Friday, August 17, 2018

Two Real Things; And What I'm Doing, Pt 2

Now when I drive the car the world spins by, slightly blurred, unimpressed; it doesn't give damn which of us is moving, or whose eyes have gotten old. The tape runs: I arrive (as we say) at the store, just as I used to. It's just that the car has never really moved, and no one in the store will see me. Well, except that one solid, oddly real young black woman, who very deliberately does not look at me. She has her own stories, and she intends to keep them.

Once again, the self-check runs awry. This time, to my surprise, it scans the overlarge bar code on my eighteen-egg carton, at which it balked before; but this time it will not read the little bar code on the little sticker on the apples. In frustration, I try to look them up, but I'm not sure the apples I key in are the right ones. Am I paying too much? Too little? Really, I can't say that I care, even if I am so near and careful these days.  It accepts the apples, with a tag of "" I'm trying to buy jonagolds, cheap at 98c per pound, but I've probably paid for golden delicious at some higher rate. Whatever. I pay with a card, and carry my bag out into the parking lot. A perfect half moon appears over the trees. I stop to look at it. Two real things, I've seen two real things on this trip: the young black woman and the half moon.

I stow the grocery bag in the passenger seat, and drive home. I take the engineer's route: possibly slower, but it edges around the hill on a couple little twisty alleys instead of dropping down fifty steep feet, and then going right back up on the main drags. The inefficiency of that route appalls me. It matters no more than the price of the apples, of course. In both cases the real contours of what we're doing here are not to be altered. You go to the grocery store a certain number of times, then there's a brief time when somebody else has to do it for you, and after that everyone adjusts to your absence.

At home I pour the oats into their big plastic jar, set the apples on the counter to be washed, and put an extra old plastic bag around the burger to put it in the fridge. (In my pantry chef days I learned that a single layer of plastic really doesn't do it, not for a couple days in the fridge. Whether this notion is true, I have no idea: it's just another one of those unreal swirly things that go by.) Life is mostly made of unreal swirly things. But there's an occasional moon, an occasional young black woman, to keep you off-balance, to keep you wondering if some of these things might not be real after all. You think you're being careful and you think you know the difference; but you aren't and you don't.


Despite the large recoveries of control over my life -- or possibly because of them -- I find myself in some anxiety about how I'm spending my time: does it really line up with what I want to be doing for the next couple decades, should I be lucky enough to be doing anything at all? The answer to that is rapid and easy: no. It doesn't. I need to look it over again, the list of things I'm committing myself to doing, and a rough outline of where I'm actually putting my time. Do I actually have a rough outline of that? Actually --

Actually, no, I don't. And if this weight loss enterprise has taught me anything, it's that my intuitive sense of quantities and proportions is worth diddly squat. I need to measure and track, if I want to have any idea what's going on. Pound in stakes, and measure the high-water marks.

Closer, yes: we're closer than we've ever been. And nobody is looking for precision or perfection here. But I do need to know what I'm doing.


Steven Cain said...


Anne B. said...

Glad you’re asking these questions. Some things are immeasurable, though, like generosity.

Dale said...

Thanks, Steven and Anne!

You have to be sure you're measuring what you want to measure, and not just what's easy to measure. But most things can be measured somehow, if you put your mind to it. "How much time am I devoting to this, as opposed to that?" is directly measurable, and it's a fair indirect measure of "how much attention am I giving to this, as opposed to that?"