I had a breakdown when I was cleaning the stove about a week ago. I’d used bartender’s helper and they didn’t seem to be coming clean and I was working so hard at them and there was NOTHING TO SHOW for it.
It was apt: I spend a lot of time cleaning little fiddly bits (the lamp shades above the stove for example) that DON’T SHOW. Yes, I notice the clean shiny glass of them, but no one else would. The thing is, those little fiddly bits add up to making the house feel clean, and I know this. But in the moment, it was a full on temper tantrum.
And then mid last week I just. Well, I had a hard week, and Thursday came and I decided it was time for a break. Four days without exercising, to do lists, no net nights. Four days where my only chores were walking the dog, giving him pills, and working. And on Sunday I felt so much better. Then yesterday I got up at 5 am and took a swim in the cool water and muggy air of Flax pond. I was all by myself (well, besides Baxter) and we swam peaceful laps and I stared at the sky a lot, at the birds crossing it, at the messages they seemed to be sending. And I came home and cleaned a bit and used technology almost not at all and to ensure a good night’s sleep took some unisom and slept for 10 hours.
I feel better. In some ways to-do lists keep me functioning, but I hadn’t taken a real break from them (a day here and there, wherein I felt guilty). And I even had to basically ask someone to tell me that it was ok to take a break.
In the meantime, I finished two hard books — Catch 22 which was as amazingly funny as I remembered and also much more heartbreaking. Turns out that when you read it as an adult with some pain behind you, it reads far harder than it does as a high school student with only a little pain. That last Rome chapter stole my breath with the brutality of it. Then I followed that up with Darkness at Noon, which is a book about Russia under Stalin (specifically one former party leader who has been imprisoned as a subversive); it’s oppressive and bleak and amazing. Towards the end, there’s this indictment of Communism (and possibly other political systems):
So the question now ran: Was such an operation justified? Obviously it was, if one spoke in the abstract of “Mankind”; but, applied to “man’ in the singular, to the cipher 2–4, the real human being of bone and flesh and blood and skin, the principle led to absurdity.
Easy to be cruel to be kind when those you are cruel to aren’t humanized in your mind (see the way we treat the poor and minorities here in the US) but tougher when you look at them as breathing people, people you face. That some people can still be so inhuman is horrifying: to look at the suffering you cause and think “that’s ok. it’ll be better in the long run.” No.
Anyway. Next up is The Just City by Jo Walton which I’m already halfway through. It’s a lighter read, but uncomfortable with issues of consent and history and freedom. She’s an amazing writer.