Unwilling Early Bird

I have never been a morning person. The sad fact is that it takes my brain a while to start ticking in the morning. Or no — that’s not right. My brain is typically ticking away just fine as soon as I open my eyes. It takes my motor skills a while to catch up. Verbal ability? Hand-eye coordination? They lag a little behind. Ask my poor husband. It took him several years to translate Laura Morning Speech into English.

However, since my brain is pretty functional in the morning, there is one task I can do: write. And this brings me to my sad, sad realization: getting up early is very helpful in Getting Shit Done. With the clock ticking every faster towards the end of the year, I decided I really had to up my game in order to get my first draft done in time. This probably won’t come as a shocker to any of you, but surprise! There are only so many hours in the day. I go to work for 8 of them. I need about 8 for sleep. I need to eat somewhere in there. Interact with other humans. And you know, do laundry and the other things required of a functioning adult.

So what’s a writer to do? The only solution: make more time. Last week I started getting up at 5:30, every weekday, with the purpose of writing.

UGH.

Really — it shouldn’t be that hard. In the summer I routinely got up at 4:55 to go running. BUT. I have a running partner. I am meeting someone at a specific spot at a specific time, and if I fail to show up I am an Asshole. But with writing, it’s just me and my desk. It is so easy to just turn that alarm off and say, “Well, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not like the cats are going to yell at me if I’m not at the desk at 5:30.”

Well, it does matter. It really matters. This is my work, it’s what I’ve chosen, it’s what’s important to me. And unfortunately, I do my best work in the mornings. After my initial wake-up period, my head is clear; there are no distractions. There are no errands to run, nobody to talk to, no other pressing work that has to be done. I can just chug along and rack up that word count.

The crappy thing about this schedule? I’m exhausted. By 9pm, I’m falling asleep. I don’t want to be the person who can’t stay up past 9. I don’t want to be the person who says, “Hey guys, I’d love to go to that party, but…” But what am I going to do? Until I can train myself to get by on less sleep, them’s the cards, I guess. I just finished reading  Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, and this quote rang true:

I’m struck by how, except when you’re young, you really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy. If you don’t get that sort of system set by a certain age, you’ll lack focus and your life will be out of balance.

 

This, right now, is my focus.

I often dream of being able to sleep in until 8, get up, have a run, have my coffee. Then sit and write. But for better or worse, that’s not the life I lead. It’s probably never the life I’ll lead — and that’s ok. It just means I need to be diligent about my time. Which, let’s be honest, is true for all of us.

Obsessive Organizers Aren’t Made, They’re Born

I recalled a childhood memory the other day. This in itself is somewhat unusual — my memory is tepid at best and very selective at what it chooses to retain (song lyrics? Random flower names? Check and check! People I’ve met? Things I’ve done? Er…)

When I was in elementary school I had a portable file folder, the accordion kind with a flap that closes with an elastic cord. The folders inside had alphabetical tabs, A through Z. I used this folder — exclusively — for organizing animal photos that I’d cut out from magazines.

There were… a lot of them. I had a habit of going through my dad’s National Geographics and cutting out any interesting animals I found. Add to that the random country magazines my grandma used to give us, and there were a LOT of animals to choose from. Otters — filed under O. Zebras, under Z. Baby horses — well, H, clearly. There were a few empty letters, of course (X isn’t common in the animal kingdom), but most of the others were pretty well filled in.

And you know? I never did anything with these. Every once in a while I’d pull them out, look through them, and then neatly file them away again. I think the “thrill” of it was just having them there, organized, exactly where I could find them.

The animal file folder wasn’t the culmination of my organizational frenzy. When I was in…fifth grade? Sixth grade? My dad taught me how to use Excel. Rather than acting like a normal kid who’d say, “DEAR GOD WHY?”, I proceeded to make a spreadsheet that kept track of all the household’s stuffed animals.

Yup.

My sister and I, we were somewhat avid in our stuffed animal collection. Between the two of us, there were 50 or 60 stuffed animals, ranging from your typical bears and dogs and cats, ranging to more exotic elephants and alligators and parrots. And I listed them all in this Excel sheet. Their names (they all had proper names), their species, when we received them, who gave them to us, any special characteristics they had. I went through the entire house, found all the stuffed animals, and categorized them all. All neatly organized in Excel.

I think Byron is often amused/bemused by my OCD organizing. But really, when I go on a drawer-cleaning spree, or organize the bookshelf alphabetically (by author), or get gleefully excited about the prospect of color-coordinated file folders… really, he shouldn’t be surprised. Clearly, I was born this way.

The Bone, and Other Discoveries

Sunday I found a bone in the backyard.

I mean, that’s the gist of this story. Your one-sentence summary.

If you live in Seattle, and if you’re me, when the sun comes out you cannot resist the urge to say, “OMG GO OUTSIDE NOW DO ALL THE THINGS!”

So, we did. We got a free lawn mower (thanks, Craigslist!) and mowed the front lawn. We fertilized the sad rhododendron (DO NOT DIE ON ME). And we continued to tame the wild forest that is our backyard.

Can I even tell you how much trash was hidden amongst all that ivy? I seriously think some neighbor saw it and thought, “Well, they’re never going to find ANYTHING in that,” and just started chucking things over the fence. Old peanut butter jars? License plates? Rags? Check, check and check.

Byron was being a total amazing trooper and pulling out the last dreadful patch of ivy, and I was kind of half-assedly moving some dirt around with a shovel. And then I saw what was very clearly a bone.

You know how I joked that we hadn’t found a body buried in the yard? First thought: “Holy shit there IS a body buried in the backyard.”

And then I sat back and studied the thing and… well, it didn’t really look human? I mean, I don’t study a lot of human bones, but I just can’t think what part of the body this would come from. It’s kind of shaped like a fat T, and about the size of my fist when I ball my hand up. I poked it with the shovel and saw the hole in the center where once, long ago, there must have been marrow.

Me to Byron: “I just found a bone.”

Byron to me: “Huh, ok.”

Alright, he was still cursing ivy, so I let his disinterest slide. But as soon as he finished wrestling the GIANT ball of ivy into the yard waste, I said, “So…did you want to see that bone?”

We tromped back to the spot and Byron looked down at it. “Yup, it does look like a bone.”

“But what is it from?”

“Probably a cow or a pig.”

“…THERE’S A COW OR A PIG BURIED IN MY BACKYARD?”

“No, like someone was eating a steak or pork chop and threw the bone back here.”

He seemed pretty confident. I remain unconvinced. But you know what? I really just don’t want to know. If there’s a bovine carcass in my backyard, it can stay there, buried, WHERE IT BELONGS. I don’t want to find a hoof poking up among the azaleas.

And then I thought, what if it is human? What if amongst all that plastic wrap there was a body? And I came to the same conclusion: nope. Don’t want to know.

I’m not totally sure what that says about me as a person — that I’m ok with a hypothetical body staying buried in my yard. I think I’ve just settled on the conclusion that I’m lazy and don’t want to deal with a homegrown murder mystery. But let’s be honest — that’s not too much of a discovery. We already knew that.