Oh my god, I am freaking out. I had no idea what I was getting into in May when I decided that NO MATTER WHAT I was getting out of town for a month this summer. I found a sub for my yoga classes two months before I found a place to stay, figuring that even if everything fell through I would at least just pretend to be out of town and hole up in my apartment for a month. (Totally sane plan, obvs.) Now it’s finally seeming real. Too real! I leave on Friday and you would never, ever guess it from looking at my apartment. Moving out of your apartment for a month turns out to be much more like moving, full stop, than I had anticipated.
I have composed an email in my mind to the sublettors asking them politely exactly what they expect the cupboards to be like. Empty? Full of immaculate, unopened pantry staples? Full of half-used spices and unpopular canned goods? I’m hoping they prefer the latter. (I’m not sending that email.) There’s a lot of stuff like that. I had thought I would tackle the remaining packing and organizing and laundering and deep-cleaning and loose-ends-tying piecemeal, a little at a time every day this week, but just now I noticed that IT IS WEDNESDAY which means it’s time to resign myself to the idea that I will end up doing a lot of it in a big crazy burst tomorrow night and Friday morning. Keith is floating around in the Arctic Ocean for a story, mostly incommunicado, which is fine, actually. I’m sure if he were around we would be dithering about exactly how to go about packing and cleaning and how much money to spend on stuff like getting the mail forwarded and buying boxes and garment bags and none of it would be getting done any faster or better, we’d just each be resenting each other for not shouldering our fair shares of the work. At least this way I only resent him for being gone (which is not fair) and myself for being useless (which isn’t useful.) I’ve at least mostly given up on the idea that this is some kind of a chance to finally get organized. I got through about 25% of Keith’s giant collection of vintage bank statements and maybe-important contracts and drafts and 0% through my own similar giant collection before deciding to just shove everything in a filing cabinet, lock it and deal with it when we’re back.
Adding to my crazy — perhaps compounding it somewhat? — is the idea that I have to get all my fucking around on the Internet out of my system this week because after that I am offline (except email, email is kosher) til September. When someone who knows you well, whose opinion you care about, says to you point-blank: “I can’t believe you when you say you’re working as hard as you can to finish your book when I can see exactly how much of the day you spend on Twitter,” you have to take that seriously. I mean, I have to take that seriously. I don’t know about you. Maybe Twitter and the endless-refresh cycle aren’t problems for you. Maybe you’ve never procrastinated, maybe procrastination isn’t a problem for you. Maybe your first impulse, when you’re 75% done with a long-term project, is to cut yourself off from distractions and focus, eschewing even your routine responsibilities and other people’s needs, until you’re past the finish line.
Personally I prefer to take the cat to the vet, get sliding-scale acupuncture, book work lunches every day of the week (lunches are a surefire writing-day ruiner, a fact I know but often allow myself to forget, and sometimes they’re unavoidable), clean the fridge, volunteer to help people do things they would definitely never volunteer to help me do, do loads of every-sheet-and towel-I-own laundry instead of dropping them off, overinvest myself in a book review to the extent that I then start procrastinating ABOUT THAT, drink too much while watching Breaking Bad alone til the wee hours so that I wake up at 10, structure my whole day about making it to that one yoga class and then not make it to that yoga class, become weirdly overinvested in the idea of my “immunity being down,” develop dietary neuroses that come closer than I’ve ever come in my life to disordered eating (no gluten? no, no dairy! no, no meat. No, extra protein! No, no soy! etc.) But above all I procrastinate by reading the Internet, specifically by reading the 568 blogs I follow on Tumblr and the 526 people I follow on Twitter. I also read the things those people link to and think are important, and a couple of other digest-type blogs but really it’s mostly just those Tumblrs and Twitters. Keith used to ask me “What happened on the Internet today?” at the end of most days and I finally got him to stop by complaining that it was too sad of a question, and now he’s not around to ask I wish he was, just so there would be some outlet for this information. Today I wasn’t that present for the Internet scandals of the day so it wouldn’t be a good day to ask me. I do know something scandalous happened involving Kristen Stewart, though, because I sat in the backyard of the church where I was supposed to be washing lettuce for a salad, tapping the same button repeatedly while I waited for Twitter to finish loading.
There’s more to addiction than straightforward self-destructiveness, though, especially this addiction. (But maybe everyone feels this way about their special, unique addiction?) For one thing, the Internet is a tool with the potential to facilitate real interpersonal connection and communion — mediated, but still real. When I think about giving up Tumblr and Twitter for a month I think about the people I’ll miss. These are people who, in many instances, I have never seen or met, some of whose real names I don’t even know or would be hard-pressed to remember if I did encounter them at a party or walking down the street. (“Hi, are you The Kids Have Arrived? ” I stopped myself from saying just in time recently).
It’s much easier to be virtually there for someone than it is to be there in person, looking into someone’s eyes as they tell you something personal or painful. I have tended to be be a repository for the virtual version of these confessions and sometimes I feel like I’m failing even at that. I know I let people down all the time by responding too tersely to their long emails or sometimes not responding at all. This sucks because these relationships, as one-dimensional and ephemeral as they can sometimes be, are important to me. There are people who I’ve met on the Internet who have become my IRL friends I see and hang out with all the time, and there are other people who I know I’ll probably never meet because, for example, they’re teenagers who live in California and it would be almost inevitably weird and awkward if we did meet, but I still feel close to them. I know I’ve said some version of this before but it’s still the best way I know of describing these relationships: a part of me knows a part of these people really well, and vice versa. Our whole selves aren’t communicating, but those parts are close. Even if I’ve never emailed or messaged with someone, I sometimes feel like even just repeatedly “liking” their posts constitutes a tiny bit of a relationship. And sometimes there’s much more than that: a daily dose of information about someone’s outfit, food or mood, or the kind of books they’re reading, stuff I don’t know about some of my close friends. Stuff these people might not be telling their close friends, that they’re telling the Internet. Stuff they’re telling me.
So while part of what I’ll miss is the blissful self-annihilation that comes from immersing myself in the stream of news, tidbits, images and information, the other part of what I’ll miss is this way of communicating with all these people: seeing them, being seen, feeling known and recognized, feeling like I know and recognize others. It would be egomaniacal to imagine that they will miss me — that you will miss me. But I still didn’t want to just leave without saying anything.
I’m dreading it, of course. I will feel lonely and probably a little bit desperate. But I’ve done it before, so now I know that feeling that way is the only way for me to live fully in the imaginary world I’m creating. And this time, I’ll live there for as long as it takes me to finish creating it.