Opsimath

A person who begins to learn or study only late in life.

I came across this word some time ago, and then just now in a novella called The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. It’s about reading, and learning things late in life (don’t know whether I’m late in life, the story’s not over yet, but I’m certainly not early in life, turn 63 in three days); also that reading is a muscle that gets better with use. And in the end the book is about writing too (another muscle that needs constant exercise). And about the Queen. It’s a totally delightful book. I’ve kept this quote from it, it’s the Queen speaking, towards the end of the story:

“You don’t put your life into your books. You find it there.”

Ye gads, I thought. That’s what’s been wrong with me lately. I mean it’s not that I don’t read a lot of the time, as the Queen also does, as imagined in this book. I read all the time; it’s a survival technique. But I haven’t been writing, which might explain why I’m feeling kind of lost these days, about where I am, what my life’s about (does it have to be about something?) that sort of thing.

I apologize to anyone who cares about how long it’s been since I’ve posted in here. But I’ve been limping along through a series of projects that kept me away from writing. I’ve thought of myself lately as someone who binges, I binge on reading (novels read late into the night), TV series, now that I’ve been introduced to online streaming (helpful son-in-law) and indeed when I write, I need lots of free time to sink into it. I read the advice (and who wants unasked for advice?) that one should write a certain amount of time each day, and I think how do you do that, when some days I get so engrossed in things I forget to eat?

(Something I heard the other day that I think I’ll substitute as a term for how I operate: not a binge, which sounds negative, but immersion. That’s how I operate, I immerse!)

Anyway, the idea of writing for an hour or two a day, and then getting my other tasks done, a bit at a time, well, that’s crazy. PG Wodehouse on the subject:

” Just as, according to Shakespeare, snails creep unwillingly to school, so do writers of wholesome fiction slow up as they approach their desks.”

It takes forever to get going, so a lot of time gets wasted re-starting. And anyway, once started, well, I don’t like things left half done. Just makes things feel like a shambles, like my house all those years the kids were growing up. (Talk about immersion.) But that job necessarily took forever (well not quite, as they’re all nicely grown now, and they definitely don’t like advice from me anymore, if they ever did). I know that lots of women do other things beside raising kids, but usually they’ve got some other woman around taking up the slack. It’s not like the kids stop needing, while you do other things…

I know, I know, all kinds of people get stuff done while they’re doing other things. Multitasking is supposed to be what we all do nowadays, but what I think is we’re all multidistracting, and thus not getting much done at all. At least that’s me, when I let other things in, like making sure I eat at regular intervals. Seems important, but so distracting. And takes up so much time.

Anyway, what I’ve been immersed in, the last while, is a series of events. First I had a surgery (a hysterectomy, major, but not alarming, because for ‘benign’ reasons), which meant quite a bit of downtime, glad to have streaming TV. Overlapping with that, one daughter and her husband moved in for three months (which meant I was well-looked after while recuperating) as they were in transition between one apartment sold, and another bought but not-yet theirs. In the midst of that three months other daughter came to stay for a month with her two children, incredibly lovely 18-month-old and almost-3-year-old. Meant a lot of moving stuff out of reach, not to mention into storage to allow for all these people in my only-two-bedrooms apartment. And not much room to do anything else than admire small-people antics.

Then they all moved back or into their own homes, and I kicked into my own next project of getting my apartment ready for sale, because I have this wish to live somewhere else. Subsequently I was immersed in refreshing the place, painting walls, and packing up clutter (ie, personality) so as to present a blankish slate to buyers looking for their new place to live. It’s quite a process, and lots of labour, because I was hauling stuff off to a storage locker (something I began before the surgery, to make room for all these ‘children’ coming to stay with me) and my place doesn’t have an elevator. I’m on one level, but the building is on a slope, which means getting things up to the lane (least number of stairs) is, well, work. My back and it’s soreness could tell you that, if it could talk.

Now I’m waiting for the professionals to do their job of selling the place, and then I can decide where next I’m going to plug in my electronics.

But for now, maybe not late in life, but not early, I’m thinking it’s time to learn some new things. By getting myself back to writing of which this is a small start. No more five month gaps in posting. And I understand that this is all for my own purpose, trying to find out about myself by writing. A bit of self-absorption that I hope will in due course have some kind of meaning too. But I’m not going to worry about that right now. I want to sell my townhouse, but I’m not worried just yet about selling my writing. Got to refresh the paint job first, before I call in the pros.

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