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Wednesday, February 26, 2003

By one measure (one that's dear to my heart), I've had more good days in the last week than I had in the month before that. That's because I've been making time for myself to read. I believe if I can't find time during the day to read for pleasure for at least half an hour, that day is wasted, lost and gone forever.

What with working and working so much (not that I'm complaining, or even bragging), it seems that all I'm doing is ... working! And that's not good! I don't define myself by my job. It's not something I do because I like it, and if I didn't need money to be able to pursue my real life, I wouldn't work at all. That is, I wouldn't "work." I'd still work, but doing things I like, whether I got paid or not.

My real life has reading in it, and also writing. I've accepted that I'm never going to write the Great American Novel (or, as I once hoped, the Great American Pop Song). The former has already been done by Mark Twain, and the latter by Hoagy Carmichael. (Or do you not agree that "Stardust" is as close to perfection as a piece of popular music can get?)

But I have this little website, and I write a few lines every day, and that satisfies my lust to have my words read by a handful of people all over the world. That scenario was never part of my childhood writing dreams. I've pretty much exceeded anything I truly believed I could accomplish, even though I don't get paid a nickel. There is more of my real life here on these pages than my job could ever hold for me.

Sometimes I get to the end of the day and look back at a vast emptiness. Even if I've worked on a dozen spreadsheets and paid a hundred bills (my two most important duties), the sense of accomplishment is diminished if I haven't done anything for myself. So I read.

Other things were getting in the way for awhile, which is why I've been trying to make it to the end of the same two books for several weeks. That's going to happen as long as I have to work for a living, but I think I'm handling it better now. If I could read faster, or if my eyes didn't tire so easily, I'd get through many more books, but I have find ways to make more time to compensate for my deficiencies.

The short winter days don't give me as much flexibility, but I prefer reading by natural light (mostly because I can't focus for more than a few minutes when reading under a lamp). I have to be a bit harder on myself, forcing the issue, to make sure I get away from the computer long enough for a reading session before the sun goes down.

It has me in a better frame of mind, whether you can tell it or not. I can look back on recent days with some sense that I've used my time well, if not wisely. And I haven't had to sacrifice any of the dedication to my job that defines me to the people I work with. They don't know who I am, except the guy who signs the paychecks and distributes the reports. That's just something I do, not who I am.


A few pink clouds do not a sunset make.

So that's how I'd spend my days if I could get by without working. I'd read. I'd write. I'd watch my stories and eat bonbons.

Well, not really. I still check in on a couple of telenovelas, and I do have a few must-see television shows that keep me coming back, and I try to watch three or four movies on DVD every week, but I wouldn't sit around all day with the TV set blaring away, even if I could.

At least, I don't think I would. Who knows what a person would do, given the chance? I'd like to think I'd rise to the occasion, rather than sinking to my basest nature.

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Read what Becky has to say about the way Duke University handled the Jesica Santillan tragedy. The loss is threefold, with the death of Jesica and the waste of two sets of donor organs. What a heartbreaking way for a young life to end.

Recent recommendations can always be found on the links page.

One year ago: Number Two Pencil
"I've worked in one of those, and I know things don't get done as smoothly if there's tension in the air all the time. So let's try something else for awhile."

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And now the purple dust of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart