I took a mental health day on Saturday, sat in silence, didn’t touch my computer, walked my dog in the woods, watched the clouds roll by and listened to leaves fall, let go of time and all the plans I pack into it like an overstuffed suitcase. This past week in the middle of all the nothing that has been going on for months, my ambition collapsed. I experienced total motivation failure.
Long slides of the clock disappeared following a fat spider that sits in her web stretched over the window by the door. Sometimes I study her with a flashlight, my nose just inches away from her on my side of the glass, invading her privacy, inspecting her home, which has fallen into disrepair with gaping holes and strands snagged by crusty bits of old bug, a gnat wing here, a fly leg there. Yes, I’m judging my spider like Millie, the nosey neighbor on the Dick Van Dyke Show, peering through the curtains to see how other people live, except that I’m peering at a spider who is apparently a lax housekeeper. Hence my mental health day.
In isolation routines sleepwalk themselves to completion. A sameness blends the days one into another. When I think too much about it, which of course, I do, inertia draws me to the spider. She’s been sitting on her web for a couple weeks now, sometimes so still I think she’s dead. I check my pulse just to be sure I’m still here. Then I wonder if she ever gets sick of being a spider, did her lifespan come preloaded with a certain number of moves, and once she’s made them all, it’s over. Have I made all my moves? Will I disappear into sameness? I get up to check on her in the middle of the night. She’s pacing in the dark. So am I. Maybe we’re twins separated at birth. Then in the morning she has a sweat bee wrapped in gauze and she’s parading it across her web in silent victory. Not twins. Victory eludes me.
Ordinarily, I would feel a gush of self-satisfaction accelerating through the day, crossing tasks off my to-do list. But these days my to-do list is a hypnotic repetition of minutiae. Bread, broccoli, butter. I could fall asleep reading it. There aren’t enough unique experiences on my calendar to trace where I’ve been for a week. I can’t even remember what I did yesterday. It’s disorienting. My big thing this weekend was to patch a pair of blue jeans and sew a button on my pajamas. And, no, I didn’t do it. My ambition is roadkill. With all this free time on my hands I don’t know whether to get busy prepping for the apocalypse or take a nap.
Does a spider ever turn an insect away from her web because she’s just not in the mood? Does she ever lose her focus and dream? Does she mourn the past when things go wrong? Or is she grateful to sit on her tattered web, busy doing the only thing she has ever done, thinking what a privilege it is to be bored.