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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Grateful Saturday

I woke up dazed and irritable this morning. I'd dreamed about my old job at the law school and about my boss from back then who behaved towards me with a distressing combination of clinginess and coldness. I sat on the edge of the bed for a few minutes trying to bring myself back into my life as it is now. But I didn't succeed. My stomach growled strangely as it used to with anguish before I had to go to work, my vision was blurred, making coffee seemed a Sisyphean task, and I wanted to have a big bucket of greasy fries for breakfast.

I haven't recovered several hours later, despite a hot cup of lemon tea and reading the new issue of Glimmer Train, so I must stop, I must stop and take stock of what's happening, I must give myself a time-out and the punishment of writing down all the things in my life that I should be grateful for, the many, many reasons why my indulging in this self-pitying, angry mood is simply stupid. So here goes my list of good things that I forget almost every day to be grateful for. It is so hard to begin.

1) Physical health. Limbs and fingers and toes, lungs that breathe and heart that beats, eyes that see and ears that hear, a brain with all the right chemicals in the right balance.

2) Bookshelves stuffed with books, and bookstores and libraries. Pen and paper. A computer. A little space in this great web of images and voices to say whatever I want without fear. This enormous luxury of understanding words, of being able to read them and write them, of being able to learn new ones in any language I want to.

3) Parents who are alive and healthy and with whom I get along. A sister who surprises me with her courage and intelligence. A good, good life partner, with whom the question of love is a simplistic, irrelevant one, because what we're building goes further, much further than that.

4) The hundreds of mornings I've spent in solitude and silence working on the one thing that matters most to me. And learning (from In The Actors Studio guest Dustin Hoffman) that failure is not the worst thing that can happen to you; that the worst that can happen is committing the sin of settling for what's safe and comfortable, never taking a risk, never pushing yourself into that terrifying place where truths are discovered. Mary Oliver: "All my life/I have been restless/I have felt there is something/more wonderful than gloss/than wholeness/than staying at home."


Blogger Michelle Fry said...

The Dustin Hoffman quote is good and something I need to focus my life on more. I am grateful you reminded me of it because I tend to do what's safe.

I also love this line Mary Oliver's poem October, "Look I want to love this world as though it's the last chance I'm ever going to get get to be alive and know it."

July 16, 2006  
Blogger Jonathan K. Cohen said...

Self-pity is ugly but unavoidable. The question is what can bring you (or me) out of it.
There was a time when I despaired greatly, because I had lost a great deal. My friend Steve took me to his garden, pointed to a little green stem, and said, "Here is your tomato plant. I want you to come over here every week and take care of it." He was a very smart man; the tomato plant, as it grew that summer, made me care about the future of something other than myself. That's what's necessary to banish self-pity: caring about others' outcomes.

July 17, 2006  
Blogger WestEnder said...

Anyone who isn't failing on a fairly regular basis isn't trying hard enough on a fairly regular basis.

It's like getting a 4.0 GPA. To me, that indicates lack of challenge more than academic acumen.

When Pete Sampras was growing up, his coach entered him in tournaments a level (sometimes two) above his ability. He lost all the time. He lost to Agassi, Courier, Chang-- he couldn't beat any of them.

A chronicle of failure? Hardly!

July 20, 2006  
Blogger Michelle Fry said...

I keep coming back to see if you are having a better week but you are probably too busy to post anything. I have to say that I really agree with Westender. I don't know if you follow tennis but Sampras used to be my favorite. He always was a top match to Agassi and did win a grand slam which is certainly not something a failure could ever do.

I hope tomorrow and the rest of this week is good for you and that you get a lot of writing done.

July 21, 2006  
Anonymous cheerleader said...

Write! Write! Write!

July 27, 2006  
Blogger Green Whale said...

Thank you. I simply cannot say more than that.

July 27, 2006  

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