People ask me, do you have trouble writing a column, week after week, year after year?
Why no, I tell them. Writing a column is as easy as falling off a log, and in fact very similar in some respects.
You work to keep your balance by not thinking about falling. You look straight ahead. Once you start focusing too much on your footing, you fall. You never know how you're going to land.
When writing a column, too much worry will stymie you. Once you start doubting your ability to recognize the line between fine - and incidentally quite hilarious - writing and truly embarrassing, self-conscious schlock, you fall off the log. It's the same fear that makes a person dream that she is traipsing around town in her nightgown, hoping that no one will notice. Of course, she really is in her nightgown, in real life, asleep in bed, but that has nothing to do with it.
It could happen to a woman. From what I've learned on televised sleep-aid advertisements, certain soporifics could cause her to step out of her bed and into her car and drive around in her sleep. What a nightmare! That would be a dream come true, not in a good way.
I was trying to make myself write this column yesterday, but I had to go out and buy cat food, and fold napkins, and google various important subjects. I felt obligated to comment on my Facebook friends' posts, too. I always catch up on my correspondence when a deadline is looming. Then this morning I woke up from a dream of finding myself in my nightgown in a shopping mall.
It's always so surprising. What's this? I seem to find myself in my nightgown in a shopping mall! Oh, wait, now I am in my nightgown at the school! The shopping mall has turned into the school. Well, that's to be expected, but how on earth do I happen to be out in public improperly attired?
It's a recurrent dream. I am familiar with my dream landscapes: city streets, a shopping mall like a rabbit warren with a restaurant and little clothing and gift stores, a hotel, a beach I'm always trying to get to. I have never visited these places in my waking life, but when I'm asleep I know my way around. The one thing that always astonishes me, no matter how often I dream it, is that I am dressed inappropriately.
This morning I woke up too early, but I couldn't get back to sleep. I was thinking about this column.
"Don't mention valentines," I kept telling myself.
The truth is that every year I make valentines for other people and wait around to receive valentines myself. It's foolish, but I can't seem to get past it.
I complained once to my sister that the only birthday card I got that year was from my bank. Thank you, Champlain National!
"Do you really care whether people send you cards?" she asked, as if this was the very last thing she would expect of me.
Of course I do, Sissy! I couldn't believe that she had known me all of her life and never realized this about me.
Most years in this column I mention valentines, even though I intend not to. This year I got two: a beautiful handmade collage from my friend Laura, delivered anonymously, and a wonderful valentine from my daughter, Molly, with photographs of my little valentine grandbaby, Emma.
And the other day I even got an e-mail from someone I don't know who told me she reads my column and the Price Chopper inserts in the Lake Placid News every week.
"Do you get much fan mail?" she asked.
I wanted to answer, "Yes, in my alphabetical files, the letters 'F' and 'V' are full to bursting with fan mail and valentines. It's a problem." I was so happy to get her e-mail, though, that I couldn't lie to her.
So you see, this February I have no excuse for poor-mouthing about lack of valentines. Even in years when there is a real dearth of valentines, when lack of recognition and attention make my life seem a veritable desert wasteland, I know that it is unbecoming in a person to whine about it. Walk on! I counsel myself. Forward! Don't look back. Don't look down at your feet. And for heaven's sake, get dressed.
Have a good week.