On inertia and the weirdness of the new year
There’s something about returning to work after a holiday break that really brings out the imposter syndrome. I called my friend Abby to discuss. (I call Abby, or she calls me, pretty much every day. If we don’t talk I assume she’s mad at me.)
“Abby,” I informed her, “it turns out I am a fraud.”
“Yes,” she agreed, which honestly I hadn’t expected. “I too am a fraud.”
Abby is a lawyer, and by all accounts not the fraudulent kind. (I mean, as far as I know.) Nevertheless we wallowed in our fraudulence that day, which by the way was the Monday after New Year’s Day. The very next day!
“We are lumps who lie under blankets eating cookies and reading novels,” I said. “We are not these professionals we pretend to be.”
At least Abby has a real advanced degree and an actual office. I just have a room in my apartment that I’ve commandeered, and a master’s degree in fiction writing. Nothing is sillier.
I was walking Hazel, who was sniffing patches of dead grass and pretending to urinate on them. It was an eerily accurate recreation of my morning. I mean, like, metaphorically. Stay with me: I mean that I had started lists and engaged in busywork. Anything to nudge myself out of the Christmas inertia that had o’ertaken me. (Yes, that’s right! O’ertaken! I stand by that choice! Did I mention that I have a master’s degree in writing?)
But seriously: Post-holiday ennui is real, and an object at rest (under a blanket) tends to stay at rest (eating cookies). (We had some very good cookies this year.) So what could I do? I sent my clients emails filled with cheer about the new year and all the exciting work I couldn’t wait to get done. You know, real bullshit. Which I then began to believe! An object somewhat at motion remains in motion, if reluctantly! Physics!
The next day, I found myself sliding back into couch mode. Maybe it’s all I am good for and have ever been good for? I texted my friend Deanna to see how she was coping. (Deanna and I text every day. Deanna and Abby are on a daily schedule with me. That’s the deal. That’s what they get.)
“I MADE MYSELF A GIANT MOCHA CAN YOU TELL,” she wrote back. And then convinced me to do the same. Turns out if you add enough hot-chocolate mix to your coffee you can fuckin’ blast your way right out of fuckin’ inertia, at least until the inevitable collapse. I finished an entire project I had been putting off, all while trembling and bouncing around on my yoga ball. And then I napped for two hours.
It’s been a strange week, is what I’m trying to tell you. This return to normalcy is jarring. Plus I’m still reading everyone’s wrap ups of their years and some people, I’m not going to name names, accomplished too much. And they’re making me feel bad.
The new year is supposed to this clean, bright-as-a-new-penny start, and in reality there’s an unadorned dead tree in my living room (pickup isn’t until tomorrow) and something smells in the refrigerator.
“I think it’s the shrimp we had on Christmas Eve,” I told Abby, like she needed to weigh in on this.
“Or the Christmas ham.”
(Readers, it was both.)
So what do you do? You remove the old ham and bad shrimp from the fridge (read: make Scott do it, you have a strong gag reflex) and keep hammering away at your work until it starts to feel normal again. You forgive yourself for not accomplishing everything in the previous year. (Who cares, really?) You write a newsletter because you miss your readers.
Abby dares you to title it “Bad Shrimp.”
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Is Scott available for a possible Bad Broccoli removal situation? In Boston? Asking for a friend...
O'ertaken is a Class A word choice