I’d tell you what I did all week, except that I didn’t do much of anything. I got eight hours of sleep every night and had breakfast every morning. I wrote two pieces, taking my time with both of them. I read a couple of books (right now I’m midway through Rumer Godden’s In This House of Brede) and watched a half-dozen old movies. I took my mother out to dinner twice, eating as sensibly as it’s possible to eat in southeast Missouri, not many of whose restaurants are heart-healthy. (If you know anything about Smalltown, U.S.A., you won’t be surprised to hear that I stayed as far away as possible from this one.) I talked on the phone to Our Girl and a few friends with whom I hadn’t spoken since I went into the hospital, but for the most part I fell pleasantly out of touch with the world.
That was my week, and now it’s over. I’ll be spending most of today making my slow way from my mother’s house in Smalltown to my apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where I’m reliably informed that several bags’ worth of snail mail await me. (Yes, it’s mostly press releases, but apparently it looks intimidating.) I have a play to see on Saturday afternoon and another on Monday evening. I have pieces due next Tuesday and Thursday, and I head up to Boston a week from today to cover a revival of Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit.
At first blush it sounds as if nothing has changed–and yet everything has changed, for I know that in between these various events I must live my life very differently, if I want to live at all. I have an appointment with my cardiologist on Tuesday. I expect him to lecture me sternly on all manner of things, and I mean to do just as he says. My list of New Year’s resolutions is growing fast: I do solemnly swear to eat breakfast every day, go to the gym every weekday, spend a little time enjoying the Teachout Museum every afternoon, pay a visit or two to Central Park every week…et cetera, et cetera. I’m full of good intentions–how could I not be? But this is the most important one of all: I promise not to fall back into my old ways the first time I slip up. Because I will, repeatedly. Learning to live differently is no small task, least of all for a middle-aged workaholic accustomed to doing as he pleases, and New York is full of temptations.
No sooner will I step off the plane Friday afternoon than I’ll feel the overwhelming urge to rev up my own engines, to rush back to my apartment and empty all those mailbags and start calling up everyone I know. Only I won’t. I’ll sit down, look happily at the art hanging on my living-room walls, and wait for the knot of tension inside my head to start unwinding. Then I’ll take Cole Porter’s advice: Why don’t we try staying home?
That’s my plan, anyway. Wish me luck–and a happy New Year!