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pandemic time

Early in the summer, before the wave of reopenings and the new activities of summer, I'd regularly marvel at how much time had passed since March. In lockdown, May felt like warmer-march. It doesn't feel like March anymore (thank god), but things don't feel "normal" either. Today I've been thinking about the little time-marking habits I lost with lockdown.

I used to keep a journal - a written one. I'd keep it in my bag and carry it with me everywhere. I'd pull it out on the street or in the subway, and (at least try to) keep tabs on my projects and goals. I also carried a sketchbook and a set of pens and pencils with me. I'd draw people at cafes or on the subway, or any scene where I found myself waiting.

I never had great talent for these things - no great drawings or brilliantly-scrawled insights, but it occurs to me now that it was a record of what I saw and did throughout time. The pages of my journal and sketchbook filling with the days, and more on the days I "did" more.

I've basically stopped doing those things. I've kept a periodic (digital) record, but I haven't sat down to write a physical journal entry to myself since March. My drawing pencils have literally collected dust beneath my computer. It's regularly occured to me that it would be nice to take a walk to the park and do some drawing or relfect into my journal, but I haven't done it.

Somehow, the physical acts of chores and waiting in line helped me mark time - they fed my journal and my sketchbook. I'd always thought of these as habits for filling dead time but, flipping over the empty pages of my notebooks, it's the time since lockdown that feels lost, empty.

john lewis' graphic novels

John Lewis passed away this weekend. In all the memorials I've seen and heard broadcast, none have mentioned his recent graphic novel series, March. I haven't read the series myself, but I've browsed the books and they've been on my to-read list for some time.

I'm not a huge fan of nonfiction graphic novels (curiously, since they do seem to be popular), but I am intrigued by Lewis' choice to create a comics memoir.

anxiety

Between pandemic and political collapse, there's been space for at least one thing to burgeon: my inability to sit still. Or focus. Or breath out slowly and relax.

These are anxious times even for a man anxious in the best of times. Fear, worry and despair have all shown up for dinner and don't know what to say to each other. How awkward.

I think of a few other typical/suitable images: a taut chord vibrating under strain, an inability to pull ones' head above the surface of the water, being unable to move the arms or legs. Ah, anxiety. The hot heat that rises up from my gut and gets my brain boiling.

why work?

Struggling lately (and by lately, I'm old enough to mean something on the order of years) with the motivation to work. Work by its typical definition, the paid, daily toil you do for an employer or client, has always been a bit fraught. But "work" can also mean "oeuvre", "raison d'etre", and I'm sure other words given philsophical weight by virtue of being French.

I've been struggling with work in all those senses. It's not just that work politics suck, that capitalism is meaningless, or that my career ended up being dull. Instead I struggle with the basic motivation to create something for other people.

Why, ultimately, should I do it? It seems money alone is not enough to motivate me, and certainly not enough to make me happy. But should there be some work that I do for internal reasons, or even purely for the joy of doing it?

Does that mean that, say, aimless, long bike rides could be said to be work? Could wild diatribes strewn with metaphors be considered a work project, even if they're lost in the still after their last reverberation? Can a simple conversation, divorced from any conscious transactional goal, be called toil?

When are "work" and "leisure" at odds? Does the notion of a "calling" imply that they can sometimes be synonyms? Does "work" necessarily imply a task that sustains my standard of living somehow? Or can "work" be a flight of fancy, so long as I work up a sweat? Does work have to be "good" or "bad", or can it be so singular it cannot be used to rank-order the humans that produced it?

Weighty questions as I sip my coffee every morning. And I don't know the answers. I do know, though, that I miss the feeling of absorbtion I used to call "working". I miss the way I used my brain when I scribbled over math problems in all-night marathons. I even somewhat miss the frustration and obsession that goes along with trying to get your mind to turn some unseen, unaccustomed corner.

I do not miss the anxiety, or the judgement, however. And I think, perhaps, that it's my association between the two - creation and hierarchy, passion and judgement - that's lost me my motivation and interest in work. It's not at all obvious how to restore it, though it'd be thrilling to.