here’s what it takes

First, a disclaimer. I am so very easily discouraged. I have stick-to-it-iveness until the going gets tough, and then I get going. Away. Well, that’s obviously not always true, but I do have much smaller areas where I’ll stick with it compared to a great number of areas where I’ll cut and run at the first sign of trouble. It’s less about types of activities than it is about how a particular failure makes me feel. I’ll bet the same is true of you. If you hand me a necklace that’s tangled up in horrible knots, buddy I will sit there patiently working with it until it’s ready to wear. It’s the same with tangled thread — I’m as patient as Job. But if I start out kind of frustrated, feeling like a loser in some way, my threshold changes dramatically, and the first rattle out of the box I just give up.

I’m also bad about feeling forgotten or rejected by people. My too-quick assumption is that I don’t matter, or something better came along, and I’ll leave. (Psychologists call this “rejection sensitivity” — we are nothing if not obvious.) There, it’s less about being patient and much more about assuming the worst.

So when you find yourself in a whole new place, having to start over in every possible way, that old dog ain’t gonna hunt, as we say here. You cannot be impatient and give up right away, you just can’t. You’ll end up sitting at home all by yourself and then you’ll stop dressing, and you’ll be eating your dinner out of cans in front of the TV, night after night after night. This is so hard, sticking with it. It calls on strengths I do not have, at a time my resources are perilously thin already. I went to a book club — and nope. That was not the book club for me, for any number of reasons. I want to just throw up my hands and hide, and assume I’ll never have another book club. [but I must get out and keep trying.]  I went to a strength training class yesterday at the Y and it was terrible, in every way. The trainer wasn’t a trainer (she was a yoga teacher, with pages printed out that she was consulting to learn how to show us the routine she seemed to be learning, too!), the other women were just chattering about how many calories they’d burned so they could eat their Pop-Tarts on the way home. Nope, that class wasn’t for me. I want to just put away my workout clothes and assume I’ll never find a good class, and put on my yoga pants and pour another glass of wine. [but I must get out and keep trying.]

Last night was my poetry group, and I felt both thrilled and terrified about it, in equal measure. My group in New York City was just so wonderful, founded and run by Temma, who is herself a beautiful poet and who knows the mechanics of poetry so she had so much to contribute. Me, what do I know, not much except for what I like. I can’t always say why I like it (not in formal terms, definitely), though I can say what moves me, what I’m responding to. So would I, could I get a group going, when I don’t know much about poetry? And would it, could it be anywhere near as good? I’m so ashamed to say that some of NYC’s snooty parochialism rubbed off on me (boy I hate to know that) because I’d think I’ll never find people in Austin who like good poetry, not in AustinWhat a maroon I was. We’re in the midst of a two-day drenching rain storm, inches of accumulation, and it seemed to keep people away, but two beautiful people came, and I could not be happier! A young woman from London who is here for a year and due to go back home in April but she may not (I hope she doesn’t I hope she doesn’t I hope she doesn’t…..), such a delight and so thoughtful about poetry — she brought “her” poem, an Edna St Vincent Millay called My Heart Being Hungry, which now and always will be Laura’s poem, to me. Anyone who responds to poetry like she does is clearly in my tribe. And a man who writes the most amazing poems, echoes of Yeats and Eliot and Auden and Cormac McCarthy, all together, in the most powerful and visceral work I’ve read in so long. I’m a huge fan of his work; he’s got at least 50 pieces he’s pulling together in a manuscript and I cannot wait to say I knew him when. I can’t believe my luck, that he came to the meeting. Both of them. I’ve been grinning like an idiot ever since they left. Wow. Poetry group was as right as the other things were wrong. Righter, even.

Patience is just such a hard-won attribute, and if you are an impatient person, as I tend to be, you only build it by having to tolerate the feeling of impatience pushing against you, hard hard hard hard hard. You have to be patient with yourself while you develop patience — I’m looking around for whoever set up this crazy system, because that makes no sense!! Bad design.

One of these days, my life will be full of all the things I’m trying to find now, and the finding of them will be a distant memory, if I even remember this at all. One of these days, I’ll have a great book club and friends of all kinds, and people who are smart in all different kinds of ways, to complement me and to stretch me as I hope I do with them. I hope poetry group was the start of great things.

good thing of the day: poetry! Honestly, is there anything better than a poem that catches you by the throat and shows you who you are?  Here’s the poetry I’ve collected or mentioned so far in this new blog. If you think you don’t get poetry, you just haven’t read the right pieces yet. And the co-good thing of the day: other people who love poetry.