January 19, 2008

The doldrums

Annie and I are a team. We have our routines and games, our nuances and schedules. For almost five months now she and I have been alone together five and sometimes six days a week. The horizon of a new week is always the same. Dad’s day out: Tuesday and Thursday. Gymboree: Friday morning. PTI: every day at 4:30. In between, we shop for groceries, clean the house, cook dinner, and spend time playing on the floor, learning how to sit and crawl. Oh, we have a few reliable friends whom we see occasionally. And we see my wife for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and all day Sunday. But for the most part it’s just me and my girl. Laughing, crying, learning, napping, and spitting up.

I mention this for two reasons. One of them is superficial and funny; a sociological experiment in facial recognition. The other has to do with a growing feeling that I have had since returning from New Jersey three weeks ago. I am starting to get bored. Despite the fact that my days fly by and there is never a dull moment, I am starting to feel a little bit unfulfilled. I first became cognizant of this feeling last week, when in the afternoons I found myself wanting to nap rather than clean, or exercise, or more importantly for me, write.

What are the reasons for my malaise? The easy theory is the idea that it is the middle of the winter [sic] in a new town, where I have few friends. It may be nothing that a nice long walk with Annie couldn’t cure, or a round of golf, but unexpectedly it has been too cold for that lately. The spring seems far away no matter what state you are in I guess.

Unfortunately, most of our friends here are women and for me there is still a bit of a barrier there. Yes, we are all parents (some of us staying at home,) but the idea of socializing in these circles, other than casually, seems foreign to me. Despite having the same goals and calendars, I am still an outsider. And yes, I know that much of this is my own doing. However, if all of the people with children that I see on a weekly basis were men, I would not have the same boredom issues. I would just go out and buy Playstation 3…magically no more problems.

So what can this stay at home dad do for the next six months to stay motivated and happy? I’m obviously not one to forge many new friendships. I enjoy the company of the people we know here in town, but at 31 years old I only have two or three very close friends and they are in the Northeast. That leaves me with only one option in leading a rewarding stay-at-home-dad life and the real reason for my malaise. I need to be writing every day. And with a purpose.

When a day slips by that I haven’t put fingers to keyboard, my head is awash with ideas that I should have explored. I go to sleep with words swimming just underneath the surface and plot possibilities for the novel I have promised myself I would write twisting deep within my head. The irony lies in the fact that I think they are good ideas. Ideas that others would some day enjoy reading. Now we arrive at the crux of the issue. Can I fully plunge myself into writing continuously, with the same purpose in mind, for more than a few hours, or days, or even months? I would be a fool to not tell you that this scares the shit out of me. Yet this is what I need to do.

Why, you ask, don’t I simply refer back to an earlier post in which I state, in reference to this novel, that there is nothing short of my life on the line? Well, that is the nature of procrastination after all. It’s not like the student who puts off a paper, or the homemaker who avoids the dishes doesn’t realize that these tasks need to be completed. Fear rules all procrastinators. The fear of failure paralyzes them, the procrastination itself becoming a tailor made excuse for having failed in the first place

So what is my bottom line? Write an awful novel that fails while accomplishing something. Or not write a novel, one that is neither well nor poorly written, and simply fail.

Oh yeah, the other reason for bringing up Annie and my familiar routine. I shaved today, and discovered another similarity between the two women in my life. Like my wife, Annie didn’t recognize the new aerodynamic Joe. I showered and shaved while she was taking her afternoon nap, and when I went into her room to pick her up she started crying at the site of me. It has been four hours and she still hasn’t recovered. She’s been fussy all afternoon. I guess she has nothing left to grab onto when I’m holding her, and nothing left to tickle her belly when I’m nuzzling her.


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