Since it’s summertime now, I am reposting an old entry about writing and sunbathing from several summers ago, when I first started this blog.
My only follow-up comments about this post are:
a) This is the first summer of my adult life that I don’t care so much about getting tan. (OK, fine, I want to get a little tan, but I’m not going to be a freak about it.)
b) I still, four years later, worry that I’m not doing enough writing each day. I still feel guilty and worry that I’m being lazy.
c) The other day I sunbathed for the first time this summer. (Only for an hour, and at 4pm instead of mid-day.) And, you know, at least when I sunbathe, I read. I figure, as a writer, reading is part of my job. So technically, I’m working in the sun.
Anyway, here’s the old post, first published July 30, 2012. (Nearly four years ago!)
Enough Is Enough!
The past few days have been rainy here in Cape Cod, so today, since it was actually going to be sunny, I decided to go to the beach for some good, old-fashioned sunbathing. (Right now my mother is screaming in horror and making me a care package of SPF 50 and a giant, floppy hat.) I know, I know, it’s very bad for me, but I like to lay out in the sun. It feels nice to have a blanket of solar heat against my bare skin as I drowsily read and listen to the waves. But, I must admit, I do it in large part for the vain reason that I think I look better tan.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten much more concerned about wrinkles and skin cancer and unsightly moles, so I don’t sunbathe as often as I did, and when I do, I take more precautions than I used to. For instance, now, when I go to the beach, I wear a hat, and SPF 50 on my face. My chest and back and stomach get SPF 15 or SPF 30, and they may or may not get a reapplication, depending on how responsible I’m feeling that day.
My legs, more often than not, get nothing. That’s right. Nothing. I think my legs look better tan.This habit is probably why the following conversation occurred when I visited my friend Dawn and her husband, Scott, in Philly a few weeks ago:
Scott: Eva, are you wearing pantyhose?
Me: What? No.
Scott: Are your legs just that tan?
Me: (Secretly delighted) What? Yeah, I guess so.
Scott: They’re like a completely different color from the rest of you.
Which I guess is true. My legs are a few shades darker than my arms, which are a few shades darker than my face, which makes me look sort of like one of those 1-2-3 Jello Parfait desserts:
It all begs the question: how tan is tan enough? When will I be pleased with my level of leg-tan and stop feeling the need to go to the beach every time it’s sunny? The answer, it seems, is never.
I am by no means tanorexic like the disturbingly-tan mom who was accused of bringing her 5-year-old in the tanning bed with her, but I’ll admit that I sometimes plan my day around finding the optimal time to lay outside and tan. I’m always pleased to see my tan lines in the shower, but no matter how tan I am, I always think that maybe I should get just a little bit tanner.
* * *
This morning I told myself I would write until lunchtime then go to the beach in the afternoon. After all, I hadn’t sunbathed in a while, and heaven forbid my legs lose their tan! I spent the morning alternately writing and slacking off. And when I mean slacking off, I mean doing things that aren’t writing. My slacking off included:
-booking a plane ticket to Ohio for a wedding
-vacuuming and mopping the entire house
-finishing The Psychopath Test (awesome book – I highly recommend!)
-eating various snacks
However, despite all this slacking off, I managed to write nine and a half pages on my novel. Still, I wasn’t sure this was enough to warrant the treat of going to the beach in the afternoon. “I don’t know, Eva,” I told myself. “You could write more. Joyce Carol Oates would scoff at this measly bit of writing.”
The question is: how much writing is enough for one day? Because no matter how much I write, I always think that I should do just a little more.
I guess that’s true with a lot of things. When do you know when to stop? When you’ve done what’s expected of you? When you’re tired? When you’ve gone on a three-week-bender and written an entire novel on scrolls of paper ala Jack Kerouc?
When I first got to Cape Cod, I set myself the goal of writing five pages per day. But now that I’m routinely exceeding that goal, I’m not sure when to call it a day. Last night on the phone, a friend told me I haven’t set my goals high enough. But what if I set them too high and can’t reach them?
The thing is, we can always do more. I could always get tanner. I could always find more things in the house to clean. I could always write more (and maybe I should). For other people, they can never make enough money, run enough marathons, buy enough clothes. But “enough” is a relative term. What’s enough for one person might not be enough for someone else. At some point, you just have to decide what “enough” will be for you, for today, and make it be true. On the other hand, if you have something you’re working towards, maybe it doesn’t hurt to keep pushing up the bar a little bit, making what counts as “enough” just a little more as time goes on.
After my nine and a half pages, I ate lunch, then rode my bike to Crosby beach. The bike path smelled like jasmine, and I realized that it was good to get out of the house, away from the computer. I walked along the beach. The tide was really low. I spread out on my towel and told myself: one hour of laying in the sun. That’s enough. And it was. Then I came home and wrote this blog post. Because I’m not Joyce Carol Oates, and I think I’ve worked enough on my novel for today.