I’ve been spending a lot of time on Emerson lately – both by choice and because of school – and thinking about the really wild absolutes he espouses in Self-Reliance and the Divinity School Address and American Scholar. The thing about Transcendentalism as a movement is that it’s really sort of rooted in this concept of being a perfect person. I’ve always had a bit of an obsession with being perfect. When I was younger, I would make lists of my faults and try to figure out ways of overcoming them so I could be perfect. Then I focused on things like being popular or getting high honors, and now I focus on…shutting up so people won’t be annoyed by me and getting a 4.0. It’s a sad moment when you realize you’ve been working on the same faults for 20 years and haven’t really made much headway. I even looked to literature for inspiration back in the day too, although then it was Judy Blume and now it’s Alcott and Emerson (and a dozen others I haven’t even gotten into yet who don’t sound quite as good as “now it’s Alcott and Emerson hort hort hort CLEVERNESS”). I have wanted to achieve some mythical state of having my shit together for so long that it’s just like a part of my character now, or something. That’s what this entire blog is about – I’m not here to accept things about my own nature or learn to be kind to myself or any of that. I’m very kind to myself, to the point that it’s self-defeating. I’m here to stop being such a lazy asshole and learn some discipline. This is why the Transcendentalists, particularly Emerson but also the Alcotts, are a good resource. They do not mess around with ambiguity. No Nathaniel Hawthorne whining about whether isolated intellectualism is morally right. This is not a brotherhood; this is about looking inward, finding out what’s wrong with you, kicking its ass, and working really hard all the time so you will never feel like you’ve failed to live up to your own potential – “Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself.” •••
As I’ve said before, my main problem is that I’m really tired. Also internet, but mainly the tired thing. I don’t understand people who have energy. I feel energetic for a maximum of one hour, after I’ve had coffee. Before I started drinking coffee, I could barely function until about noon. The rest of the day I spend wanting to sleep and then, when I’m allowed to sleep, remembering there was a thing I wanted to read. The usual advice doesn’t seem to work for me. Does it work for anyone? Are there people who are actually rejuvenated by a mid-afternoon snack of granola and blueberries? Are there people who can actually nap for only 15 minutes at a time and not crash for six hours and wake up in the middle of the night wondering what century it is? If they exist, I think I hate those people.
So I’ve been working on figuring out what things might actually give me energy. Here are a few:
1. Music, obviously. I’m going to post my energy playlist in the midweek update. Just know that it involves some embarrassment and a quite frankly alarming amount of songs about shooting people. Pumped up by the death of my enemies! Hell yeah! This is Sparta!
2. Telling myself I’ll regret doing (or not doing) something in a week, i.e. “M, in a week you will look back and regret not doing your lesson planning right now.” Sometimes that backfires and I go SO WHAT, BRAIN, but mostly it works.
I really have no other things. If I drink more than a cup of coffee a day, I get heart palpitations, and I’m pretty much convinced energy drinks are the Baby Boomers’ way of culling the herd so there will be more room on the planet for them to live forever, because that shit is going to kill my generation before we’re fifty. Exercise makes me sleepy. Speak to me through the ages, Louisa May Alcott! Or other energetic people! Does something just wind you up at the beginning of the day and you don’t wind down until bedtime? What is your secret, people who are compelled to do stuff other than sleep on weekends? Tell my kind of your wisdom.
Next week: Emerson and Pound and Hemingway (oh my).
*** There’s a footnote in my edition of Emerson’s essays that says, “In the first edition text (1841), Emerson wrote: ‘But do your thing.'” Clearly me and Emerson were meant to be bros even though I can’t imagine what he’d say about the state of my netflix queue.
The 5 best mothers in literature, including Marmee, who is apparently too perfect for other people as well.