As a studier, I love communities but I hate groups. When you’re throwing around ideas with people that you know, all of a sudden it feels like some competition. In a group everyone develops a strange new identity, either trying to prove that they are the most likely to fail or that they are already prepared and studying is merely an avenue for conversation. More explicitly, groups are a mess, but give me a moderately quiet room filled with a bunch of strangers all focusing silently on anonymous projects and suddenly I can do anything.
The top level of the Bloomingfoods on Kirkwood cultivates exactly the type of anonymous community that brings my neurons to life. Today, I ended up there, taking solace from the unidentifiable precipitation that was inducting Bloomington early into the winter season. As I was sitting there reading the final chapters of Absalom, Absalom! against a soundtrack of fifties pop hits (have I mentioned I love the fifties?), I was suddenly overwhelmed with the total satisfaction of pure, unadulterated joy.
It wasn’t so much that the joy was bestowed on me like some kind of emotional skin made up of thousands of different harmonizing happiness-producing cells. Instead, it sprung from the absence of any lack. There was nothing in that moment that needed improvement. It wasn’t that it was the perfect moment, quite the contrary, but it was complete.
It made me realize how much I walk through my life hypothesizing about just what ingredient could be added to a situation to make it a perfect moment. I plot my days in advance now with nightly to-do lists. I think about what I will eat, wear, read, watch that will assure satisfaction. Yet, I often feel guilty afterwards. Either reality failed to live up to my extensively plotted standards or because I feel that my satisfaction isn’t deserved, that my hour on the elliptical didn’t have the authority to permit such euphoric enjoyment of that entire Fair Trade Chocolate bar.
Yet, somehow the Claire that was the product of a failure to live up to a plan, the person who chose to watch House of Cards for a little too long, who spent a few too many minutes rewriting the last cheesy sentence of an unprinted paper due a half hour later, who couldn’t remember any of her sweaters looking so bad as she pulled on a pair of jeans that felt too tight and forced herself to be content with the least offensive sweater even though it was cropped and sat on top of a thin silk shirt that barely hid the top of the too tight jeans, who realized as she stepped outside in this outfit covered only with a short lamb’s wool scarf and a denim jacket made for someone who measured 5’4” not 6′ that every piece of her chosen assembly was rendered irrelevant anyway by the spotty weather conditions, whose paper was damp and wet when it reached the accumulating pile in front of her eager lit professor, who stopped at a local clothing store to find some kind of longer jacket that would protect her for the rest of the day but was unsuccessful and too cold to continue trying, who clumsily crossed the threshold of Bloomingfoods still trying to decide whether she was hungry or not, who sat down weighted down by not only the beef chili she had just purchased but by the threat of the amount of dense unread pages remaining in Absalom, Absalom!, that self-same person suddenly realized after a only few moments of pause on a possibly beige possibly khaki couch situated amongst a crowd of studying-munching strangers, that for the first time in weeks, her only emotion was joy.
And nine hours later… it still is.