Category Archives: 30 Day Blog Challenge

Magical thinking. Mixed feelings.

I’m reading The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. It’s wonderfully written, yet halfway in, I’m not sure I like the book. Well, the book I like. It’s my relationship to the book that puts me ill at ease.

I came to the book from several sources.

One. A mentor/advisor recommended it once she discovered my renewed interest in journalism and creative writing. She spoke highly of the author in general and this book in particular, so I added to my ever-growing List of Books to Read.

Two. Every now and again I review the list of Pulitzer Prize winners and add them to the similarly growing, often overlapping List of Writers to Know.

Three. Pearl Cleage’s newest book arrived amidst much fanfare, and more than once I saw Joan Didion’s name referenced as a peer. As in, this book is autobiographical/confessional and brings to mind other well-read writers like Joan Didion.

Four. In the aforementioned book, Pearl notes Joan’s work (although not this offering – it hadn’t been written at the time). As it was already on two Lists, and her name was becoming a steady fixture in my consciousness, I finally ordered it.

So, the book…The very first page compels. Yet soon thereafter, I’m repelled. She’s exploring her husband’s sudden death, and it’s so well done, I feel it.

Having experienced my mother’s death up close (albeit 11 years ago), much of what she wrote hit notes I wasn’t prepared to experience. The circumstances and the relationship were different, but the trauma and the grief remain true.

I put it down for a day or so.

I picked it up again and found myself, at turns, congratulating myself and questioning the book. Congratulations because I saw whispers of my writing style in hers, and I thought this might be a good mentor text for professional development. Questions because, unlike Pearl’s book which seemed to edify and affirm something in me, Joan’s book felt more… I hesitate to say it… self-serving?

I believe in the power of storytelling, yet something about this storytelling seems to serve the teller. Which is an interesting critique given my praise of Pearl as her journals were originally meant to serve herself. Pearl didn’t write them to publish them. She wrote them to reflect. I don’t know if Joan set out to document this period in her life so she could publish it, or decided later on the story could be valuable. It certainly can be. I’m sure it has been.

To be fair, I’m at the halfway point. And maybe the crux of my resistance is the emotion. Because her writing is so clear, because she lets you inside the black box, you know and witness and feel everything. Which is good writing, great writing, but a bad feeling if that’s not the feeling you want.

So I have mixed feelings. I like the book, but I don’t love it. I do plan to finish reading it.

Did you read it? What did you think of it?

This is all there is.

I’m unsettled, yet settling in.

Thinking. Reconsidering.

I was clear about a decision yesterday. I revisited it today and realized, although a good decision, it’s one that would lead me on a familiar path instead of the new path I’ve claimed to be walking.

Always grateful for moments of reflection.

I’ve long gravitated toward interesting, yet shunned exciting in favor of practicality. Sam might say that’s my Venus in Capricorn. It serves me, yes. I lean on it too much, this taking the practical road thing I do.

Doing what makes sense rather than what ignites is safe. Today it also feels useless. Or maybe it’s outlived its usefulness.

I’m taking steps, but if I get to the crossroads and choose the path previously traveled by, how will I arrive at a new destination?

To be or not to be… outraged.

It’s a day ending in “y” so that means it’s a perfect day to be outraged. And outraged, we are. I’m not going to share what we’re outraged about because chances are, by the time you read this entry, we’ll be outraged about something else entirely.

A few weeks ago Whiskey, Wine & Moonshine talked about society’s propensity to be outraged about, well, everything.

Some folks seem to get up in arms about everything, and others seem unable to muster a flip about anything much. They’re on the other end of the outrage continuum, hanging out at the apathy mark. {Insert horrible thing to be outraged about} and we aren’t interested in the details. Our heads are buried in the proverbial sand. We just go along with the status quo, because why not? We aren’t critical about the media we consume, the opinions we hear, nothing.

Of course we don’t need to be outraged about everything, and certainly it’s important to be outraged about something. They key I think, lies in reflection.

Pay attention to your surroundings, inform yourself about what’s going on, ask questions, think about things, and develop an informed opinion.

200 pages down.

I’m 2/3s of the way done with Pearl’s book. I’ve been on a first name basis with her since I began this journey.

parchment-23662_640Reading it makes me wonder how much wisdom gets lost because women don’t share their most intimate thoughts? Either aloud or in writing? Many of us live our lives, and simply figure out the hard shit as we go along.

Some read the self-help gurus say, and I’m sure there’s plenty of insight to be gained by doing so. Others bond and grow through occasional talks with a close friend.

But how many of us engage in a systematic effort to document (your real) life and the lessons it teaches you? Either for your own reflection and edification or for the express purpose of passing it on? If we are not the keepers of our stories, who should be? When our stories fade, our wit and wisdom fade also.

I’ve written before about questions I’d love to ask but can’t. There’s also this about the importance of family narrative. There’s so much learning to be gained in the living of life, yes, and eve more so in the telling and retelling of it.

Do you document your life? Why or why not? How do you or how would you if you started today?