Some days the accomplishments are small. Laundry, the dishwasher, vacuuming and ineffectually wiping pollen and dust from the furniture, writing a few pages that might or might not survive second and third readings.
There is always something to do—that’s the nature of living by one’s self in a house and, I suppose, part of being self-employed. Bills are paid and small household repairs made with varying degrees of success. One day recently I spent a good three hours trying to find a part to fix the oven door of my 30-year-old Hotpoint electric stove. I searched the Internet and spoke with people at Sears, where Hotpoint ranges are still sold, and was told by a salesperson with twenty years of Sears experience that the parts simply didn’t exist. “Definitely obsolete,” the salesman said.
I searched some more. Eventually I found the parts in a warehouse in South Carolina where ancient appliances are disassembled and sold piecemeal. That made me inordinately proud. I’m a loud critic of planned obsolescence and knowing I had foiled the system in an oh-so-minute way made me happy. That was the day’s major accomplishment.
Book and short story queries are sent out, most of which will never earn a response. There are phone calls, and doctors, and tests for this and that because yesterday’s test was lost or false positive, or misinterpreted, or revealed something that warrants more thorough and scarier tests.
And there are the rituals, the minute necessities that make daily life tolerable—the coffee brewed just so, the half-bagel with a single pat of butter, the afternoon tea, the rereading of something written days or weeks ago.
Today I’m working on a new book, and I don’t yet know if it has a future. Since it’s largely autobiographical and relates to my first marriage, there are going to be difficult moments involved. I’m not sure how deeply I want to dig into events promulgated by a younger, far more foolish me. I’m hoping the book will explain the folly of youthful endeavors but, being not so youthful any more, I’m uncertain whether I can do the past justice.
It does seem as if the bygone was fuller than the present is now, but that may be a series of false memories. It also feels as if the past was more interesting, and the accomplishments of then greater and more important than those of today.
I can’t remember the smaller undertakings, and perhaps that’s for the best.