Wednesday, August 12, 2009

nervous nelly

he suffers from too much attention

The other day as I was walking to the train after another sluggish swim at the Y, I noticed a dog with a serious case of the jitters. This dog was not of the usual ankle height, teeth baring breed. If I had to guess, I would say it was a sheep dog or collie mix -- something with potentially manic herding tendencies, but generally not the kind of dog you see cowering in the street.

This poor dog could barely walk a straight line because every second it was craning its neck to keep a 360 degree vigil on the world. Literally, every second. Meanwhile, the man holding the leash casually strolled along with his female companion, apparently unfazed by his dog's incessant full body twitch.

Now there's no telling where this dog's nervous energy came from. Maybe I mistook fear for an instinct to surveil his owner's path. Maybe the dog was a rescue and hadn't fully adjusted to the hectic sidewalks of New York. The dog's stride was so agitated that its body was cockeyed, and its turnover was nearly double his owner's, yet it remained a step or two behind.

Whatever the background story, it was an upsetting sight and it made me think about how much effort it takes to be frightened. There's no telling what I could do if I repurposed even half of the energy I spend on fear induced, though often high level, procrastination.

*today's picture is Simon the slimer. do not let his pathetic expression fool you.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

hello my name is thorn

my new vacation home

There's a passage in William Zinsser's book On Writing Well that encourages the writer to abandon the idea of being the best. I would directly quote the paragraph, but I had to give the book back to the library before incurring large fines. I'm trying something new where I actually adhere to due dates instead of assuming some far-off date and then being unable to put books on hold because I owe the library a small fortune.

Basically, Zinsser emphasizes the reality that there will always be someone out there who is better than you, so you can't get stuck on the idea of being best or you will never start whatever it is you want to be supreme ruler of. (look at that preposition left to fend for itself) I have a severe case of bestitis with a long list of comorbid conditions, such as negativitis, procrastinationitis, insecuritis, aloofitis. I'm here to tell you the combination is truly paralyzing. As many of you have noticed, my blog posting has slowed to a trickle. We're talking desert cactus proportions here. And do you know why? No, it's not because I've devoted my spare time to feeding the elderly or revitalizing parks. I'm stewing in a decoction of neuroses, turning up the burner by reading other blogs (or magazines or books or newspaper articles) that I deem far superior to anything I could ever produce.

Even as I type this, I'm thinking, "okay, how can I make this the best pathetic post ever."

Pursuing the best is making me a very stagnant person. I can't make decisions because I want to make the best one. I can't write posts because I know they won't be the best in the cloud. I can't post pictures to flickr because they're not in the best (i.e. retouched) condition yet. I can't decide on the best career path. I can't I can't I can't.

Enough with the bullshit. Or rather, the best shit. I don't let bestness get in the way of certain things, like swimming or running or cooking. Just the other day I had a horrible workout at the YMCA. It felt like I was trying to swim through molasses with limbs made of terry cloth. But I slogged from one end of my lane to the other, intent on reaching a goal of 25 minutes, and I left knowing that I would look forward to the next time. What's the difference between swimming and writing? Why can't I write a mediocre post, click publish and try again next time? There is no good reason to put writing (among other things) on the once-chance-to-get-this-right pedestal.

So, welcome to the recreational lane of blogging, where I attempt to doggy paddle and flutter kick my way from one end of the screen to the other. Goggles not required.

the wrap around

*the sand castle picture is from a contest that I stumbled upon last weekend at Rehobeth Beach