like this I need a poem that understands my predicament, that wallows with me, that raises its glass. Cheers.
Central Siberia has forty words for snow-like weather, and in the Inupiaq dialect of Wales, Alaska, there are about seventy terms for ice: “utuqaq,” ice that lasts year after year; “siguliaksraq,” the patchwork layer of ice crystals that form as the sea begins to freeze; and “auniq,” ice that is filled with holes, like Swiss cheese. Replace the word ‘ice’ with ‘love’ and it makes perfect sense to adopt these words as our own! They’d be much more accurate than the very general term “love.”