Cathy Alter’s Up for Renewal is her story of how she improved her life by following advice in women’s magazines. She seems to be a bit of an underachiever when it comes to self-improvement. Her first month, she took her lunch to work, having learned from Real Simple how to wrap a sandwich in Saran Wrap. The second month, she spent a night in a tent. The third month, she used a list from Glamour of what clothes you need to own to pare down her wardrobe (what kind of woman needs to pare down to seven bras?).
In the course of this, she is starting up a romance. Since she isn’t doing much in the way of self-improvement, the story of the book is inclined to center on the new romance. It is clear that this new romance is just one of many, and it is not at all clear that the new self emerging from the life-changing experience of wrapping sandwiches is actually making this relationship into a completely different thing from the long long string before it, but that seems to be where she’s going.
At one point, she references an article from O about the Index of Dread. The idea is that you look, every evening, at your plans for the next day and assign them all numbers on the Index of Dread. Then you look at what you did that day and assign them all numbers on how much you enjoyed them. The idea, I think, is that you will see that you dreaded some things that you ended up enjoying.
I see a couple of problems here. First, why are you dreading your plans every day? If you are working on Overcoming Agoraphobia, okay. You have to do some things that you dread just to keep from sinking deeper into agoraphobia, and possibly just in order to conduct your life with some degree of normalcy. But otherwise, it seems as though a life so filled with dread as this exercise implies is just a badly-run life.
Second, this assumption that people dread things out of habit and they’re really not that bad seems flawed. For example, I am sort of planning on driving on the freeway today.
I made the drive with my kids (it is, irrationally enough, easier for me and for other agoraphobes to do scary things with other people than alone) on Saturday, and survived. It took about one third as long as driving surface roads. It would therefore, my daughter pointed out, save gas and reduce my carbon footprint. The actual scary parts of the road are few and don’t last long.
“This road, like most roads,” she said caustically, “never leaves the ground. Oh — correction –” and here her brother joined her for a chorus of snarkiness, “like all roads.”
So I am thinking that I may drive on the freeway to my class. I am dreading it. The Saturday drive was just about as enjoyable as I had anticipated — that is, not at all. I know what degree of neurosis it requires to dread driving on a perfectly normal road. What degree of neurosis does it require to dread doing so when you are actually going to enjoy it?
Maybe this is intended for people who have very exciting lives. They plan, perhaps, that tomorrow they will eat a porcupine, poke strangers with their umbrella, and go skydiving. When they discover that they quite enjoyed these things, it gives them strength for the next day’s plans: to apply to work as a gunrunner, begin flamenco dance classes, and and tell their boss exactly what they think of him.
I took yesterday off almost completely. I did Client #2’s blog post, which he sent back to me saying that it was elitist and braggartly, so I redid it. This was good, since I am today handing back papers to my students, some with C grades and all with suggestions for changes to be made. I will be able to tell them, in our initial “What have you written since I last saw you?” conversation, about that, so they’ll know that I share the experience.
I also graded their papers, played Scrabble with the kids, and watched the news with my husband. I was kind of elitist about the TV news in Sunday’s conversation with Client #2, frankly. However, I have to report that the focus on Sarah Palin in yesterday’s TV news was all about her daughter’s unwed pregnancy. There was one woman who attempted, unsuccessfully, to get one of her people to name a single important decision Palin had ever made. She wasn’t being rude about it. In fact, I’d say she was giving him an opportunity to brag on his boss, and he couldn’t come up with anything. Leonidas reports that Palin believes that climate change is a hoax, a position that is right up there with believing that the moon landing was a hoax. I never considered voting for McCain anyway, so it may not be any of my business.
I also did some knitting. On our shopping trip, I saw Muench Yarns’ Touch Me for half price — one or two skeins each of leftover colors — and bought a couple. It makes a wonderful plush chenille fabric. I’m making a plain stockinette scarf with moss stitch edges, because the texture of the yarn swamps any texture you add to the knitting. It matches my green interview suit.
Something I didn’t get around to was starting the HGP. It’s List Week and Porch Week. Supposing that I get home from class and don’t have any work waiting in my email, then I may spend the afternoon working on those things.
I also need to finish signing up at ODesk, since I have yet to hear from my Big Client. I sent out my end-of-month invoices and they came to the amount I wanted them to, but I currently have nothing to invoice mid-month.
I’m also going with La Bella to a meeting of the Association of University Women and an interfaith dinner. I am dreading that slightly, in a recognizably irrational way. Maybe a 1 on the dread scale, just a “Maybe I’d rather stay home” feeling. I expect to enjoy it quite a bit, so I won’t be giving up much time to the dreading.