So since I can’t concentrate, why not subject all of you to low attention span as well? Here are a few things I’ve discovered in the past few days as I’ve tried to not make myself crazy.

  1. I went from my newspaper website to the King Features syndicated page to do a crossword puzzle. Along with puzzles, King Features also owns the rights to a bunch of daily comics: Beetle Bailey, Zits, Baby Blues… that kind of stuff. But the thing I hadn’t expected is that each of those comics has a comments section, with sometimes dozens of comments! I mean, in what universe do people have an urgent need to make comments about Beetle Bailey?
  2. I was contacted this morning by the person who’ll be doing the translation of my book into Chinese. That person has a difficult task ahead, since the book’s written in a pretty colloquial voice, and they asked if they could reach out for guidance. The example they used was my reference to the fictional Wassupwich U. I spent a long paragraph to try to explain working-class constructions and Bullwinkle and the fact that lots of kids go to colleges that just aren’t very good, and I’m 100% sure that I wasn’t helpful. I feel really awful for this person as she or he takes on an impossible task.
  3. The underground yellowjacket nest in my front yard is now vacated, leaving a basketball-sized hole. My friend Derrick thinks that mice may have burrowed into it over the winter and eaten all the larvae. Thanks, mice! Good job.
  4. Nora and I have engaged in lengthy discussions about whether a piece of fiber has been twisted clockwise or counterclockwise; whether it matters which end of the yarn you look at when you say that; and whether the correct jargon for clockwise is “Z-twist” and counterclockwise is “S-twist,” or whether we’ve got it backward. It’s simultaneously testing my spatial-orientation skills, my language skills, my memory skills, and my patience.
  5. No matter what you try to do, other people will interpret it differently than you meant it. I’ve been asked this morning by one person to limit the number of people I send my daily emergency-management updates to, and asked by another person to be on them. And they’re both right. It’s a question without a correct answer, even though several people imagine that they’re correct.
  6. The world is awash in conspiracy theories, mostly generated from fear and anger in the midst of confusion. They give us power when we feel powerless. Everyone’s looking for some kind of master narrative that helps disparate phenomena make sense; the fact that a lot of those constructions are pretty rickety doesn’t matter as much as the comfort they provide.
  7. I was watching a YouTube video of a former literary agent talking about the seven reasons why the first page of your manuscript will get it rejected. And one of them was that the core conflict of the book isn’t contained on page 1. She said that back in the ’90s, books could take fifty or sixty pages to lay out the back story, but nowadays, readers want immediate action. And I thought four things, almost simultaneously. A) Nonsense. B) We’ve Twittered ourselves into intellectual submission. C) I love that “back in the ’90s” is unimaginably distant. and D) many of today’s readers were also readers in the 1990s, and the 1970s. It’s not like software, there aren’t reverse-compatibility issues that limit the use of legacy systems.

That, times about eighty-three, is the state of my head today. And I know, from talking with friends, that I’m not alone in that. So give yourself permission to be scattered and disjointed and not at your intellectual best today. It’s not reasonable to expect ourselves to be normal when nothing else is. Be gentle with yourselves and others.

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