I made it to page 50 of the New Yorker with the promise of a poem on the next page. Of course, this is the November 14th Issue, which may seem to indicate I’m a month behind. Not so, since I arbitrarily picked it up from a pile that goes back to issues from last year, I now am down to eleven unread issues. This is my ongoing plight with New Yorkers. My pile expands or contracts based on what’s happening any given week.
I love receiving the magazine, checking out the cover art, viewing the contributors. Each week I have the best of intentions of getting through its pages, ending on an entertaining crossword puzzle. However, it’s a rare week when that happens. Instead, I save them for a doctor’s waiting room. Or, better yet, I bring a small stack with me when traveling. If I can get through an issue before a flight lands, I am deeply satisfied. Even better, is when it’s a long flight and I get through two or more. If I’m on vacation, part of my relaxation is in the form of reading the magazine’s contents, sans political pieces. I get through my issues, one by one, as if I’m triumphing over one of life’s accomplishments.
This is my mixed relationship with The New Yorker. I’m not alone. A good number of colleagues have bemoaned their unread New Yorker stacks. Conversations with friends reveal their backlogs of the magazine. We keep it because we know, even if we don’t read the entire issue, there will be jewels in between the covers. It could be a restaurant review, poetry, letters to the editor, in which we get new perspectives in small bites, or the amusing cartoons. Whatever the case, we know when we get to each publication we will learn something new.
The accumulation of my New Yorkers is a metaphor for life. There’s always more to get done. Our relationship to what’s in front of us is what makes the difference. I used to feel uncomfortable looking at my unread issues thinking that it reflected a lack of discipline. Or it said I wasn’t on the cutting edge. True, I’m not on the cutting edge. But that’s okay. If we can look at what we want to get done and assess we can reasonably get done given whatever limitations show up, we will find great relief. Breaking things into smaller steps allows us to stay in the moment while still following a path of our own making. The pile of New Yorkers is not about what we haven’t done, but rather an aspiration of what we hope to accomplish in the fullness of time.
- Give yourself a break and simply read the cartoons in an old New Yorker, then give it away, or recycle it, rather than keeping it for a time that never comes.
- When making a to-do list, break down the tasks into bite-sized activities, so that you can experience accomplishments along the way of completing any given undertaking.
- Sigh aloud. There’s a wonderful release when we can freely sigh.