I”m always ‘burnin’ daylight.’
I use the phrase all the time. I stole it from John Wayne in the ‘Cowboys.’ It’s one of my favorite lines from any movie.
I have an obsession with time, I think. I have a clock ticking in my head. I really do. I’m not sure if anyone else has such a thing or not, but I definitely have one: tick tock tick tock tick tock. I fuckin’ hate it. I’m not sure where it comes from either. No, it’s not actually audible, so I don’t think I’m schizophrenic or whatever. I can just kind of feel it. Most ‘times’ I can actually tell you what time it is, without looking, and be fairly accurate. I don’t wear a watch, ever, though of course these days I do have a cell phone in my pocket. I look at it occasionally to see the time, though I probably don’t have to. Few people ever call me; I reckon it’s there just to make sure I’m not burning daylight.
I’m always worried that I’ll run out of time to do something. What? Doesn’t matter. Something. Like writing this blog post, for instance. It’s now 3:39 AM, yes, that’s right, I got up before 3 this morning because I was worried about burnin’ daylight and not having enough time to write this ridiculous post about not having time to write it. How’s that for circular logic? I’m sure there’s a clinical term for my mental disorder, though I could give a rat’s ass.
I just wish I could turn it off. It’s annoying as hell. And it doesn’t matter whether I’m busy working on a project—like I am at present (I’m writing and promoting my new book Be a Hobbit)—or if I’m not working on anything in particular, the clock is always there, like a black raven sitting on my bookshelf, but instead of ‘quothing’, he just points at the clock on the wall and says, ‘tick tock.’ I should blow his head off. I’m writing this post, actually, in the hopes that I will figure out the secret to turning it off, by writing about it: another circular thought.
Let me give you an example of my usual morning routine, and the thoughts that run through my head. These days, because I’m writing a book, I get up early, very early by most standards: somewhere between 2 and 4 AM, every day, pretty much. I go to bed early too: usually about 9 or 10 PM. But that’s still cheating sleep a good deal, and I can feel it. But if I don’t, I won’t get my work done, because there’s not enough time in the day to do it all. I wish there were 30 hours in a day. Maybe we could just rethink the whole 24 thing? Who says we can’t divide it up into 30? I know it’s still the same amount of time, just like dividing up a pizza into 12 slices instead of 10. But I need more time. Anyway, I got up at 2:45 this morning. I stumbled to the closet in the dark, trying to be quiet and not wake Patience up (my girlfriend). Yes, that’s her name, and don’t think I haven’t gleaned the irony. I tell people all the time that Patience is my girlfriend, not one of my virtues. After reaching the closet, I slipped my ‘smooshy’ pants on, grabbed my sweater and headed into the bathroom, where I relieved myself, and slipped down stairs. Tick tock, tick tock, I’m already looking at the clock, it’s 10 till 3, better get movin’.
So then I feed the Viking Pirates. That’s the kitties. They are convinced that they are both Viking, and Pirate, which are really the same thing anyway. Mostly it’s Squishy’s idea. She’s the bad one. You know, the one that incites rebellion in the other farm animals, namely, Punkin’ (her twin but tiny sister), and Bubble. Bubble’s the dog. She’s a lab/chow mix, old, and lazy, also very sweet. But Squishy Kitty or SQUISHY KITTY!!!!!—you have to yell out her name in a scratchy, Gollum-like voice; it’s a rule, hers—is always trying to get the other two to overthrow the hue-MONS (that’s us), or more properly, from her standpoint, to quell the hue-mon rebellion. She thinks we’re getting uppity, and she’s probably right.
I even had a sentient thought the other day, and she look at me askance, as if to say, “Don’t even go there,” and I lost it. So this morning, instead of rioting, or a sit down strike, I just opened the can, and fed my masters, the Viking Pirates. They love to eat. Me too. I don’t mean to say that they love to eat ME, though I reckon Squishy probably would if she found me dead on the floor.
She’d claim I was a wild, ferocious wildebeest that she brought down single-handedly, I’m sure (she’s fond of wildebeest, or at least that’s what she tells mama every time she comes home from the store/hunting).
“Mom! Where’s my wildebeest!?”
No what I meant is that I also like to eat, but I first must feed them, or there will be no rest for the slave. Squishy loves clocks, and she loves to remind me that it’s ticking and tocking.
After I feed the Pirates, I sit down to the table to eat something, quickly of course, because that damned clock is ticking in my mind. This morning I had a small piece of cheese and some South Farthing Sweet Tea. Tick tock.
Then I came into the office, lit a small tea light on my desk—I know, it sounds so Bob Cratchit-y, but it’s not like you think. I don’t actually sit warming my hands over the minuscule flame, wearing those fingerless gloves that he always seems to be wearing—why doesn’t he buy some with fingers in it? No, I light the candle because that’s my focus point for meditating.
Yeah, I know, I don’t sound like the kind of guy who does the whole ‘meditation thang.’ Trust me, I’m not, but I do, or at least I”m trying to do it these days. I read somewhere, in the shit ton of books I read in the last few months, that meditation helps you write, and maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, but hey, I watched Karate Kid growing up, and recently again, and it seemed to work for that old guy in the movie, so why not me? Wax on, wax off, right?
The problem is, I’m not very Zen. I know that’s a funny statement to make, especially if you ARE Zen, like what’s his name in the movie. He would probably laugh at me, with that Zen master laugh—you know the one—and say something like, “There IS no Zen, only Zen,” or something very Zen-y like that.
At least in my mind, between clock ticks, that’s what I imagine him saying. Tick tock. So I sit, staring at this little flame on my desk, as I sit comfortably in a big cushy chair on the other side of the room—no I don’t do the whole ‘indian’ style sitting thang. Aside from being very Un-Zen, I’m also Un-Bendy. I don’t bend, really, I don’t. I’m like a fuckin’ board, or a statue.
So I’m sitting, staring at the flame, trying to ‘be the flame,’ if you will. But mostly I’m thinking about everything BUT the flame. I’m thinking things like, “What am I gonna write about in 10 minutes,” “What’s for second breakfast?” “What do I have to do at work today, how am I gonna squeeze in time—tick tock—to promote my book, in between classes (I’m a teacher)?” “Am I ever gonna lose weight?” “I really suck at this whole Zen thing.” Stuff like that, ad nauseum. Then I realize, “Damn it! I’m supposed to be concentrating on this FLAME!” So I chastise myself for not focusing, then I remember that I’m not supposed to chastise myself—wax on, wax off—so I think, “Ok, I won’t do that. Not chastising.” Then, “Shit!, I’m thinking about not chastising, instead of the flame!” And so on and so on. Tick tock. Then I get a message in my brain that tells me that the timer I set in the kitchen for 10 minutes, is about to go off—remember, I have an internal clock—and inevitably, the timer goes off within seconds of my thought. BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP, till I can scramble into the kitchen to turn the infernal thing off. Yeah, I know, you’re thinking, “why does a guy with an internal clock, need a timer?” Good question. Hell if I know. I just thought the same thing myself a second ago. Why do I need a timer anyway? I’m a WALKING TIMER.
So then, I sit down to write. For one hour a day. At this point in my little blog I’ve been writing for exactly 40 minutes, if you’re keeping track, and I’ve written exactly 1352 words. Not bad actually. I know you don’t care, but I’m making a point. Tick tock, tick tock, mother f’n clock. Hey, I made a rhyme, I should do it all the time, tick tock.
The Pirate kitties are getting ready to start their morning ritual of battle practice. This is where they chase each other around the house at light speed, banging into every obstacle, wrestling’ with each other and hissing to high heaven. It’s great. I love it. Especially when it wakes the dead—that was sarcasm, by the way. It’s very distracting to say the least. It’s very hard to write when you have Pirate Viking kitties fighting out Blackbeard’s Last Stand in your living room, and a clock ticking in your head. But I do. Every morning for the last couple of months or more, I sit at my laptop, where ever I happen to be—usually in my home office—and I write for one hour.
This morning, however, I was really worried that I wouldn’t have anything to write. I’ve been going through the 3rd draft of my book lately, but I’m kind of giving it a rest at the moment, since I’ve been concentrating on promoting it for Kickstarter. So I sat down this morning with no particular topic in mind. So here we are, droning on and on about some clock ticking in my head, tick tock.
I’m not sure when this clock began to tick, but I think it was in my youth. It has only grown stronger in adulthood though. If I had to analyze the source, I’d say it has to do with being a wage slave. “But slavery is dead Mr. Bivans!” you say. “Ah, but no, my child,” I reply, “It most certainly is not.” If you get up every day to go to a job, where someone else is the boss, and they make all the real money, and you get paid essentially to ‘be there’, you’re a slave. This is particularly true, if you hate the job, and if it contributes no real benefit to society. Now, to be fair, my job does contribute something to society—I’m an educational assistant who works with special education students—but there are times, where I wonder if I’m really ‘assisting’ anyone.
Some days, it seems I’m just sitting on my ass, getting paid to sit on my ass, all the while, my clock is tick-tocking, as if to say, “You’re burnin’ daylight damn it! You should be doing something useful with your time!” After all, we all have limited time on this spinning rock, tick tock. Better get moving before the whole day goes up in smoke. I always feel as if the thing I’m doing at present is just a waste of time. Well, that’s not entirely true, not always, just almost always. For instance, as ridiculous as this post seems, and probably is, I don’t feel as if I’m completely wasting my time writing it. Maybe I’ll discover how to turn off the clock in the process? Or maybe I’ll write something mildly amusing to you, my reader, and that will be a positive thing, right? If you can laugh at me, maybe you’ll be in a better mood when you get to your wage-slave job this morning.
I’ve felt, that most of my adult life I am wasting time, that I’m not accomplishing anything of note, that if I don’t hurry the hell up I’m gonna die like one of those sad old men, who look back and say, “I didn’t do shit.” That’s what’s always in my mind, as the clock continues to tick. I mean, I’m 48 years old, and I make more money than I ever did—this is really a sad statement, if you knew how little that is. I’m an assistant, not an actual teacher (which means I’m paid even less than they are)—I have a master’s degree in history, practically a Ph.D., but I still make little more than the average burger-flipper at McDonalds. Well, that’s not fair. I make about twice what she does, but I don’t get paid in the summer, like most certified teachers do. Tick tock. And I’m not one of those guys who still hangs on to some dream of being the next Andrew Carnegie, or anything. I could give a shit about having that kind of money. I just don’t want to worry about how the house payment’s gonna get paid in August, and where the food is coming from, you know, petty crap like that.
I’m not sure why I continue to worry about that stuff, because I always find a way to get by, but there’s something in the back of my mind, that says, “Disaster is just around the corner man!” And I can’t seem to shut it up. Possibly, the little voice is right. I suspect it’s not wrong. One never knows what’s around that corner, or at the end of the tunnel. Is that the sun, or is it the front of the Baltimore & Ohio? Mostly I’ve found that it’s the latter. So I trust nothing, not good news anyway. Trains make a kind of tick, tocking sound too.
All this makes me sound positively negative, if that’s possible? I guess I am quite negative most of the time, (see my post on negativity), but I don’t want to be. Some days I just get pissed off about being pissed off! I say to myself, “Damn it! Calm down already!” Which, again, is so very Zen of me. “Hurry up and be Zen!” Even I had to laugh at that one. I know some Zen people; they’re friends of mine. They seem so peaceful, though I’m not sure that’s the case. Inwardly maybe they’re listening to the tick tock too. Most likely they’re gonna laugh their fucking heads off when they read this, and think, “Tsk tsk, Steve, just wax on, wax off.”
All this impatience wouldn’t really matter much, I reckon, if I was a monk, living in a cave somewhere contemplating the meaning of the universe, or the Zen of mountain lions, or was it dandelions, or something like that. No one would care if my little clock was ticking and I was pissed off most of the time. Then again, if I were a monk, maybe the tocking would stop, and I’d be happy? Who knows. I won’t find out, because as much as I’d love to live in a hole, I’d prefer it were more Bag End, than Quest for Fire, if you know what I mean. I would like to simplify my life, but let’s not overdo it. I’m not fond of crouching on the floor to blow on straw tinder just so I can warm up my maggot infested venison. No thanks. First off, anything below the waist (as far as ‘work’ goes anyway) is strictly off limits—remember, I’m un-bendy. I can get down there without God awful too much effort, but then there’s the coming back up part. That’s when the back reminds me that I’m more Pinocchio than Plastic Man. And second, I’m not really a worm-eater, even if they’re covered in chocolate, like I’ve read about somewhere, or maybe it was on Andrew Zimmern’s show? I don’t know. Can’t trust him anyway, since he’s a nutty Yankee from Minnesota, who doesn’t drink alcohol. Give me Anthony Bourdain’s, No Reservations, and some fire-roasted meat, any day. More booze, more roasted meats, less worms, and less sitting on the ground. So, no monk life for me. There’s also the whole ‘celibacy’ thing…uhhh no.
But no, I live with my girlfriend and her son, and so having a clock ticking in your head all the time can be a bit annoying to them as well, as you can imagine. I’m always pushing them out the door, into the shower, get ready, burnin’ daylight… Sometimes I want to just slap MYSELF. And when I am working on a project, like currently, I’m insufferable. I’m constantly ‘in my head’ worrying about what I need to do next, when to do it, when will I find time to do it all, instead of being ‘in the now’ or ‘being present’ like a good Zen-meister would do. I really suck at Zen; did I already say that? So all this causes worry and concern on the part of everyone in the house, which makes me worry even more, because I know I’m being withdrawn, or acting like a jerk. ARRRRGH! Then I feel bad and try to make up for it, probably falling far below the mark on that, which also makes me worry. The pressure is immense sometimes, and it’s almost all generated by me, of course. Well, not all of it. Bills do have to be paid—if I want to support my two favorite addictions: living indoors and eating—that is. So the work thing isn’t self imposed stress. Most of us have that one to chew on every day. So I apologize, try to make it up and then go back to the ticking and tocking.
So I return to my morning routine. After I write for an hour, I get breakfast ready. I’ll go totally ‘micro’ in the next segment, so you can see just how my mind works, because all the stuff I’m about to tell you is exactly what I think as I’m doing it.
First, I get up from my chair and head for the kitchen in the next room. I time my steps so that I will be on my right foot as I go through the door, so I can turn to the left and flick on the light on the wall. I put down my mason jar full of South Farthing Sweet Tea on the counter to my left, as I round the corner behind the counter, reach for the fridge door with my right hand, so I can reach in with my left and pull out the sausage. I put that on the counter, spin to the left 180 degrees and pull the big cast iron skillet off the pot rack and put it on the stove with my left hand, while I turn on the burner with my right—no wasted movement. I grab a gallon jug of water off the top of the fridge, then I turn back to the counter, set the water down, where I slide the coffee maker out with my left hand, while simultaneously opening the cabinet above with my right, to get out the filter. I open the top of the maker with my left, insert the filter with my right, then pull the coffee container over, open it and put in 2 scoops of coffee—which Patience informed me this morning isn’t strong enough, so I’m now making a mental note to jack it up to 3—I grab the water with my right, pull the top off with my left, open the top of the maker with my left and pour in 6 cups of water. Set the water back down, close the lid on the maker, push the ‘on’ button with my left and slide the maker back towards the wall. Phew! Tick tock.
That was exhausting wasn’t it? Most of this is conscious thought, mind you, not some autonomic response. It’s quite calculated. And I do this all day long. Do you? Probably not. No, I’m sure you’re quite normal. I can’t imagine what you’re thinking of me now, lol. Probably something along the lines of, “What a freak!” I’m kind of thinking the same thing. I won’t go into the rest of my breakfast; there’s no need. It’s the same. I haven’t found a cure yet, unless my un-Zen-y meditation is helping, and it doesn’t seem to be. The closest thing I’ve found to abatement, comes through a generous dose of booze: bourbon’s my favorite. A big Mason jar full of ice, half full (or more) of bourbon then top it off with some Coke—I call it Kentucky Tea—and I’m on the way to ‘notgiveashitville.’ After about 3 of those, I’m simply giddy. I’m a nicer, calmer person when I drink—no “I’m drunk, let me kick your ass” crap—nope, I couldn’t care less when I have a buzz. If I haven’t convinced you, just ask both of my ex-wives. They both told me I should drink more, well, maybe they didn’t word it quite that way, but they definitely enjoyed the buzzed Steve, more than the tick-tock version. I don’t blame’em. Me too.
Oh well, one of these days I’m gonna ‘wax on, wax off,’ and figure out the whole Zen thing. I just wish it would hurry the hell up! It’s burnin’ my daylight!