on book recommendations

I know I frequently — and with urgency, at times — make book recommendations, and I know that I believe I have excellent taste in books. Maybe I’m even a bit snobbish about it. No, I am. I’ll own that. I’m snobby about it. Books and coffee are the two categories I’m most centrally snobby about. And of course I have very strong political views, and as liberals are frequently accused of being smug, I guess I’ll own that too. Liberal values are better than conservative values. I’ll own it.

But to books: I’m always looking for sources of excellent book recommendations, and sometimes I join various groups in a belief that I’m likely to get them there. The WNYC Book Club, for instance, which operates in a Facebook group. And so far, both books that I’ve read in that virtual book club have been remarkably good: Manhattan Beachand A Gentleman in MoscowDixie’s recommendations have never let me down, and some of her recommendations sit on my “absolute favorites” shelf over on Goodreads.

I’ve asked before, here on this blog and in in-person groups, what it is you seek, as a reader, when you make a book selection. I’ve always enjoyed your responses to those questions. But I think there is another variable at work, and it’s so wholly subjective that it’s surely impermeable to advice. I was thinking about it this morning as I read a post in the WNYC group in which the administrator opened a post to group member recommendations for their favorite “good” books. So this is a group of readers who are smart readers, for the most part, who live in NYC for the most part (and so who have excellent political views), and who participate with great engagement in the book conversations each month when we discuss the selection. But as I scrolled through the list of recommendations, beginning with eagerness and hope, my heart sank. One suggestion after another of titles that were — for me — ordinary. The kind of books that get a lot of buzz and that most people really love, like Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I thought that book was ordinary, and I went to it excitedly, because I loved Strayed’s Dear Sugar pieces. Loved them so much, found the memoir surprisingly ordinary. And The Glass Castle, the next person who enthusiastically recommends it to me “because you especially will love it!” might get an earful. I hated that book. Hated it.

What I realized, as I read the list of recommendations this morning, was that there’s a specific thing I seek in a book, and that’s a FEELING. I know what the feeling is, and I know it pretty quickly as I read a new book — is the feeling there? — but it’s hard to articulate it because there isn’t a word for it. It’s a kind of deep feeling, maybe a dark colored feeling (which is different from saying it’s a dark feeling), a transportation kind of feeling, a feeling that makes the world drop away. All those things are easy to get, I’m sure you get it, but it’s the feeling that is gathered by them all that I really need in order to deeply enjoy a book. As I look over my “absolute favorites” shelf of 56 titles, I can see that the books are often dark, they’re often about hinge, existential events, they’re often heavy, but not always! City of Bohane certainly wasn’t, nor Lives of Girls and Women, nor Birds of America, nor Bird by Birdbut even those took me to that feeling place that I recognize when it’s present.

the most recent additions to my “absolute favorites” shelf

Do you know what I’m talking about, even if for you the feeling you seek is completely different? Do you read for a feeling, and is there a consistent feeling you seek, as I do?

(And given the books you see that are most recently on my “absolute favorites” shelf, any recommendations spring to mind?)

planner’s envy

On Instagram, I’ve seen so many people post a 9-celled image of things they’ll knit this year. Books they’ll read. Etc. I become consumed with envy in some way and want to do such a thing immediately. I will read these nine books. I will knit these nine things. Presto!

But what if I get on a jag with a new author, and then suddenly want to read everything they wrote? What if a new book comes out that I just haven’t heard of yet — or I discover an old one? How can I possibly identify the list of books that I want to read this year? And patterns for sewing or knitting, ditto! I don’t know what will be released this year that will grab my attention. I have a 46-items-long queue of projects on Ravelry (if you’re on Rav here’s the link to my queue, I really ought to go clean it up because some things have been on there for years and years), so I’m great at making lists but less good at following them.

Are you like this, in one way or the other? Maybe you’re the one I’m envious of, outlining a to-do plan for the year (and you probably aren’t a Nazi about it, for heaven’s sake, it’s probably much more a loose guideline or a collection of possibles), or maybe you’re like me, simply envious of that ability or impulse.

One middleground approach (my constant effort to remind myself to seek gray) would be to come up with some idea of categories, right? Like, I want to sew myself a comfortable pair of black linen pants. A couple of tops. A skirt or two. And then just let that be my plan. And maybe I should look through all my knitted things and identify gaps: maybe I want a gigantic shawl to complement the stack of smaller shawls I have already made.

And maybe this year I’d like to try to learn a specific new thing, so I could seek out a book or two on that topic. Or maybe this year I’d like to read a little bit more non-fiction than I usually do. Or maybe this year I want to go deep on a topic that really interests me and read widely on it — philosophy, novels, non-fiction, an array of approaches to the topic.

I guess that’s the starting place, to think about what I’d like to get out of this year. Which is already in mid-February. I know big blocks of time that will be set aside — a block in March, a block in late July-early August, and another vacation at some point — but around those places I would really like to find some focus.

When you work for yourself, all alone at home, and you don’t have kids at home anymore, the days are so loose and floppy, and before you (I!) know it you’re just like water, going wherever it’s easy. No need to get up early, at a certain time. No need to get to bed at a certain time (given no need to get up at a certain time!). Monday is the same as Thursday is the same as Saturday. Marc’s arrival at Heaventree Friday evenings, and his return to the city on Mondays, are my only markers of what day it is. Otherwise it’s just a kind of schmear. And in that arrangement, it can be too easy to just drift along with the easily accessible things I value doing. Picking up whatever is at hand. Reading whatever looks good in my Kindle. No plans. You know, that’s really fun at first, and a pleasure for a while, especially if you’ve come out of an extremely regimented and overly intense and busy period of life…..which ended for me in July 2010! WOW – eight years of just drifting along, doing whatever, whenever. No wonder I feel restless.

How about you? I’m really curious. Do you have things you want to achieve in the coming whenever – month/season/year? Are you pursuing anything, or letting it all be? Are you a planner — in close detail or in broad strokes? What are you interested in at the moment? I’m going to be doing some close thinking about how to arrange things in my life for the next few months, maybe for this year, and I’m very curious about how and what you are doing.

tiny, tiny pleasures

One ripple of my loss of personal story is the loss of exploring the why of everything. Or rather, the loss of exploring the roots of why. As a social psychologist, this should not grieve me so much; social psychologists explore the ways in which our … well, everything — our thoughts, self-presentation, behaviors, attitudes, preferences, and even sense of self — is shaped and influenced by the social world.  We usually get very uncomfortable with that because NO DAMMIT I AM THE BOSS OF ME AND I DO WHAT I WANT.  😀

I think my love of the tiny pleasures of routine comes from my peripatetic childhood, but it doesn’t matter. So very quickly, I establish new little routines, small rituals, when I’m in a new place. It may take me a long time to get stuff on the walls, to make spaces fully homey, but right off the bat I establish my new set of tiny routines that fit the possibilities of place. Are you like that? Do tiny little routines matter to you, ground you, make you happy?

My morning coffee ritual is a great example, just to bring this down to the ground. I have a little clutch of precious objects in their perfect little places, and the ritual of their use gives me the deepest pleasure. That sweet little spoon, a very old one, unlike all the rest; it sits in its place, is used and immediately washed and returned to place. The ritual of coffee-making — fresh, cold water in the kettle, beans ground and poured into the French press, the timings (one minute to allow the grounds to bloom, five minutes to steep), carrying the press and my daily chosen mug to my table next to my chair, or to the table next to my end of the couch if it’s fireplace weather, the pleasure of smelling the coffee as I pour the first cup.

People talk about routine as if it’s a bad thing, and neglect the nuanced ways in which routine can be such a deep pleasure. The ways it can facilitate mindfulness instead of turning you into an automaton. This kind of routine keeps me so present and aware, each step having its feel or sound or smell, and each of those are experiences that I revel in. If I feel like having a cup of tea – set aside as different from having a mug of tea – I have a small collection of precious antique cups and saucers, and a couple of antique tea pots, and the prescribed ritual is so much the same as for coffee.

But it’s easy to think about this where something as arousing as coffee or tea is concerned — and that’s not the only little place for tiny rituals and routines. I get such deep pleasure from having a small Very Nice Thing that I use at certain times, or from planning a knitting project let’s say, getting out my very organized bin that holds all my needles, sorting through the organized bins that hold my stash of yarns, the pleasures of that process and reenacting the routine that enters me into the joy of making.

And a bedtime routine, a little bit harder since I’m here and there (and especially recently — in NYC for five days before our trip, then in SEAsia, then back in NYC for five days, and then on March 8 (Ilan’s birthday!) I’m off to Chicago for several days, and then to Austin for a couple of weeks, and then back to NYC for a few days before I finally return to my own bed at Heaventree). Returning home is a deep pleasure in part because I love my home, but it’s very vibrantly a pleasure because I return to my own little rituals and routines in their proper place. I get SUCH a deep pleasure from my bedtime routine there, beginning with checking the doors and opening the fireplace vent and closing up shop downstairs before I head upstairs for my personal routine. Getting to do that again is a tremendous pleasure, I smile and sigh the whole time.

Plenty of routines are mindless — teeth brushing before bed, for example — but now I think I want to add a little something to that. Maybe play some quiet music in the bathroom while I brush my teeth and put moisturizer on my face, brush my hair. And hell, maybe even light a candle before I get started, just to set the space. Hmmmm. I really like that. Maybe I can think of ways to amp up the ritual in otherwise boring routines to give me little magical spots throughout the day.

What about you? Do you routine yourself the way I do? Do you enjoy this? Do you have a pleasurable routine that means something to you? You might give me ideas!

thinking about Truth

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s such a great lead-in to the post, I have to quickly tell it again. For a few years, when I lived in Fredericksburg, VA, I attended a truly beautiful Quaker meeting up in Alexandria, every First Day as Quakers say. It was in a historic old meetinghouse at the edge of Fort Belvoir, and there was an old cannonball embedded in the wall, left from the Civil War. Like most Quaker meetings, it was a silent gathering, with people on occasion standing to speak if they felt led to say something. It wouldn’t be unusual for the entire meeting to remain silent, but on occasion several people would feel led to speak during a meeting. And the strangest thing about it was that later, driving home, I’d realize that there had been a theme that held them all together, even though just listening to them they sounded like disparate thoughts.

For the last few months, the issue of Truth has lived underneath so many of the things I’ve been thinking about, even though as I experienced them, they felt like something else. But really, it’s all been about the nature of Truth (I have to capitalize it, like a 19th century writer I guess). Last night, at the Thalia Book Club at Symphony Space (so glorious, George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo, but don’t want to get distracted here…), in the midst of answering a question Saunders said this, and I scribbled it messily in the dark so I wouldn’t forget the exact wording:

“In a fictional world, truth is a sophisticated model of contradictions.” 

I mean, could this have been any better for me, personally? Given my staunch defense of the word ‘and’ instead of ‘but,’ and given my recent thinking about fiction vs memoir, and what it means to be able to tell the truth, and how (and whether) one even can do that? I felt like he said my name when he said that sentence.

[as an aside, a couple of months ago Katie and I were talking about something, can’t remember what now, and in the course of the conversation she said “You know Mom, not everyone has this thing with ‘and’ versus ‘but’ like you do!” I laughed SO HARD.] [And seriously: tell me a sentence that can only be properly expressed with the word ‘but’ instead of ‘and.’ And tell me whether the meaning isn’t closer to the nub when you use ‘and.’] [“I love you but you drive me crazy” / “I love you and you drive me crazy”]

One thing I learned the very hard way over the last few years is that it’s a rare person who thinks with very much subtlety, or understands this thing with complexity and ambiguity and inherent contradiction. I learned the hard way that you can tell someone a complex story and when they retell it it becomes something it never was. People don’t seem good at understanding the central role of contradiction in truth.

And so when I think about memoir, about telling the stories of one’s life, in any form — in an actual memoir, or just in talking to people about your life — I guess what really matters is your intent. Maybe you just want to entertain friends, so you tell about that time you were driving your ancient old shit-brown Mercedes real fast, the one with the glow plug, and you hit the railroad tracks and it sheared off the oil pan but you didn’t know what was happening until you saw the thick black smoke pouring out of the back of the car, and the engine seized up and the car was totaled and you got more from the insurance company than you even paid for it in the first place, wasn’t that funny! So who cares if you’ve simplified the story down to its bare bones just to share a laugh! Who cares that in the fuller story, you couldn’t get a decent car with the insurance settlement, because you’d gotten that old Mercedes so cheap, and you had three very little kids and no money….in that moment, maybe it was just a story to get a laugh, no harm no foul. No need for Truth in that moment.

Or maybe your feelings have been terribly hurt and your mission is to get sympathy so you tell the story in a way that emphasizes the way you were wronged — choosing to lop off any complexity in that moment, because you just want someone to hug you. You’re probably pretty far from Truth, and as long as it’s a small potatoes thing maybe it doesn’t matter. I mean, it does, because the further we live from the truth of things the more problematic it can become for us, but maybe the slight was small, and we just felt kind of low right at that moment, and it can all be dissolved with a hug from someone.

As I continue to think about memoir, I continue to think that maybe it should only be poets who write memoir — they fracture and expand and make connections and transformations and in doing that, shatter the false linear path that memoir can take, those straight lines that take it farther from the truth.

If this makes sense to you, if it falls on fertile ground in your thoughts about stuff — about life, about story, about truth (or Truth) — boy do I wish we could go get a beer together. We could meet at Woodstock Brewing, in Phoenicia, and get a Permanent Midnight dark nitro porter, and talk. Or we could sit in my living room with mugs of coffee or tea, or on the deck when it gets warmer, and talk to our heart’s content.

And so, to writing here. After weeks of silence, I wrote that post yesterday saying I was on hiatus . . . and the very next day I have a post. Ain’t that the way. But to circle back, I realize that my thought about putting the blog on hold assumed that I could only be writing memoir-type material. And honestly, that was so often the seed or even whole point of a post, so it makes sense that I’d have been thinking about suspending the blog since I can’t tell those stories the way I used to. It’s true too that I love to think about things and talk about things and so this is where I do it. Maybe it’s a meta post about memoir, like this one, or maybe it’s a quick funny story stripped to its frame just to share a giggle, or maybe it’s about something else entirely. Maybe it’s a post teasing something apart so I can think about it — and if you think about it with me that’s a great thrill for me. Maybe it’s a post about other things I’m thinking/doing, like the quilt I’m making, or new things I’m experimenting with. Maybe it’s poetry, or thoughts about a book I’ve read. But it can’t and won’t any longer be stories from my life in the way it has been since I started keeping a blog 15 years ago back on LiveJournal.

In the immortal Hollywood-scripted words of the Sundance Kid, “You just keep thinking, Butch, that’s what you’re good at.” Whether I am good at it or not, it’s my favorite thing to do, to keep thinking, so for now, I say ONWARD. Thanks for coming with me.

obvious by now

The ripples from my insight in late December about my dad’s (and consequently my own) life have been pretty long-lasting. I have lost story.

Or, more accurately I suppose, since I read 12 books on vacation, I have lost personal story. And I seem to have lost my connection to the very idea of memoir. A work of fiction is outright and baldly what it is: a fiction. A made-up world with made-up characters – and I do  believe that fiction is the lie that tells the truth – but a world created and explained and held by a writer. It is what it is because that’s how it was created to be. It may take root in a reader’s mind and heart and live on, as great works do, leaving me wondering what a character is doing now before I catch myself and realize it was “just” a character in a book, but nevertheless it was “just” a character in a book. It can’t be ‘gotten wrong,’ the character’s story can’t be ‘gotten wrong’ because it is crafted.

But memoir work is inherently ‘wrong.’ It’s a single shot of weft in a larger, more complicated piece, and directly and frequently contradicted by others in the same life. We get ourselves wrong, and we have all our biases (some invisible, some hoisted to help ourselves feel better) and I’ve not been able to pluck out any stories since mid-December. I can tell a factlet, like I first heard Camille Saint-Saëns’ spooky Danse Macabre in first grade, in 1964, in music class at Lucy B Reade Elementary School in Austin TX and I was also trying to learn how to snap my fingers then, but I can’t say more than that. I can say that I remember feeling something like wonder that a piece of music could make me feel shivery and scared. I can say that I could only snap by curling my index finger tightly and snapping my middle finger against my thumb, and other kids looked at me strangely because of that. I can have a tight spotlight on a moment but I can’t tell a story around it. I can’t say what it meant, or how it connects outwards from that hard chair in the music room.

Not even for the travel blog for our trip to Laos and Thailand, and that’s really weird. I’ve written a travel blog for all our trips together since November 2005. I still retain the impulse to write, but when I’d open the laptop to write a post — about the Mekong, or Wat Phu, or food, or the Lao people, or a difference I feel between Laos and Thailand — it’s like my hands are full of sand and immersed in a flowing river. There’s nothing to hold onto, no place to start, no story to tell. It’s weird, I tell you.

I’ve been thinking about closing down this blog for that reason, but I’ve decided to put it on hiatus. If you get email notifications, or follow the blog page on Facebook, you’ll know when (or if) I’m back. I may turn this into a reading and making blog, an in-the-moment observational writing platform (since I do still love words, and finding elegant and evocative phrasing), but just for now, I say au revoir…until I see you again. xoxoxo

dammit Wittgenstein

“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Wittgenstein

SO….dammit. Again this needs a very quick writing while I can hang onto it and it’s likely to be chaotic because the whole point of it is that, and dammit this is about losing story but how do I tell that in a linear story? [This post more fully articulates what I was working my way toward in yesterday’s chat.]

Breathe.

About three months after we met

When Marc and I first met, he used to say that Wittgenstein line to me when I’d be thick in the midst of storytelling, and I’d pause to ask him what he thought. He’d say that line and it used to piss me off SO MUCH. Before I met him, I gave a glancing acknowledgement to this line — loved Wittgenstein, didn’t much care for this point but just shrugged and moved on. But oh how he loved it. I used to get so frustrated, because I thought, then where does that leave you?  And in fact that’s Wittgenstein’s point. Still, I wanted to talk, I wanted to tell my stories, and tell my stories I did. Oh how I have told my stories. I’ve told them endlessly. I’ve written them endlessly on this and earlier blogs. If we know each other in real live person you’ve heard them — not endlessly, I hope, but you’ve heard them more than once. I told my stories over, and over, and over. I’m not sure why, exactly; it wasn’t that I wanted people to tell me it was wrong, all the things that happened to me, because I knew that already. And the only person whose acknowledgement mattered, my mother, would never, ever say it. My father is dead and can never say it, and never did during his life. My stepfather did extend a small apology. But it’s her acknowledgement that mattered, and that was never going to come, and the acknowledgement by therapists and people who love me wasn’t what I wanted. I’ve never been sure why I told those stories over and over, but I did. I have.

And at the same time, I’ve also thought and written a lot about our “little stories,” and about chunking, and about the complexity and difficulty of plucking out the story, and the value of shifting frames, etc etc etc etc. I understood all this intellectually. I’ve always been good at the cerebral part.

And neuroscience has shown us that with each retrieval of a memory, it shifts. The purest, most “true” memory is the one that isn’t ever recalled.

And psychological linguistic analysis has shown us that people who recover from trauma tell their stories differently each time, and those who fail to recover from it tell it in a fixed, unchanging way. Just as I have done. You’ve probably had a strange feeling of having heard me tell a story exactly the same way. The same exact sentences and emphases.

And so now. I finally, finally arrive at the point.

This three-dimensional, moving insight I’ve had about my dad — that does seem to be extending to my mother — necessarily extends outward to my stories! How can I tell any of them any more? How can I insist on the certainty of them any more? Not the certainty of whether they happened, but the certainty that that is in fact the story. And setting aside the telling of them to others, how can I even tell them to myself any more?

My mind tilts and the floor is moving, like the deck of a ship on open ocean. What can I say? I had a complicated and difficult childhood. Yeah, I can say that, and that’s that. I survived a complicated and difficult childhood. I adored my grandfather, Big Daddy. I married young and had three kids young. Mister Rogers is my hero. My father died of suicide when I was 23. I started college at 36, when my first husband and I divorced, and I finished a PhD at 45. My first granddaughter died, and I have three grandchildren who call me Pete, as Big Daddy did, and they make me so so happy. My son has estranged himself from my family for years and that’s the hardest thing I have to bear. My daughters mean everything to me. After living together for seven years in Manhattan, my husband and I lived apart for five years and now we have a home together in the mountains, where I am very happy. We have traveled together so happily and seen so much of the world, and learned that we love Vietnam and Laos and Southeast Asia. I’ve been so happy in my life. I’ve attempted suicide twice, quite seriously. I want to live to see great-grandchildren if I am lucky enough to pull that off. I’m very happy. I’m complex. I’m intelligent. I make things. I read. It’s snowing right now. It’s almost Christmas, 2017.

I don’t know what else I can say, any more. It leaves me with just this string of sentences about how I got to this very moment — a singular set, like everyone else’s, but not more than that. Simple sentences, subject-verb. No insight words, no because, or since. I can’t even elaborate on any one of those sentences, they’re tiny spots inside a moving whorl. Now I can only really look at this moment, right now. I can think about what the future might hold. To look backwards is to see the universe. To see so much is to know so little.

And it’s not simply about the ‘stories,’ the events of my life. It’s the interpretation of me within them. Even the one I told yesterday, that “I’m not good at persisting,” well how can that be true? In some ways I give up quickly but I have also persisted for 47 years to figure all this out — there is no “story” there. Or rather, there are too many things happening to say any one thing. To say “I persist” is as false as saying “I do not persist.” Must I qualify and expand everything I say, now? Must every statement be preceded by “Sometimes….”? I guess so.

Our first trip together, to Vietnam. This photo was taken in Ho Chi Minh City. We’d known each other 6 months.

And so I suppose I’ll be a big person and tell Marc he was right all along. Lucky for me he isn’t a gloater, and the best is that he is not one of those “told you so” people because I really hate “told you so” people.  I know one person who has been “told you so”-ing me about one thing for five damn years. NOT FUN, don’t do that. But Marc doesn’t do that, and he was right all along, and so maybe that will be one of my Christmas gifts to him. I wonder if he’ll think even that can’t be said. Probably, knowing him.

And so, to today. It’s Christmas Eve Eve.  <3

life can be such a wonder

One thing they often say in AA is, “Don’t give up before the miracle.” Easy to see the relevance for addicts, scooting so painfully through minutes and hours and days, but of course it’s true for everyone — and I’m so guilty of giving up too quickly. It’s one of my most problematic struggles; I hit a roadblock and throw up my hands, and some particular roadblocks are especially hard for me. I deeply admire those who persist, who keep coming back and trying again — gosh, I admire that so much. I can readily call to mind two friends whose persistence is a source of inspiration for me.

Waiting for the miracle requires patience, obviously, but I also think you have to be able to let be what is, without rushing to force it into where you want to be. I do think that’s one of the secrets of life, and of course I think you’ll only eventually get there if you keep at it. It’s not going to happen all on its own. (Although dang it, sometimes it does, and so maybe I don’t know anything after all. 🙂 )

So here’s the wonder, for me. The miracle. This thing with my dad. This thing with old deep wounds — deep, like a puncture, so they produce an ache instead of a wince. This thing with time. This thing with process. Yesterday I was doing some house cleaning, dancing and feeling so happy with the solstice, enjoying the very bright sunshine while we had it, and my playlist shuffled over to “Christmas Time is Here,” from the Charlie Brown Christmas special. The vocal version, the one that has, for 47 years, punched me so hard in the heart that I couldn’t not cry. I couldn’t not remember, and feel all those old puncture wounds so deep in my heart. I mean really, who breaks up the family on Christmas Eve MOTHER. Seriously.

I believe this was taken a couple of weeks before my mother left my father — we seem about the right ages. And HOW DECEIVING looks can be. We look like well cared-for children, happy kids. I had no idea what was coming, but my life was already sad and awful then…and I just didn’t know that it would get so, so, so much worse. I remember that dress, my mother made them for my sister and me, red velvet. We wore them with white tights and black shoes. And my brother’s shirt was blue velvet, with a blue and green collar. We were sitting on the coffee table with our legs extended out in front of us, and my brother Sam stood behind us. What we didn’t know, then. Grateful for that. I rescued this photo from a dumpster — Mother called me to say that she’d dumped everything that had me in it and there weren’t many photos, but this was recoverable.

And so I paused in my sweeping, and stood there, listening, and it was OK. I smiled. It’s OK now. I remember without the ache. Now I remember, and it’s OK. It makes me feel tender but not hurt.

OK, you might say, for God’s sake it was 47 years ago for heaven’s sake — and so you don’t understand how deep a puncture wound can be, when it’s made at just the right moment in a young girl’s heart.

One of my first Christmases — I was around 2 years old, and apparently very excited about my watch (what??), a pinwheel, a harmonica, a doll, and a pack of gum. Hell, most of that would make me happy today. I still make that face when I’m given a gift, but I no longer wear the Cromwell haircut.

Thank GOD for time and process. At my age, I hadn’t really thought I could fully heal those old wounds. I’ve been at it such a long time. So much trying, always with hope even if it was small. It’s such a wonder to be able to approach these things that have always hurt, and not feel hurt any more. Such a wonder. Such a wonder to feel real peace — not tentative peace, not partial peace, not an idea that I might one day feel peace, but real peace. The peace of letting it be, the peace of letting be what was.

I believe with all my heart Faulkner’s great line about the past: “The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.” I believe that. But what I learned is that even if it’s not dead, even if it’s still present, it can be OK. It doesn’t have to keep hurting . . . what a wonder! What a wonder. Grief can find its place and be OK, really OK. Still there but really OK. One of the puzzle pieces, that’s all – maybe the black piece there at the edge, or even in the middle, but just a piece connected to all the others. Pain can find its place and not hurt any more, even if it’s still in the puzzle. Just, wow. What a wonder.

And now, to shift the word wonder, I wonder if I can use this learning to help me do something with my mother — I’ve never tried to deal with her because she’s been too mysterious to me, but maybe I don’t even have to. Maybe all that I said in my post on December 20 can apply to her, too. Maybe I can just let her be, too. Maybe that was a huge enough insight to allow me that gift.

I wonder. And I wonder.  WOW.