In Praise of Anticipation


Anticipation. Great 70s song by Carly Simon, yes. And almost ruined by her ill-advised agreement to lend it to a ketchup company for an ad. But still, there’s nothing quite like anticipation. It has the same salutatory effects on life as a massage does on the body.

Exhibit one is the contrast between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and you can look through the lens of a child or an adult. On the Eve, everything is ahead of you, bigger than life. Anticipation multiplies the number of gifts you receive. It increases their size and value. It takes every glinting light on the tree, in the windows, and atop a candle wick and makes of it a holiday brushfire to warm the sugarplums of your heart.

The Day? Rip. Tear. Oh, that’s it? And then the aftermath, when every decoration in the house is less a festive source of cheer and more a visual reminder of work to be done: putting Christmas, already stale, thankfully away.

Let’s consider books, shall we? I read about new books all the time on Goodreads, in The New York Times, and in the Boston Globe. The descriptions whet my parched literary appetite. I go to the interlibrary loan page on the Internet and, with relish (I see a condiment theme developing here) put holds on dozens of books.

In short, my to-read eyes are bigger than my time-to-read clock. The books come in. The books wait in their lonely tower at home while I trudge off to the mines each morning. I read upon my return but, like Christmas Day, most of the books disappoint without the pixie dust of anticipation to burnish their credentials.

And so it goes. Shopping at the grocery store for this healthy vegetable and that healthy fruit in anticipation of a new page in diet? All good and anticipation at its best until, weeks later, the wilted produce must be given its 21-gun salute and burial in the garbage. Minus the anticipation, there’s the pain of preparation and challenge of taste, you see.

“This is going to be so-o-o-o good. Can’t wait!” It’s the kid in you, over and over. Anticipation is a gift of childhood that follows you into adulthood. Don’t banish it. Luxuriate in it, even if it eventually comes to naught. Life isn’t overloaded with pleasures, after all, and as Carly reminds us in the golden refrain: “These are the good old days.”


Planning to Plan (and Eat Right, and Exercise, and…)

kettlebellThis weekend I wrote a poem making fun of myself — the easiest kind to write.

The point of the poem is metaphors. I am surrounded by them. Healthy produce purchased at the market? Wilting in the refrigerator for 8 days now.

Kettlebells, dumbbells, and medicine balls? Collecting dust and even selling a few specimens (rare dust, must be) on eBay.

Men’s Health magazine? A hilarious read with drop-dead routines you can read (but not perform) and with air-brushed muscle men who show you how it’s done (afterwards, they shower, dress in $800 clothes, don $200 cologne, and attract beautiful women like so much static cling).

And now, compliments of amazon dot all-is-com (click!), I have an academic planner, shiny new and covering July 2015 to July 2016. It is made for organized, logical, linear people. The kind I keep looking for in the mirror (I might as well look for the Holy Grail while I’m at it).

Still, as Hemingway wrote, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” and so I do. Maybe I’ll actually scribble a note or two this summer: “Read The Odyssey — Fagles, thank you. Sit in Adirondack on deck. Tan, don’t burn,” etc.

Maybe I’ll even keep it going for a week or two in the new school year. But the truth is, I’m often too busy planning on the fly to plan in advance. I want to be a guy with a planner, a diet and exercise regime, a power named Will that rides shotgun in my daily drive, but that guy’s an artful dodger, a fugitive doppelgänger at best.

So I’ll just imagine that I ate nothing but fruit, vegetables, and meat today. And that I ran 5 miles. And worked out with all those damn this-and-that bells on the floor.

Oh. And suffered static cling (akin to the impossible dream for married men).

I’ve got everything I need, after all. Metaphors especially. Lazy ones.