As my diary began to fill up before the New Year had fairly started, a familiar pall of dread began to descend upon me. Many of the things I planned were either good in themselves or designed to lead to good stuff in the near future - but how dreary the prospect of a year so scripted in advance! It is the kind of fence against which I, and maybe a lot of other goat-types too, immediately kick by pure instinct.
On the other hand, I hadn't pencilled in anything that wasn't either absolutely necessary, or else not absolutely tempting. What, then?
I wanted to know how I could free up some space. And, lo, a different way of looking at it presently came to me.
The problem with a full diary is not, really, that a huge amount of one's time is necessarily committed - certainly it wasn't in my case. Rather, it is the drag of seeing so many tasks, projects, chores, and expeditions marching in serried ranks into the future, and desperately looking around for a bit of time to cry, "Whoa!", stop the world and its nagging, and cop one brief bit of translunary peace in which to regenerate one's spirit. (It will, no doubt, be seen at once that I am not presently a family man. Laugh hollowly, who will!)
But the &c.'s aren't really marching in serried ranks at all. They are an open formation, a honeycomb, which mostly occupy only a very moderate proportion of actual life. Their oppression lies in the time the thought of them takes up, before and after: the largeness of their looming, rather than the mass of their presence. If every appointment, dinner date, yarn-spinning, house-hunt, plumbing spree, and trip to Erebor and back again for that left-handed dwarf wrench I need to open the miruvor bottles I promised to get for the Bagginses' plot-swapping party in August, were to take up only the time needed to plan it, do it, and get my leg sewn back on afterwards - why, then, this would be an active year, to be sure, but also a freer and easier one than most.
Also, I would be living in a very comfortable and nearly neat little Englishman's castle, and Three Katherines of Allingdale would be doing the publisher rounds before you could say Jack Featherstonehaugh-Cholmondeley-ffoulkes-Robinson.
It ain't the pace of things, it's the momentum. Not the wave, but the undertow. Give me a sixpence to turn upon - or, for the American-minded, a dime - and I will dance around the world.
Equipped with which brand new reflection on Reasons Not To, amongst other things, Write... I go to my dancing folly again.
First up [looks out window upon vistas of silent whiteness], it's time to go and do a tango with an Eskimo...
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