Titles by Kij Johnson are available for purchase online

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Time is odd here. Breakfast is between eight and nine. Lunch is brought to our door at noon, and it waits there until we decide to eat it. Dinner is at seven, though we often collect in the drawing room half an hour beforehand. Linens change on Friday. For me, laundry day is Saturday.

That’s…it. I have an additional, personal, schedule which consists of twice weekly check-ins to email, and posts here and on Patreon on Sundays.

Everything else is on me. There is not much daylight, so if I want to go for a walk in the woods or visit the garden, it has to be done before four, when the grey turns to gloam – but that’s optional. I spend a lot of time writing (or trying to write), reading, making and drinking tea, lying down to nap or read or both. Mid- to late afternoon stretches like taffy; hours pass and I look at my watch and realize it’s been twenty-five minutes. (This is complicated by the fact that my laptop is starting to fail, and the clock is getting very wonky indeed. Is it 1:50, as my computer says, or 1:30, as my phone says, or 1:23, as my watch says?) (P.S., please don’t die, computer.)

I am enjoying it, perhaps because of this. How often in our lives, these busy constrained lives of ours, do we lose track of time, even of the day of the week? But it is also quite unsettling. Am I spending my time properly? How can I tell, when I am not even sure how much of it I have spent? I end up with a nagging sense that somehow I should be doing more – but what, exactly? TikToking, reading the classics or bingeing comic novels, working out, taking naps and writing down my dreams, knitting? The temptation to fill time in anodyne ways – to get past the discomfort of the moment — is almost irresistible; but in fact the moments are all we have. Racing through this moment only brings me to the next moment that much sooner, and then that moment is there in all its discomfort, and so why not race to the one after that? Because, of course, the moments eventually run out. 

We have all seen plenty of inspirational memes and essays and quotes about staying in the moment. I always took this to mean that each moment needs to be worth being properly in it, which is basically bullshit. There are people who can delight in every moment, but for most of us, damaged by our upbringings and our culture, or just trapped in a no-win world we can’t seem to rise above, there are moments and years when things just suck. “Staying in the moment” doesn’t mean it’s all redeemable, somehow, if you just try hard enough: staying in the moment means, yeah, it sucks: but don’t assume it will be like this shitty moment forever.

All that said, this is NOT a shitty moment in life. It’s revelatory to be in a place where any shittiness pretty much has to be coming from inside, not outside. Periodically some many-legged verminous little entity creeps out from under some rock, but they are easy to identify and quash, when things are otherwise so still and calm.

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