Today has been a nice relaxing day. I planned out a talk that I need to give in February, made some food and spent the early afternoon reading something fairly edifying under a blanket on the sofa with my husband. All rather idyllic. Until my mind screams “I can’t be on this sofa anymore. I have to DO something”.
The thing is that there isn’t actually anything that NEEDS doing right now. I did all the cleaning on Boxing Day so the apartment is in a relatively pleasing state. I guess I could work on my presentation or next grant submission but I have a feeling that this festive period of comparative laziness is actually having quite a restorative effect on my motivation and creativity as well as my scientific luck (I ran a PCR with 7 year old Taq yesterday and it worked!). In fact the only issue is that it is 3pm and either my circadian clock or psyche has a strange relationship with 3pm.
It’s like 3pm is the defining part if the day. If I’m working on a manuscript or grant and close to a deadline, 3pm is always the the point at which the panic sets in: “It’s 3pm and I haven’t done enough work for it to be 3pm!!!”. I get inexplicably grumpy if I don’t feel that I’ve achieved all that I should have by 3pm. I don’t even need to look at the clock to know that it is 3pm. The feeling of restlessness let’s me know.
I wonder if this is linked to growing up in a country where the sun sets around 4pm in winter. My circadian clock wants me to do the things that need doing before it gets dark but if this is the case why does this still happen in summer when in the UK it doesn’t get dark until 10pm. Also, if this is the case then why doesn’t everyone in Northern Europe suffer from the 3pm panic or similar? Maybe it’s linked to growing up with my Grandmother who always seemed to want to accomplish all of the days chores by 3pm. Whatever it is, it is fully ingrained and a hard habit to break.
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Today I had one of those rare moments of realization when you really remember who you are. On a cold December afternoon in Boston, following an afternoon of immigration appointments, with my arm raging at the tuberculin embedded in its epidermis, I joined a library. I didn’t expect such an unremarkable action to provoke such an emotional response.
After signing up for my library card I headed into the new arrivals section where my eyes fell upon the large print hardcovers. Immediately I was a little girl in Hackney library with my Nan. We used to spend hours in the library, it was the one place where I could hang out unsupervised and lose myself in all the pictures and stories while my Nan chose which large print hardcovers to take home that week.
I headed downstairs to the fiction section and remembered what it was like to browse (you know, IRL) and to read purely for pleasure. To be able to choose any book that took your fancy because you liked the dust jacket or the title. I’ve always loved book shops too, but book shops are tainted by fiscal restrictions and the knowledge that you can’t afford to take home all you want. With the library your only constraints are the 20-item limit (wow!) and your reading capabilities over a 3-week period.
Continuing my explorations I headed up to the second floor reference section, and suddenly there I was in Southend library poking around the biology section for my A-level assignments. Memories such as these are not particularly remarkable or life affirming, but seemed to provoke my mind to acknowledge “I was there once” with the unconscious implication of “and I am here now”. This latter thoughtfeeling was intensified when, while continuing through the stacks, I chanced upon a book written by someone that I know. At that point I was completely immersed in the present moment, and became aware that those library-loving younger selves would never have imagined that this situation could arise.
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