Doing Morning Pages at the living room desk I was troubled by piles of paper on the shelves to either side. Mail, drafts essays, reminders, notes, a magazine, two folders, and whatever was at the bottoms of the piles. I kept writing my pages, knowing I’m best served by doing one thing at a time, but those piles nagged at me.
Soon as I finished writing, I consolidated the piles into one and cleared one shelf. I breathed a little easier. Hoarding works up my anxiety. Clarity lowers it. That clear shelf had me feeling better. Not fully healed but a smidge calmer.
The tough thing about a pile of papers is that some of it can’t be cleared easily. The essay drafts, one that’s twelve pages long, need revision that will take hours. More troubling, I don’t know what to do when they’re done. I’d like to think they could be published, but I would need to figure out where and how to do that. Piled papers are daunting, but just the thought of finding somewhere to publish exhausts me so that I don’t want to even begin.
As I worked into the pile, I thought of this Fitzgerald quote: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past.” I’ll argue it’s not the past into which I have to let myself be pulled. I beat on against the current to be in the moment. Sure, I’m often dragged back and waste too much energy trying to peer into the future, but I’m trying to be in this moment. That pile of papers is an affront to this moment. It is to me. It represents what I should do or should have already done. How can I be in this moment when I’m embarrassed by the things I haven’t done and wishing for a future in which I am a better man?
Morning Pages served as the first draft of this. I’m done with them now and typing this last thought. Soon I’ll walk those pages downstairs and file them. That much will be done and cleared away. I’ll check if there’s time to dig in more, clear away even one more piece of paper. I’m rowing hard against the current, stubbornly working at being in this moment with a clear mind if not a clear desk, ready for what is happening and whatever comes next.