I was caught up in a library book snafu today. I had some overdue fines, so I couldn’t renew my books. In copyediting a manuscript today, I picked up a book and realized that the semester due date was last week. I am so screwed. I had to return all my (ahem, the library’s) books, over 100 of them. I stuffed them into the library return box in the office. When I filled that, I made two different trips to the library, carting tote bags to the car, then leaving the car right under the NO PARKING STOPPING OR STANDING ANYTIME sign so I could dump them into the book drop. It’ll cost me, but, oddly enough, that wasn’t foremost on my mind.
First, I wasn’t overwhelmed. I just added this library fiasco to my list of things to do. I didn’t have husband’s kind assistance to meet me in front of the office, I had to lug the bags all around myself. This is a contrast to last summer, when everything was so hard. Now, I just focus on the task, one at a time, without bearing the weight of Everything. I just got those books returned, one trip at a time. I’ll deal with the fines another day.
Second, this problem was not a product of grief. It’s actually a fairly predictable personal failing. Every 3 years or so, I miss the end-of-term due date and have to clear all my borrowed research books off the shelves. I get the renewal reminders by email, ignore them, and then sit in denial until it’s too late. It’s some kind of pathology, this unwillingness to return books. It goes way back, too. While painting my childhood bedroom when I was a teenager, I found a postcard from the public library in the heating vent, addressed to a 6 year-old me, reminding me to return When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne. Seems I was hiding the evidence, there in the heating vent. Seems I’ve got some book thieving tendencies. What can I say? I love books.
As much as I feel like the wreckage of a human being, some old part of me–not always noble and willfully disorganized–has emerged intact. Hey, I’m still here.