60: Routine – Ending

Her illness and disability regulated a strict daily routine that ordered and structured every aspect of my life for all those years. And now that she has gone, I cannot recover even the merest shadow of a daily routine. You wouldn’t have thought it could be that difficult, to arrange one’s needs, one’s activities, one’s projects around the routines of waking and sleeping, eating and drink­ing, reading and writing, and the more basic requirements of visiting the lavatory at intervals. Yet each day takes on the aspect of a unique experi­ment in time and motion, pursued not with the objective of efficiency for maximum production, but its very opposite, as if seeking the most efficient ways to be inefficient, to get as little done as possible in the maximum time. Sometimes, I eat nothing at all. Sometimes I manage one small snack at 11 pm. Sometimes I get to bed at 3 am, sometimes at 7 am. Sometimes, because I have dozed off repeatedly throughout the day, I get out of bed at 8 am, after only three hours of rotten, nightmare-filled sleep. Sometimes I come across a book that I see I have started to read,[1] yet have neglected to open it again for maybe a week or more, because I have simply forgotten about it. And at this very moment, as I am writing this account, I try to marshal my projects, with the thought of maybe listing them here to add some appropriate detail to what otherwise must remain vague and general, and I find I cannot. I started to read Orwell’s 1984 last night[2] at about 2 am, and got to Chapter 5 before I fell asleep in my chair. My project on the mysticism of Julian of Norwich has come to a standstill because the new book that I wanted to read and that had been scheduled for release today has been rescheduled for the end of summer. That is a nuisance. But I think I am do­ing other things, only I cannot bring them to mind.

The worst of it, I would want to argue, is this overpowering sense of pointlessness that reduces each project to a silly waste of time. I have no pub­lisher for my Julian book, and I expect – if it is ever completed – I shall have to publish it via a print-on-demand service, and as before, no one will know it is there, and no one will order it – just like the handful of other projects that I have com­pleted in the last decade – but languish uselessly, undiscovered, unknown, and therefore pointless. Should I then have discarded these projects at the very beginning, abandoning or aborting them from the very start?

I have never been able to get inside, to be part of something, to be involved in any activity or project on a group or communal scale. I have re­mained always alone, on the outside, doing these things by myself, with only that teacher from my infants’ school standing at my shoulder, looking down at my efforts, waiting to catch me out and find fault. But I did like helping my wife with her projects. She would write her books directly into text editing programmes, and I would do the rest. I would track down and purchase the books she needed, many of them obscure and second-hand, because she never mastered that art. Her biggest project, the most important one, she could not complete, for she died leaving it half done, and there are no notes I might use to carry it on myself, and anyway, the topic is way beyond my ex­pertise to handle adequately, and this turn of events has brought me such sadness.

My education was pretty worthless. The short­hand and typing would have been useful, if they had let me do them, but apart from a little arithme­tic, nothing at all that I was taught at school has been of the slightest use to me. They did not teach me to read or write – I mean how to read, how to engage with a text, and how to write a text of one’s own. The whole debacle was a thirteen-year waste of time. I met my wife at school, so that must score some points, but everything else gets a useless zero. My grandfather taught me a little bit about woodworking – though not enough for making my lyres without having to experiment and waste so much time and expensive materials on failures. I mean to get back to that when the summer comes. I have no workshop, but must work in the garden when the weather is suitable. So the point­lessness that like quicksand threatens to suck down and obliterate all I might try to do is tem­pered with a profound disappointment, for I know, if things had gone a little differently, these troubles would be fewer and of less intensity, more easily taken in my stride, and in that sense perhaps not really noticed at all.

But as yet, the winter lingers on into what should really be spring by now, and I cannot yet get back to my woodworking. And Julian must wait until the autumn, it seems. So I muck about, as we used to call this way of life when we were children, muck about doing whatever takes my fancy, jumping from one unfinished and flounder­ing project to the next, with no structure to my efforts, and therefore with no proper sense of pur­pose, and certainly no sense of achievement.

Really, I would like my lost routine back again, and everything now assumes the role of distraction until that routine returns, yet it never can return, so all there will ever be is distraction, and perhaps not even that, but merely the hope of distraction. This does not seem to be a very good way to carry on, but I have no idea how to fix it. I cannot believe that anyone will ever read this, or want to read it, and therefore all I am doing is having a conversation with myself, but doing it in the most tedious and time-consuming way possible.

[1] I have begun to write the date on the pages each time I begin a reading session.

[2] I read this when I was a teenager, and I sense a familiarity to many of the passages, but I am pretty certain that all those years ago, I did not read it to the very end.

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