some peace to gather my addled thoughts….

So I have gone. There were days when I felt I had already gone and so all I wish for now is a cool, quiet room and some peace to gather my addled thoughts. I think I was good, although I could have been better.

—  Terry Pratchett, “I think I was good, though I could have been better’: Terry Pratchett and the writing of his life”. Pratchett had Alzheimer’s. Five months before he died, Terry Pratchett wrote five letters, sealed them in envelopes and locked them in the safe in his office to be opened after his death. This was the one he addressed to Rob Wilkins. Through the 1990s, Terry sold an average of 3 million books each year. Nobody in Britain sold more. (The Guardian, Sept 17, 2022)

Monday Morning Wake Up Call!

It would be so nice, wouldn’t it? If something as simple as a notebook could change our habits overnight. Those blank pages. The physical representation of our fresh start. It’s almost religious. A sense of being born again. And this time, I won’t screw it up (cut to credits).

But I always did: screw it up, that is. It didn’t take much, particularly with diet and exercise – an unplanned slice of office birthday cake, or a missed spin class. A week could go from “new me” to “write-off” in the blink of an eye, the remaining days a sordid opportunity to revel in my failure, until Monday rolled around and I could start again (again).

Perfectionism. Fresh startism. All-or-nothing. Perfectionists aren’t great at swimming through the murky grey of slow and steady self-improvement, the kind that leads to meaningful change. Where inertia or regression isn’t failure, and it doesn’t take a Monday to get going.

So we diet then binge, buy new stationery, sign up to a gym and swing wildly between our new and old selves, wondering when our real lives will finally begin.

It was a relief, honestly, discovering that I was simply a victim of my schema, lost in a sea of all-or-nothing thinking inspired by a problematic self-improvement discourse. That the shimmering, perfect-from-now-on self I was reaching for doesn’t exist, because her story keeps going after the credits roll. While change is possible, it’s rarely linear. Any pledge for self-improvement that assumes we can sever off our less desirable personality traits is a lie.

I finally finished my book, the one I wish I’d read as a teenager, about a girl who discovers imperfections are part of being human and learns to see the world with a little more nuance. The process of slowly but surely reworking the manuscript into something that isn’t perfect, but is wholly me, helped reframe my thinking about meaningful change.

Is there such a thing as a whole new me? I wouldn’t know. Most days, I’ve stopped searching for her.

— Miranda Luby, from “Where ever you go, there you are: the myth of the whole new me” (The Guardian, August 21, 2022).  Sadie Starr’s Guide to Starting Over by Miranda Luby is out now. 

Lightly Child, Lightly

You will recall the young age, when you realized that you wanted to act or write or paint or dance. You’re very young, and everything is a dream waiting to be fulfilled, and everyone who has created something that moved or amused or changed you is a hero, an idol, someone to emulate. Some people never get past this phase, and they will never believe that anyone–no matter how great–is ever as talented or worthy as those childhood idols.

This is one form of artistic suicide, and I see it often. You cannot allow your standards to calcify at that tender and impressionable age, set by what you loved in your bedroom when you knew nothing and furiously felt everything. Those loves and influences will be your foundation, the scaffolding upon which you add everything else, but it cannot be the end of your development.

There is then the realization, through the duck press that is the professional theatre, when you realize how much you do not know and how many things you cannot do or do well.
You have two choices: You can deny the reality of your situation and look upon those who try to shape you or educate you as imbeciles or enemies, or you can look at yourself brutally and honestly and try to become the best artist you can be
. An awful lot of people, the majority, sadly,-choose the former route, and they rail against the theatre or film or dance, and they maintain that they are so special that they cannot be understood by those who are sell-outs or favored or compromised.

—  Elia Kazan, from “Elia Kazan: Artistic Suicide” in Follies of God by James Grissom


Notes:

  • Quote Source: Wait-What? Via Follies of God. Eliza Kazan portrait via Frank Beacham’s Journal.
  • Photo: DK @ Daybreak. 6:51 a.m. May 8, 2022. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.
  • Kazan writes: “I don’t move unless I have some empathy with the basic theme.”
  • Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

2/24/41. We must think of ourselves as a fertile land on which to draw. And if we do not, we grow rotten, like an unmilked cow. And if we leave something unexploited it dies within us wasted. But to tax one’s powers always at their maximum potentiality—this is the only way to live at all, in the proper sense of the word.

Patricia Highsmith, “Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks: 1941-1995.″ Anna von Planta (Editor). (Liveright, November 16, 2021)


Notes:

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Five years ago, you were teacher of the year and now this.

All this would be fine—well, not exactly fine but manageable—if you were not due at this faculty meeting in half an hour. You look at the other drivers—some passing you, and some you are passing. You look at their faces and wonder how great the gap is between who they are and who they know they could be. You’re on Interstate 10. The I-10 is known to locals, depending on your direction, as the San Bernardino Freeway or the Santa Monica Freeway. Freeways here, true to the romantic nature of the West and its ever-hopeful revision of the life that came before, are made for movement and the future and they’re named for where you’re going—not where you’ve been.

The past, well, that’s for when you turn around. Where you’ve been is only important in the context of where you are. And if where you are this moment is good, the past makes sense and every moment of horror and dread seems worth it. If where you are is terrible, the past just seems like an accumulation of data that confirm you were on this path all along.

How things end up matters.

Rob Roberge, Liar: A Memoir (Crown, February 9, 2016)


Photo of Santa Monica Freeway (10)

Monday Morning Wake Up Call

There is nothing more liberating than to realize you don’t have to live up to anything anymore.

— Betty Broderick, Dirty John (Netflix, S2:E6, The Twelfth of Never)


Photo: Esquire

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

But now, Dorothy wondered: What was failure? What was success? Ribbons swirling in a cold tank. Life was not a story that ended on a resolution or a revelation. It was like this puppet show—a gentle, ongoing state of ups and downs that contained moments of illusory transcendence and ultimately built to nothing, no epiphanies, or so many epiphanies that they ran together and were forgotten. Maybe it breathed like a paper flower, expanding and contracting. Maybe it was something you did just to pass the time.

Christine Smallwood, The LIfe of the Mind (Hogarth, March 2, 2021)


Photo: Lily

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

You have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life … All the things that have deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it–tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest–if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself–you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for.’

— C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain


Notes:

  • Quote: Thank you Vale of The Soul-making
  • Photo: Today, 6:34 a.m. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. 28° F feels like 24° F.

Lightly Child, Lightly

How do we forgive ourselves for all the things we did not become?

—  Doc Luben, from “#13” in “14 Lines from Love Letters or Suicide Notes” (Genius.com)


Notes:

  • Doc Luben is a spoken word slam poet. He comes from Portland, Oregon. He can be found on Tumblr, where he posts new poems. (Thank you Make Believe Boutique)
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Remembering that time …

when we had unrealized possibility,

the drifting period of our youth.

Kate Zambreno, Screen Tests: Stories and Other Writing (Harper Perennial, July 23, 2019)

 


Photo: Alain Laboile

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

The first moment I wrote in my notebook again, I wrote of that fleeting feeling in the morning, of possibility.

That’s what I want Drifts to be, my desire and longing for it.

Kate Zambreno, Drifts: A Novel (Penguin, May 19, 2020)


Portrait of Kate Zambreno by Nikola Tamindzic

Go Brené


Source: Brené Brown from her book “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead” (via weltenwellen). Portrait via Isak

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Sometimes now I envy those people who are at the beginning of the long road of the lives they’ll make, who still have so many decisions ahead as the road forks and forks again. Imagining their trajectories, I picture a real road, branching and branching, and I can feel it, shadowy, forested, full of the anxiety and the excitement of choosing, of starting off without quite knowing where you will end up…

I have no regrets about the roads I took, but a little nostalgia for that period when most of the route is ahead, for that stage in which you might become many things that is so much the promise of youth, now that I have chosen and chosen again and again and am far down one road and far past many others. Possibility means that you might be many things that you are not yet, and it is intoxicating when it’s not terrifying.

— Rebecca SolnitRecollections of My Nonexistence: A Memoir (Viking, March 10, 2020)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

With new kids, a new album, and a new look, Jeff Goldblum says he’s just a late bloomer.

“Joe Brevac, my seventh grade teacher, used to write on the blackboard a quote from Abraham Lincoln: ‘I shall study and prepare myself so that when my chance comes, I will be ready.’ Seventh grade, and that’s still –”

“You still remember it?”

“I remember it. And I’m trying to apply it.”

“And you feel ready?”

“What I’m saying is that this late-blooming business, in all aspects of my personage, I’m flowering.

~  Anthony Mason, Jeff Goldblum, 66, Living life like a jazz piece (November 4, 2018)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Who says Allie Kieffer isn’t thin enough?

Allie Kieffer, one of the best Americans running the New York City Marathon next Sunday, spent a lot of her life feeling as if she didn’t really fit in among the competition. She was good enough to land an athletic scholarship to college and hoped to continue running after graduating. But she wasn’t as thin as the women she raced against. Her coaches suggested she diet. She eventually gave in, and her body broke down…

After a few years, she missed running and started again — but this time was different. There were no goals, no opponents to compare herself with and no times to record. Everything was on her own terms…She began running more miles than ever, she was healthier than ever, and she was happier, too. And then something unexpected happened: She got faster. Much faster.

Last year, Kieffer ran the New York City Marathon and finished, astonishingly, in fifth place. She was the second American woman, and she logged her best time by nearly 15 minutes in one of the world’s most competitive footraces. Barely anyone knew who the unsponsored 30-year-old American with the topknot sprinting past Olympians in the final miles of Central Park was.

Suddenly, Kieffer wasn’t just trying to be one of the hundreds of elite runners in the country. She had become one of the best runners in the world…

In doing so, Kieffer has given us a powerful example of what can happen when we stop trying to force ourselves to meet preconceived notions of how to achieve success — especially unhealthy, untrue ideas — and go after our goals on our own terms. When we focus less on fixing what we consider to be inadequacies and more on reinforcing our strengths, we can realize potential we didn’t even know we had.

“Sometimes, the act of trying takes so much energy that it can prevent you from actually doing the thing you want to do,” Brad Stulberg, the author of Peak Performance, told me. “If it starts to feel like performance shackles, you’re going to want say screw it, to break out of rigid patterns and rip those shackles off. And only then are you able to really achieve what you were trying for the whole time.”

Kieffer’s story also proves that we can achieve far more when we value all women’s bodies less for how they look, and more for what they can do.

Not that being underestimated can’t serve as motivation.

“I’ve always gotten a lot of satisfaction by being the big girl everyone thought they were going to beat,” says Kieffer…

There is a growing movement telling us to embrace the bodies we’ve got — thank you — but it’s hard to drown out the other messages. Whether it’s for a race or a wedding, women are told that they are at their most valuable when their bodies are their most diminished. Resisting the impulse to feed yourself is an accomplishment we praise. You don’t have to buy into these values, but you’ll probably still be judged by them…

By conventional standards, she is doing nearly everything wrong. But she’s beating a lot of the people who are still training the “right” way, so perhaps her path shows there’s room for a more flexible definition of what the right way can be. This is probably true for more than just distance running.

~ Lindsay Crouse, excerpts from Who Says Allie Kieffer Isn’t Thin Enough to Run Marathons? Success that shows we might be able to achieve even more when we break all the rules. (The New York Times, October 27, 2018)


Inspired by:

  • Nobody is smarter than you are. And what if they are? What good is their understanding doing you?” -Terence McKenna, Nobody is Smarter Than You Are
  • I don’t think that you have to get all your inner stuff together and totally integrated before you can actually be what you’ve realized. You’re going to wait forever if you wait for that. Just start being what you know now.” ~ Adyashanti, Emptiness Dancing

Monday Morning

Keith-carter-nevermore-1948

Another yawned,

another gazed at the window:

…The blaze of promise everywhere.

~ Mark Strand, from “Always; For Charles Simic” in Collected Poems

 


Photo: Nevermore – by Keith Carter (1948), USA – Source: keithcarterphotographs.com (via Your Eyes Blaze Out). Poem: via 3quarksdaily

Driving I-95 S. With Michelango.

Thursday. I’m heading south on I-95 to Manhattan. 5:45 am.  Pre-rush hour, traffic moving smoothly.

I’m swept back to an evening in December at the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art: Michelangelo. Divine Draftsman & Artist.

My eyes pan the exhibit brochure…he was called Il Divino (“the divine one”)…the exhibit presents a stunning range and number of works…133 of his drawings, three of his marble sculptures…his wood model…his earliest paintings..the exhibition presents his stunning range.

I set down my wine glass on a tray.  And, separate myself from the group.

My ears catch the sound of my footfall on the marble floors as if to scold: “Slow down Jack. You are in the presence of a God.”

I slow my pace and pause in front of a marble sculpture. His hands built this, what, 500 years ago? This Man, Michelango, created this. He was a Man, just like you. You, a Hu-Man, just like him.  And, what did you do this week? [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Like when an off-duty ballet dancer steps on the subway and everyone’s head turns,

influencing us to readjust our posture and perhaps reconsider our whole lives.

Just like that.

~ Durga Chew-Bose, from “Part of a Greater Pattern” in Too Much and Not the Mood: Essays


Notes:

to see a good end in all that and to find a good beginning in myself

 future-forward

I had gone back again to my little house and stood up on its roof and wanted to see a good end in all that and to find a good beginning in myself. And now, let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been…And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been…

~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from a letter to his wife in The Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke: 1892-1910

 


Notes: Quote – Anne Sexton Appreciation. Photo: DistantPassion

We want to be called to our best selves. We long to figure out what that would look like.

krista-tippett-becoming-wise

I’ve traveled a long way since my early life in Oklahoma— far enough to know that I might be accused of taking this virtue of hope too far. So be it. My mind inclines now, more than ever, towards hope. I’m consciously shedding the assumption that a skeptical point of view is the most intellectually credible. Intellect does not function in opposition to mystery; tolerance is not more pragmatic than love; and cynicism is not more reasonable than hope. Unlike almost every worthwhile thing in life, cynicism is easy. It’s never proven wrong by the corruption or the catastrophe. It’s not generative. It judges things as they are, but does not lift a finger to try to shift them. I experience the soul of this moment— in people young and old— to be aspirational. This is something distinct from ambitious, though the two may overlap. I’d say it this way: we want to be called to our best selves. We long to figure out what that would look like. And we are figuring out that we need each other to do so. This listening for the calling, and the shining, fragile figuring out, are tucked inside the musings I hear from young people as much about how they want to be and who they want to be as about what they want to be.

~ Krista Tippett, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living

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