"Are you doing lots of terrific things?" he asks me over dinner.
I'm starting to tell people that I'm not getting anything done here, which is only partly true. Today, for instance, I find myself in London, here to see Helen Mirren in Phèdre, with a ticket that was the fourth-to-last one available in her whole National Theatre performance run. This week, I've seen no fewer than five old friends whom I haven't seen, in some cases, for a good four years. Next week, I'll see the inside of the Palace of Westminster (which you will know as the Houses of Parliament...) and the Royal Albert Hall for the first time. And I'm busily filling my calendar with musical events I want to be sure to catch while they and I are still in Cambridge.
The very fact that I can do any of these things, despite the fact that I have uncompleted work tasks hanging around, is its own personal triumph after a life filled with work worries, and I'm trying to remember that, day in and day out.
Mostly, I suppose that I find myself worrying about not having enough exciting things to report, which has felt like my problem since I returned from Cambridge a year ago. And I suppose that that worry is an occupational hazard of having a blog: because I established a place where I could write about things happening in my life, I came to think that I should have exciting things happening so that I could narrate them. But much of my life is--though absolutely delightful to me--so everyday as to feel non-narratable. How do I write for you the feeling of my big feet in their new purple shoes, treading down Trumpington Street toward the train station, while I worry that I might miss the 12:45 express to London? Or the self-satisfied pleasure of arriving on Platform 1 at 12:41, with four minutes to spare and that express train not even having arrived yet? I have my routines, my established life here, and I have stepped back into them these past two weeks as though they just went on hold for a year while I went back to the States and did some other things for awhile. The National Health Service has even sent me a letter (making me think that they've probably been writing to me all year), asking me to come in for a pap smear, warning me about the potential damage to my womb if I don't come in as recommended. I buy shoes for the coming year; I grocery shop; I stop at the bookstore to buy some ink cartridges for my pen. I plan long walks and get thwarted by heavy rain. I discover that I still know the laundry room door code. None of it is glamorous; all of it is sheer, quiet pleasure right now.
But I also see strange, wonderful things, like the wrapped trees on the Southbank, part of the advertising campaign for the "Walking in My Mind" exhibition at the Hayward Gallery.
So, yes is my answer: I am doing lots of terrific things. Apparently, I'm feeling a little defensive about it. But I'm defending myself against myself, not against you. There's just always so much in which to be absorbed.