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November 13, 2010

I have successfully survived my first 24 hours without a computer. Mr. Spy is off reporting this morning, so I have custody of his unattended computer. I am grateful, because typing with my thumbs is requires heavy concentration and is hard on my middle-aged eyes.

When my parents were here a couple of weeks ago, we carried up the small bistro table that usually lives on our screened porch and set it up in front of the window in our bedroom for Mr. Spy to use as a desk while his office was pulling double duty as the guest room. We were surprised by how much we like the table here, particularly in the winter when this is the closest to outside we will get. I can look up and stare directly into the deep woods or at the century-old barn, recently rerevealed to us when the last of the summer leaves came down on the trees that separate us. It makes our bedroom look a little like a studio apartment, but I kind of like it, and it’s definitely nice to sit here.

Since I got back from the conference, I have been actively trying to recalibrate my habits, getting up earlier, exercising before I start working instead of after, and a number of other small things. Sometimes the only way to get yourself out of a rut is to pull yourself up with both hands. Being without a computer has forced me to reconsider some other habits I hadn’t thought of. Like how much time I spend on email in the morning. Without the computer, I read fast, discard most and spend the extra time practicing piano and walking my favorite five-mile loop through the village, along the train tracks to the industrial park, through the industrial park past the marsh to the Country Club, following the road that runs between the club and the river through the fence into the community gardens and the long pasture. I stop at the lodge to walk out on the pier and sit for one song, watching the geese and ducks take off and land and occasionally spotting a deer coming down to the river to drink. Then I head back around the pasture, up the hill, and follow the chain of streams and ponds to the small nature preserve. I cut through the preserve to the hill above our house, then follow the road down and straight to our driveway. The whole loop takes me 45-50 minutes.

I spend less time online in the evening too, which has enabled me to nearly finish Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, which I’m kind of sad about because I’m loving it so much. It’s one of those books that will kill fiction reading for me for a while because nothing else will measure up.

So it’s clear that losing the computer has it’s good points. I’m a little more conflicted about the loss of the computer vis-a-vis my work. On the one hand, I got through 3.5 chapters yesterday on paper. It’s much more satisfying to plow through a big stack of paper with a dark pencil — the pages pile up on the good side of the table. My changes are scars on each page — than to scroll down an endless document where my alterations are invisible. But actually enacting the changes is going to require a second pass on the computer when I get it back, whereas if I’d had it yesterday, I could have made them immediately. Still, being forced to work differently is a good thing, I think. Maybe I need to take a technology vacation more often.

Yesterday, I exchanged emails with the friend who’s having the same kind of adviser trouble with the same adviser. We are taking different routes to the end we need, I think. This is in part due to the difference in our areas of study — it’s easier for him to cut loose than for me. Still, I’ve come up with a couple of possible solutions. I expect either of them will be better for my adviser as well as for me, so I am hopeful that we’ll come up with a workable plan. If I can get my adviser to return one of my emails and schedule a meeting. Oy. In fairness, he only had a couple of days between conferences. I’ll try him again this week if I don’t hear from him.

I’ve also been thinking about last Thursday night, when I arrived at H and V’s to drop my luggage and have a quick supper before heading to the conference. I was feeling nervous about it all and wasn’t sure what to wear. V made a delicious dinner (which I replicated at home last night) and H poured wine. Then V and her daughters gave me fashion advice and I felt better about heading to the evening session. V walked me to the door and said, “Just remember: You are amazing.” I had felt most unamazing all day, but that comment stuck with me for the whole evening. Is it that easy? Do we just need to hear that we’re amazing once in a while? Just in case, I want each and every one of you to know: I think you’re amazing.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 13, 2010 12:34 pm

    You *are* amazing. And yes, sometimes all it takes is to be told.

    Or, as my friend Andrea likes to say, “my job is to hold on to the certainty that you are an amazing, talented creation. If you can’t quite believe that yourself, just come check with me. I’ll remind you.”

  2. November 13, 2010 8:31 pm

    You do sound amazing. And V is particularly good at coming up with something that will give a person confidence in a tough situation. She tells me I’m glamorous, which is something I suspect only she can see.

  3. Harriet M. Welsch permalink
    November 13, 2010 9:33 pm

    Jill, friends like that are not to be taken for granted. Jeanne, that is, indeed, one of V’s great gifts. I think she’s amazing.

  4. November 14, 2010 10:16 am

    It is nice to have someone who can tell you that you’re amazing. Or glamorous, I like that one.

    I read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter years ago and loved it. I wonder if I still have my copy somewhere.

  5. November 14, 2010 10:28 pm

    Glamorous is definitely good too. Julia, it’s an incredible book. I’m trying to take it slowly, but it’s a losing battle. There are so many things I love about McCullers’ writing. I love the way the plot seems less important than the world she creates, the way you, the reader, wander around in one person’s skin for a while until it’s time to try someone else on for a while. I love the way her third person sounds like the character she’s writing about. The voices of the characters are so very individual, that they don’t really need names. You can tell who’s speaking by the way they talk. And so many of her images (and sounds and smells) are striking and ring very true. Her descriptions of music are incredible. I never knew much about McCullers, but I learned last weekend that she was a child prodigy on the piano, but that illness kept her from making it a career. She also was close to composer David Diamond (just how close seems to be up for debate, or at least discussed more openly in some places than others. One thing I read suggested that both McCullers and her on-again/off-again husband were in love with him) and wrote a fictionalized version of him into one of her short stories.

  6. readersguide permalink
    November 15, 2010 1:23 pm

    Huh. I just heard “Wunderkind” on selected shorts last night.

    But what I came here to say is that I think a change of habit is always a good thing. Your walk sounds lovely. The new post in the bedroom sounds lovely. And it’s always a good thing to have someone else tell you you’re amazing. Thanks!

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