We are traveling at night. The road is a stranger. The landscape that is hidden by the dark will remain largely unseen. Windshield wipers tick off the miles as if they are beating to a music we can not hear. Rain attacks the car like thousands of icy needles that crackle as they melt and are wiped away.
The GPS provides companionship. The woman’s voice trapped inside it waits to guide us to our destination. She efficiently marks the dwindling miles,103, then 83, then 55 and, 23. . . 6.. and finally less than one.
My son says, “I wish it was daytime. You can’t see where you are in the dark.”
But for the moment, I like this hurtling through time and space with limited sight. We are safe and warm in this small car capsule. The rain pours down. We can only see what our headlights will allow us but for the moment that is enough. We have each other. We are safe and we are together on this journey.
I saw her on a morning news show yesterday. She was part of a small panel of authors who spoke about their craft. Jennifer impressed me. I had never heard of her before which is surprising since she received the National Book Critics Choice award and lately, the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. I must have been living under a rock. . .well at least the rock in my own head. She seemed to harbor an inner intensity that defied verbal description. People like that intrigue me.
Each of the authors, now well known and receiving some form of acclaim, all spoke about the years of rejection that they had to wade through. Two of them spoke of how they often questioned whether or not they could write at all.
Jennifer was different. If she questioned her own ability, that questioning wasn’t mentioned. Instead, when she spoke of her writing as if she was merely the conduit through which the words flowed. When she spoke of this my heart beat faster. I think I know exactly what she means. When she begins a story she doesn’t know where it will end up. It simply takes her there. This seems exactly how it should be if one is writing about real life. Do any of us know where our stories will end?
Her book: A Visit from the Goon Squad earned her the Pulitzer Prize. I hear it’s about growing old in the digital age. She describes it as more a collection of lateral stories. Wikipedia (well, it is getting better and often does a pretty good job of providing accurate info) has this following quote:
“When discussing her inspiration and approach to the work, she said, “I don’t experience time as linear. I experience it in layers that seem to coexist…”
This morning I caught myself trying to make myself feel unhappy. I realized this was something familiar, something that I have done a lot over the years. This morning it required an effort that I wasn’t willing to exert. Why would I or anyone try to make themselves feel unhappy? Is happiness so highly suspect? I am supposed to be unworthy of happiness?
This last question hit home. Yes, some part of me feels unworthy of happiness. I try to let this realization pull me under the layer of happiness that keeps pushing me forward but I am buoyant and can’t be pulled under the waves of contentment that keep washing over me.
Memories are funny things. The older I get the more I’m fascinated by the creativity and artfulness of so many of my memories. A recent clip of This American Life recounted the memory of an incident by a husband who creatively put himself into a memory of an event that only happened to his wife. He believes her when she tells him that he wasn’t even there and the vivid details he can provide would have been impossible for the human eye to discern. Nevertheless, he remembers the incident as if he were there alongside his wife. He says with a laugh that he liked her memory so much he stole it.
I have memories that I would rather give away. I’d be happy to have some of them stolen.
Those closest to me know of my Christmas angst. A good conversation with my younger sister helped me see just why this holiday is a mind field of emotion. Old baggage sure has a way of messing with the present.
Thanks J. for opening my eyes.
Now that I have a better handle on the whys of it, I decided that it’s time I “ditch my inner Grinch”. I really want to wring some pleasure out of this holiday.
Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit left out. Some of my “circles of friends and acquaintances” got together, held parties or events and I was not invited. I tried not to feel hurt but I did. I’m not sure why I was left out. After all, I am pretty enchanting.
I spent several days feeling sorry for myself and a bit angry with those people and groups who chose not to “keep me in the loop.” This is a time in my life when friends mean a great deal. When times are hard, it’s important to have someone in your corner. A few someones is even better.
So as I spent several days finding myself lacking, I got tired of the self-pity and decided it was time to focus on what I do have. Finding out who your real friends are is not a bad thing. Despite my being dropped from some guest lists, I now know more about who I can really rely on.
“It’s cold this morning. You’ll need to wear a warm coat.”
Both my children’s responses overlap in a layered chorus.
“Yes, Mom,” they both say within seconds of the other.
They know this is what I want to hear.
I grab my bag and leave for work. A cold December light cuts into the morning. The things of the night become cruel silhouettes against a frigid sky. My heart feels as dormant as the stark branches of the frozen oak trees I pass.
After expressing a childhood wish for some thing or another, my mother would often quote the line above. As a child I didn’t really understand what it meant. Secretly, I loved the lyrical sound of it. It had a magical cadence that marched off the tongue.
I grew up in a land in which happiness was highly suspect. Pessimism was a birthright. Sarcasm intersected almost every conversation. Those who chose optimism as a way to cope with the challenges of life were dissected by our critical natures. So much of this nature nourished by our status quo–the ethos of the empty glass.
Sunday morning. The curtain between sleep and wakefulness is made of iron. Reluctant to face the realities of the new day, I drift in the land of words and ideas. They provide comfort, a barrier against life. I hesitate to open the curtain and greet my day. The force of truth keeps nudging me. In pajamas and a comfortable old chair, I finish my latest read, The Other by David Guterson.
Escape eludes me. The book ends up reading me as I read it. This thought gives rise to others in a similar vein. Each make me uncomfortable. Truth often has a way of shaking us loose. We can be comfortable no longer.
I am the person behind the words printed here. I write because my heart will not allow me the option of NOT writing. It has taken me half a life time to discover this basic truth, but now that I have, writing is as natural as breathing. This is where my breath takes the form of words.