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TUG OF WAR
March 6, 2006
 
I was home before I knew it -- the trip from Philadelphia to Metropark on the Acela was about 45 minutes. Home and happy to be there: I miss it mightily as soon as I leave on a trip, and I'm leaving on trips all the time.

"How are the cats," I ask Q, "and what did you have for supper? What will your day be like?" I think of the homely things as the train eats up the miles of tracks, of which recycling must go out the evening I get home, of where I will go next in my basement cleaning project, of which creamy white paint will end up on the woodwork in the newly painted living room and when I might begin applying it.

Writing interrupts these pleasurable tasks annoyingly. It broods over my domesticities like a reproachful vulture, letting out an occasional squawk so I will know it's still there, still unfinished, still overdue. Well, I want to have a life, I tell it petulantly. Don't I get to have a nice life, a nice home? What am I supposed to do, sit here at the computer all day and all night?

My computer monitor gives me an ironic look. "It doesn't look like you're in much danger of doing that," it says.

"I write on the train," I tell it.

"Not very much, you don't. Not lately. Mostly you read home improvement magazines and the New York Times."

"Well, the Times is necessary reading for a good preacher."

"Uh-huh. And This Old House?"

"Well, you never know what will be germane."

Odd, this collision of my nesting frenzy and my true love. They're competing with each other right now, criticizing each other, dismissing each other's importance in my life. They each grab one of my hands and pull.

They really shouldn't argue. They are both fine things, and a life should have room for more than one fine thing. That elusive balance, which will stop this feeling that I'd rather be somewhere else, will come again. But it will not stay for long: I am a creature of prodigious effort followed by genuine sloth, so I always try to make hay while the sun shines.

If it were not for my rule of life, I would be pulled apart by my warring loves. If I didn't sit down to pray and then to write, without asking myself whether or not I felt like it, there would be no end to the reasons I'd find not to do either. I need to get as many of my tasks on autopilot as I can, in order to get it all in.

A rule isn't an external curb on your freedom. It's a choice you've made to protect the things you've decided are worth protecting. Nobody makes you follow it, and you don't really make yourself follow it, either. It's just there. And you just do it. And, before you know it, you've done it.
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