I can’t finish anything I start, and I’m always stressed about money. These two things are often disparate, but they intersect in the tumbling piles of books next to my bed and on my dresser and next to the toilet and on the coffee table and on my desk. Towers that signify money spent and things unfinished.
I just bought volume 2 of Bitch Planet, a graphic novel that’s billed as ‘Margaret Atwood meets Inglorious Basterds’. It’s by Image Comics who also publish Saga, a series I got so instantly obsessed with, I started googling “saga + tattoos”. The results put me off making a very bad decision.
I’m a chunk of the way into Hunger by Roxane Gay. I’ve been waiting so long to read this book, a memoir of her body and its trauma and size. I write about my fatness a lot in my book, but of course Roxane Gay makes me want to do it better, braver, bigger. It feels wrong to say I’m enjoying the book because it is gruelling in its honesty, but that is also what I respect about it. It dares you to look away but knows you can’t.
I have bought and started reading Sarah Schmidt’s See What I Have Done, Jessi Klein’s You’ll Grow Out of It, Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies, Mary Norris’s Between You & Me, Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness, Melissa Broder’s So Sad Today, and Darcie Wilder’s literally show me a healthy person. They’re just the ones I can see from my bed, where I’m writing this, surrounded by notebooks and checklists logging all the work I intend to do. I watch Orange is the New Black instead.
I haven’t finished any of the books yet, but I will soon. I’ll also start, then finish, Durga Chew-Bose’s Too Much and Not the Mood and Patti Smith’s M Train and Paul Beatty’s The Sellout. They’re also in my eye-line but in a different pile that dictates their un-started status. It’s a pile that makes me feel guilty. Don’t even get me started on all the hyped articles I save to my Pocket reading list and never quite get around to reading. That list has been ‘for later’ since 2012.
The last time I was caught up on all my copies of New York magazine was Christmas 2013 when I took a stack home to my mum’s house and read them all because there was nothing else to do. The next year I took even more copies home with me, but I didn’t manage to read them all and that stressed me out, and it’s been almost three years now and I’m still not caught up. That one year threw me off and I haven’t recovered. And yet I keep paying for the subscription because getting mail makes me feel special and print is still somehow more significant than online and I like having a complete archive dating back to 2011 on my shelves. They’re even sorted in order and labelled. No matter how stressed I get about money, cancelling this subscription never seems like a solution.
I’m tempted to move to the country to fix all my problems because I’ve lived in the city almost 10 years and I figure that’s the standard amount of time it takes for someone in the city to talk dramatically about moving to the country. And when I say ‘my problems’ I just mean spending too much money at Sephora and buying books I don’t have the time to read. I’d be a better version of myself in the country, I know it.
Country Me gets up early and doesn’t lay in bed playing Candy Crush for hours. She wears hats and doesn’t care that they all look bad on her head. Country Me makes jam and pickles things and successfully grows herbs in the garden. She listens to the radio and wears loose, unstylish jeans three days in a row. Country Me reads for hours without the nagging feeling that there’s something more important to be doing. She doesn’t have deadlines and knows how to build a fire. Country Me talks to people on the phone and remembers people’s birthdays without Facebook’s help. She makes delicious salads without googling bootleg Ottolenghi recipes. Country Me gets artfully spattered with freckles because she sits outside, probably wearing linen pants. She knows her neighbours and how to paint. Country Me actually re-reads The Handmaid’s Tale instead of feeling like a phoney when she gets into conversations about the TV show and recites the facts she read on Wikipedia and in recaps. She stays up late and keeps wine in the house.
I’m going to keep pretending like Country Me is an idealised, hypothetical version of myself, and not the reality: that she’s just who I would be if I had different priorities and did more of certain things and less of others out of self-discipline and being a little more relaxed, rather than as a result of geographic isolation.
I made pierogi from scratch today. I turned the heater on and listened to music and kneaded the dough and followed all the steps. I got covered in flour. After eating my lumpy, buttery pierogi I sat down to write this and soon I’ll get into bed and keep reading Hunger. But I’ve got one more episode of Orange is the New Black to watch first.
Brodie Lancaster is a critic from Melbourne. She has written for publications including Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Jezebel, MTV, Rookie and Junkee. Her memoir, No Way! Okay, Fine is out now through Hachette.