Friday, August 05, 2011

Waaaaaaaay overdue

I took a book back to the library this week. My wife had read it for her book group and thought I might like it. "Love Walked In" by Marisa de los Santos -- "exquisite and stylish," blurbed Sarah Jessica Parker. "I read a few pages and put it aside," says me. We got a robo-call from the library saying it was overdue; I listened to it and promptly forgot.

The book sat on our coffee table for a while, and then on the end table. We stacked other books and magazines on top of it. Every so often I'd see a corner peeking out of the pile and say man, we've had that a long time, we should take it back soon.

Charlotte libraries don't stamp the due date in books anymore -- you get it on the receipt, and that was long gone.

"So when was it due?" I asked the librarian.

She smiled.


Some days inertia feels like the most powerful force in the world, stronger than gravity or anger or love.

How many of our problems would vanish if we just quit doing the same stupid things we do every day? Or started doing the things we keep putting off?

I read "The Family Circus" every morning on the comics page. A lot of people love "The Family Circus" -- we find that out at the paper every time we try to get rid of it. In all the years I've read it, I don't think it's ever given me an honest laugh. But it just takes three seconds. Maybe this time Jeffy will be funny. OK, maybe next time.

Routines become habits, and habits become ruts that run so deep it's hard to see out. When inertia kicks in, your mind clicks over to autopilot. You could live your life blindfolded. You know exactly where to go.

That's why one of the best ways to get out of a funk is to change your routine. It can be as simple as driving a different route to work, or turning left instead of right on your morning walk, or sitting on the couch instead of in the easy chair. Those little changes alert your brain that something new is going on. It makes you more aware. You see the world instead of just passing through.

I teach that idea in workshops. But sometimes you forget your own lessons.

The other night I was on the phone with a friend I hadn't heard from in months, and he apologized -- he said he'd been in "hermit mode." Hermit mode can be a comforting place, especially in times like these. If you're not trying to find a job, you're trying to keep one. And if you're not worried about keeping your job, you're worried that whatever you have won't turn out to be enough.

Sometimes all that worry drags you into a dark place. Other times it just picks at the edges of your life. You let a few things slide. You wander around the upper reaches of your TV channels. You make a list of the stuff you need to do. Wow, that's a long list. Maybe tomorrow.

Inertia is a hand on your back, pushing gently. Sometimes it feels good. But you'll never grow unless you push back.

The book went into the car and the car went to the library. I stopped at the ATM on the way, just in case.

The charge was 10 bucks. Our contribution to the library fund. I tried to explain what happened. The librarian just laughed.

"Happens all the time," she said. "We're all a little overdue these days."


Anonymous said...

I was wondering...with no new posts since June, I'd thought you were a little overdue yourself. Welcome back.

tommy tomlinson said...

Anon, I thought about adding that in there but I figured an alert reader would catch it :) We took a little vacation time, plus I've been working on a longer project that is taking most of my time at work. I think it'll bear fruit soon.

Anonymous said...

I have had to pay for a couple books that got lost. You would think I would have learned a lesson. Before I read your post I was actually looking the house over for a book that is due back today. I am probably to pay for it. It has disappeared.

David said...

Welcome Back, Tommy. I missed reading your posts and like always, I enjoyed this one as well.

Lynne Stevenson said...

Welcome back! With Mark Washburn's latest attempt at sarcasm, your words of wisdom and wit were badly missed. When are your next workshops at Queens and are there any payment deadlines for them? Hopefully the planets will align themselves where I can attend your next one.

tommy tomlinson said...

David, thanks for the kind words. Lynne, here's some info:

Karen said...

So good to see you writing. Was wondering where you were. I love reading your words.
I laughed when you said, "my contribution to the library." I never feel bad paying a fine because I always say the same thing:)

Anonymous said...

Glad you're back; always enjoy your life's essays.

Anonymous said...

I thought to save money I'd rent a DVD from the library for free, which I'd never done before. What I didn't know was that you can only have it a day or two before it is due (I thought it was the same as renting a book and no one told me). I returned it 7 days later and I now owe $7.00, a dollar a day for an old DVD! That's outrageous. How can they only charge you $10.00 and you had the book since March and I only had the DVD seven days? They will be lucky if they ever see that $7.00 from me.

ItsAllTrue.Net said...

I always love inertia when it's motivating me to keep the ball rolling, but once it stops... yeah.

Great post. It's like you were in my head the last few weeks.