Friday, January 14, 2022
I woke up in a pretty good mood today. To a client text at 6AM, tired, but it’s Friday and I had my word. No thinking involved. No standing by the window watching the sunrise, musing on the daily musing. No waiting for the muse to strike.
A dear friend of mine chose it for me yesterday, and I promised I would muse about it today.
If it hasn’t become painfully obvious yet, the word is muse.
She opened the dictionary to a random page without looking, closed her eyes and pointed to a word on the page.
And that’s what came up.
I was about to say “what are the odds” but I’ve said that so much lately that the odds feel pretty good.
So today I mused on musing.
It’s so meta. I mean, this entire project is predicated on musing. It’s like your brain thinking about your brain. A tunnel of mirrors.
Of course, muse can be a noun, as in something that inspires you. Or a verb, as in to contemplate.
To muse is sort of like daydreaming with words.
When I first heard the word, the noun version popped into my head immediately. But I don’t have a muse. I just have a brain that you can fry an egg on.
So I decided the verb version would do, since it’s basically the impetus for this entire project.
I told you the universe was synchronous.
I spent the past hour walking on the treadmill at my desk while I worked, then took a break to read before jumping into something new.
I have four books started, plus one in the queue, the one I’m supposed to read for January book club. I started out strong on the reading this year, then this week was such mayhem that I was lucky to read the “on” button on the tea kettle.
However, I am very much enjoying at least three of the books I have started and I don’t want to lose the thread, which happens when you put a book down for days and weeks on end.
So I decided today in between things that I would read, even if it was one page at a time.
Let’s muse on reading.
The thing about musing is it’s not about profound thinking (thank god).
It doesn’t require a result or an answer.
It doesn’t even need a purpose.
It’s sort of like thinking for thinking’s sake. Which I can get behind. I mean, my brain goes a light year a minute, so it’s great having something to think about as opposed to leaving my brain to its own devices, to decide things like I’m dying, or nobody is reading my blog because nobody likes me.
I like reading. I love reading. My best day is sitting in a comfy chair with a book. It also helps to have a cup of tea or glass or wine, depending on the time of day. And a muffin or something. Also a cat. Cats and books go together quite well.
Speaking of cats, I’ve been musing about cats a lot lately.
I want cats. Not A cat. Cats and cats and cats.
I didn’t want cats after ours died. I hate not having MY cats. But since that is not an option and I still love cats in general, I feel like I want one. Or two.
I want one on my feet. I want one on my lap. I want one looking at me accusingly when I serve the wrong kind of food. I want one scratching my carpet and chasing around my Hello Kitties. I want one standing on my shoulder and wondering what I’m doing that’s so important I’m not paying attention to him.
I miss them. I miss them in general, and mine in particular. Lately I have been wanting a cat more and more. It’s not that complicated. Go to shelter. Get cat.
But it becomes a thing when you now have to be there for a cat for the rest of its life, whatever that may be.
You can’t really travel with a cat. I mean, I see those cats that sit in bike baskets and wonder what deal with the devil someone made to get THAT kind of cat.
It’s not like you can train them.
There are plenty of dog-friendly places but nobody ever advertises as cat-friendly. Not even generically pet-friendly.
So getting a cat means you’re kind of limited to what you can do, unless you get a really good cat sitter, which we had, but that was 900 miles ago.
And we’re in dog country now.
I’ve also mused about getting a dog. Ralph has mentioned a few times about getting a dog. I’m not 100% sure he actually wants one, or just wants a furry thing that isn’t so difficult to travel with. I’m not sure he knows, either, but if he wants a dog, then I want a dog.
It’s not that complicated. Go to shelter. Get dog.
But really I don’t want a dog. Dogs are high maintenance and needy. I like the “don’t touch me until I demand it” attitude of cats. I like that they go about their business, which sometimes means getting up on your lap or on your keyboard because that’s what they want to do. You don’t really figure into the picture, unless they want something.
I like that I can set up a litter box and be done, as opposed to walking them every day, multiple times a day. You can leave cats home for short periods on their own. Ralph and I used to set up automatic feeders, lots of water and multiple litter boxes if we were planning to leave for a couple of days.
It made the cats mad and they let us know it for a while, but they got over it and then graced us again with their presence on our faces at night.
With a dog you can’t even leave the house for 24 hours. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had friends who had to leave a party or a dinner or your house so they could get home to the dog.
I can’t even with that.
But the tradeoff is, your needy, I-have-to-be-walked-twice-a-day dog will go basically anywhere you do and love it. Your delightfully independent cat will go exactly where he wants to go and nowhere else.
Wanting a dog is like wanting broccoli. I mean, I want a cookie, but if it’s the apocalypse and I’m starving to death, broccoli would be great.
This has been a cause for much musing and no conclusions. And no cats.
I really want a cat though. A fuzzy fluffy crazy one that crawls on my head and sits on my chest and is just there.
The other hilarious thing about this whole musing is that the entire reason I hesitate to get a cat, because then how will I travel, is so laughably moot. I haven’t traveled in three years. The minute I wanted to do something, the universe was like, COVID!
And now there’s just work and stress and also a measure of inertia.
I started to muse about books and then I got distracted by fur. But books, I want to start finishing some of the books I’ve started. Last year, I started a book in January that, no exaggeration, I did not finish until the last week of December, and even then only because I was determined not to carry it over into my Goodreads to the next year.
Talk about losing a thread.
I like books that make me muse. I’m reading Beloved by Toni Morrison right now, in part because I have read so much about it that I really finally wanted to read it.
Oh my god.
It’s so good. It’s gorgeous. It’s also awful.
I want to claw my eyes out and someone else’s for being anything like the characters in this book.
I just love it. I don’t want to be interrupted anymore until I finish it.
It’s instigating a lot of musing.
If you love books and words and stories, and have not read this, really, go to Amazon and buy it right now. I promise I won’t start to muse on the fact that you don’t like me because you’re no longer reading my blog.
This book is really hard to read. Not hard in a “why is this happening and what on earth is this supposed to mean” kind of way, like Walden, god forbid. Hard in a way that makes your heart hurt because you’re reading something so beautiful and terrible at the same time. How can I love this awful thing?
It’s quite affecting.
It was pretty intense, so I had to muse on the weather for a while. In between walking from my apartment to the car I thought my, what a lovely day. Knowing that muse was my word, I did it.
That lasted for all of ten seconds because then I got in the car and all the technology pissed me off so I ended up musing about that.
The thing with technology is, it’s only useful when it works.
I mused out loud to myself the whole way to Burger King to pick up lunch (don’t judge).
It sounds stupid and first-worldish, because it is, but hear me out.
Before GPS, I got in the car and got on the road and went somewhere. If I didn’t know how to get there I asked someone. Or I got lost. And then I asked someone.
Now, GPS is great. When it works.
I haven’t driven anywhere in so long that I actually forgot which of two roads is the one that goes to Burger King. So I just asked the GPS. But of course it decided not to work. I had to ask it, then ask it again, then it didn’t understand, then it selected something in freaking Omaha, then it just hovered there and did nothing.
So what the actual good is GPS unless it can get you somewhere, preferably where you want to go and not Omaha instead?
It’s not a fair argument to say that I’m spoiled because of GPS, because when I didn’t have it, it never occurred to me to need it. I never once, thought, my god, I wish I had some technology that would tell me which of these two roads to take.
I just took a road.
So I turned off the GPS and just drove, and decided that if I took the wrong road, I’d turn around. Oh, and somehow I survived, without getting frustrated.
Ralph makes fun of me for driving in silence but don’t even get me started on CarPlay or trying to figure out Spotify. It’s too complicated to even turn the radio on because there is AM/FM and Sirius and about a billion channels to scroll through, like I can do this while I’m driving?
I connected Spotify to the car once, a few months ago, and that was great for the ten minutes I got to listen to my playlist.
Except now every time I get in the car, Spotify connects itself and plays [insert something I didn’t pick here] which I can’t figure out how to change because I’M DRIVING, or I’m not driving and I don’t feel like sitting there figuring it out for an hour. I could literally be at the store and done by the time I figure out the damn Spotify.
Ralph will sit there and figure it out. I can’t tell you how many hours we have spent just sitting in the car figuring things out. I don’t want to figure things out, I want to go somewhere!
One day last summer we wanted to go for a walk. So we got dressed in our outdoor walking clothes, filled up our water bottles, and got in the car to drive to the park. Except the driver profile decided not to work, the one you set to move your seat into position and turn on the temperature to your comfort level when you get in the car. I am not exaggerating when I say that we sat there for so long trying to figure out how to get the driver profile working that the sun went down and we got out of the car and went back inside without ever walking.
I say “one day last summer” but what I mean is “that day, plus the other time, plus the one after that.”
Remember how I told you a word or two ago (if you’ve been keeping up) that my parents bought my first car? It was a 1989 Chevy Nova, and if I wanted to move the seat I pulled the crank and moved it. It went forward and back. If someone else got in to drive, they pulled the crank and moved it to a more comfortable position. If I wanted to open the window I turned the other crank and lowered it. If I was cold, I pushed the button to move the temperature up. If I wanted to hear music I turned on the radio and turned a knob until the static gave way to something like a song. If it was Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam, all the better.
Now, my seat adjusts six ways to Sunday. It goes forward and back, up and down, you can increase the lumbar support or extend the knee support, you can even turn on the massager. True.
It’s great, when it works.
Otherwise I have to spend so much time messing around with buttons and settings and options that I can’t even get one mile to the park.
The only way I can deal with Spotify is by turning the volume all the way down so it plays, but I don’t have to hear it.
Today as I mused about all the delightfully unhelpful technology in my life, I considered that just because it’s there doesn’t mean I have to use it. So I shut off the GPS, turned down the stereo, and sang. A little John Denver, if you must know.
I mused that things may be more convenient – sometimes – thanks to technology, but it is not an improvement to my life. It has not made me feel any better. It just gives me more options for being frustrated.
I mused today on the possibility of buying a record player.
I know technically that’s also technology. Nothing isn’t technology, not really. But at least I have some control over laying a record on a turntable and putting a needle down, as opposed to an app that you have to keep tapping and tapping and tapping to find a setting somewhere buried in a menu that says “stop playing this song.”
I feel like I’m on a rant every day.
I also feel like the antidote to general frustration is time to muse over pleasant things. Like friends who give you words to play with.
Funny thing about that. I met my friend thanks to technology. I honestly don’t even remember when or how, just that one day she was a fixture in my life. Were it not for the internet we would never have met. Were it not for zoom we would never have seen each other.
Darn it, this is the problem with musing. It goes in all directions and doesn’t give you conclusions.
1 to become absorbed in thought
2 especially : to think about something carefully and thoroughly
3 a state of deep thought or dreamy abstraction
Just felt like throwing in a definition because I was wondering if I was actually musing properly.
Musing. Meandering of the mind. This is quite possibly what I do every day even without using it as my word.
What is musing, really? Can you muse on something in the moment or do you have to retro-muse?
Maybe you have to do both.
I can muse about this egg I’m eating. And the chicken it came from and the farm it lived on. I can muse over its deliciousness and the people who worked to get it to my table. But will I really muse thoroughly enough unless I finish the egg and then muse about the experience?
Is it muse on or about?
Musing about musing.
Random Musings. That’s the name of a section on my friend’s blog. I went there to get some inspiration. She muses on finite, pointful things. My musing is more scattershot.
Is there a time requirement for musing? Can you really call it musing if it’s a thought that lasts a couple of seconds before you’re onto something else?
So many things to muse on.
I can clearly go on musing all night, but something just happened that will make the perfect closing salvo. My brother texted me, randomly, out of the blue. We chat fairly often but lately we’ve both been so busy that our texts usually end up being four words spread across ten days.
Remember how I keep telling you the universe is synchronous? This is what he sent.
Muse that, universe!
Photo: My cat Ash, in our house in Holmdel, NJ, right before he started chewing on my hair (one of his favorite pastimes).