Rendered Fat Content


Camille Pissarro: Rain Effects (1879)

" … a rusty iron fist enclosed in a soggy velvet glove."

I claim to be repainting The Villa, but I've only spent about one in five days painting so far. Almost two months in and I've completed only two stripes of wall, with a third one perhaps a day and a half away from done. Had I been able to work steadily each day, I might be a week away from finishing the job, but instead, I'm suspended somewhere not quite in the middle, in the middle of the first third, with no idea when I might finish, confident that my clever plan to complete the work before the searing summer heat reduces operating hours has become a shambles. Further, I carry a decent start on a sense of guilt for not having realized the progress I'd so confidently predicted before I began. Not only have I proven disappointing in delivery, I predicted poorly, too.

What was it that I did with that tranche of non-refundable time?
I was mostly Respiting, mostly rain Respiting, by which I mean, I was waiting for the rain to end so that I could begin all over again, again and again, and again. Some days, I freely admit, I welcomed the interruption. I could rest weary muscles and bones without feeling all that guilty about it. Could pretend as if I was successfully pacing myself, but exigent circumstances mostly prevented me from engaging. Restarting proved problematic, too, due to the broken rhythm of the engagement. I'd labor to regain cruising altitude only to find myself Respiting again the following day. My weak knee would welcome the break, but the rest of me faunched at the growing lateness. This effort will very likely never recover.

Given that I'm inescapably writing the story of this experience, I'd rather that it be an adventure prominently featuring courage rather than a busted romance or a treatise on cowardice. I wanted to be the hero of this chapter, not the victim of circumstance. I wanted to seem fortunate and clever, not hapless or inept. I've been tempted to recognize the emerging context and just cancel the effort for this season, to marshal my forces for some better time when I might more reasonably expect to make progress, but I'm afraid that I'm already all in on this strategy now. I don't know what else besides Respiting I'd even do now.

Respite sounds as if it should be refreshing, but lengthy bouts of externally forced Respiting seem anything but restful. It feels oppressive, a rusty iron fist enclosed in a soggy velvet glove. I feel as though I've overdrawn on my Respiting account, that I won't really deserve a day off for a decade or more once I finish this chore. Were I more a man with the sort of character I'd previously planned to become, I might seamlessly transfer my focus from painting to some other contribution during these lengthy forced distractions, but I'm not, or I'm not exhibiting much talent for milking the transitions. I wait, hopeful for clearing sky only to recognize a wind storm with possible dust building as the rain starts letting up. Then another shower visits, falling from clear skies, and the afternoon's shot again. My mind listlessly shifts to what I might make for supper. Respiting should leave me feeling like I'm getting away with something, not that something just slipped away from me.


High Points
Friday dawns expecting a progress report. Back when I managed projects, I learned to make the fundamental distinction between a progress and an activity report. Some would submit an activity report when I'd asked for a progress one. The difference being that an activity report mistook all effort as somehow contributing to progress, when in practice, only a small portion of a week's work ever contributes to closing in on any objective. Some weeks, like mine spent Respiting, almost nothing done left anything like a lasting impression. Other weeks, almost everything did. I always figured that it would average out over time, but those who perhaps rightfully felt self-conscious about how little actual progress they'd made, tended to submit a report of little value, noise with little signal ratio, just to apparently make it seem as if they were worth their salary. I'd have to cross examine these witnesses, often resorting to badgering, to get the straight story. History appreciates high points more than janitorial maintenance.

I began my writing week inventing a word, and a good and decent one,
Forgivenness. "Nobody else can give me this pass, if only because nobody else could really comprehend the depth of my trespasses."

I next stumbled into what would become my most popular post of the period,
Sleepwalking. "I'm uncertain whether I'm Sleepwalking through this part of my life since I have little with which to compare my present state of mind, state of mind being at best a fleeting sort of experience, and not the sort to hang around to serve as the basis for any comparison, but I feel as though I might have recently been less than fully attentive."

I wrote about The Muse's absence in
HollowedDays. "These cats, Molly and her brother Max, came to live with us just before The Damned Pandemic came, so they never knew The Muse as a sometimes absent presence. They seem to take her disappearances personally …"

I recounted a fresh complication in
Challenging. "It's not true, either, that a steady diet of Challenging experience eventually renders one courageous. It seems more likely to render one if not permanently paranoid, at least temporarily so."

I mourned the obvious next, that we as a society seem to be entirely
Paranoiac. "I suspect that paranoia's a choice, a particularly seductive one, and one which starts with a single victim before working outward from that middle to infect others both inadvertently and also on purpose."

I reflected in
TheObserver that most of my working life, I held jobs and performed in roles that created intangibles. "[These jobs] produce intangibles, exhaust insidiously, and leave little behind, certainly no physical product, not even anything as ordinary as a finished paint job. I could never at the end of a shift walk around something and marvel that I had made that."

I ended my writing week by going recursive and second-order,
ThinkingAboutThinking again. "MannerOfThinking is not knowledge, not intelligence, but a unique parsing of surroundings and experience."

And so that writing week fades into the near distance, to be filed under more than merely Respiting, I guess. Upon reflection, the week seemed more productive than it felt going through it. Leaving it prompts me to feel a little nostalgic, even if I had probably Sleepwalked through part of it. I found ample opportunity to practice a Forgivenness I clearly have not yet mastered. HollowedDays followed, and Challenging ones, even one spent down right Paranoiac. I did more than just play TheObserver and ended the week more deeply appreciating and accepting my own unique parsing of this place. Thank you for following along even when I progress at a pace considerably slower than a snail's. This is still not a race!

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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