The Years That Ask

I find myself disappointed when I learn that a woman I admire has kids. Like when I read Heidi Julavits’ memoir, “A Folded Clock,” I was excited when she describes an abortion. “Maybe she doesn’t have kids!” came a gleeful shout from somewhere inside me. She does, I discovered a few chapters later, and my heart sank a bit. Listening to an episode of Krista Tippett’s podcast, On Being, I had the same experience. “I wonder if she has kids?” She’s so wise and successful. I Googled for the answer. She does (two). Cue disappointment.

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ABCs for a Happy Life

ABCs_allAt the age of six, my sister told a stranger, “Don’t have a lugubrious day!” Even at a young age, she knew big words. She and my mom would practice vocabulary and would always stop to look up unfamiliar words when reading. They enjoyed distinguishing shades of meaning between similar words.

This was their thing; I didn’t bother. I read for plot, easily skipping over gaping, unfamiliar words. If I could understand the general meaning of the sentence, I wasn’t bothered by a quick skip over a missing word here or there. When it came time to study for the SATs, this attitude showed. I spent a bit of time with flash cards to make up for this. I learned the meaning of obdurate and lachrymose (words that my mom was shocked that I hadn’t known by then). Yet, even with new this new vocab, I didn’t fully understand the importance of words and their power to shape how we see ourselves and the world. (read more…)

Marriage—Who Needs It? I Do.

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In the early years of our relationship, when Lars and I were just out of college, we attended two weddings of our peers. The couples were pretty different from us—dating since their teens, religious—and we experienced the occasions like anthropologists observing exotic customs.

Then our mid-twenties arrived and, with them, a torrent of weddings. One after the other, our close friends all started getting married. These occasions allowed us to leave our ordinary lives behind for a weekend, drive to some inn or farm, don fancy clothes, and watch our peers act older and wiser than we felt.

Once Lars and I returned the rental car Sunday night, we’d be back to our cruddy apartment in Queens. Come Monday, I’d be sorting more newsclips for a boss who found me talentless and disappointing. The future did not seem fecund with promise; it felt unknowable and scary. On more than one occasion Lars had found me in our bathtub, sobbing into the water, telling him I’d peaked and was now a waste of space. While I believed in our relationship, I could not imagine declaring to the world my confidence in life ahead. Love was real, and we had plenty of laughs and joys together, but despair conquered all. (read more…)

Perfection is Not the Goal

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No one would mistake me for a perfectionist.

When I think of perfectionism, the garden variety perfectionism that comes to mind has to do with completing tasks exactly right, redoing what isn’t perfect, endlessly researching a new gadget in order to make sure that you get the exact right one. This perfectionism is an exacting and unforgiving search that typically leaves the practitioner dissatisfied.  

This isn’t me at all. If you’ve been reading this blog, I’m sure you’ve noticed a number of misspellings and missing punctuation in my posts. Leda and I often use the motto, “done is better than good!” We apply this attitude liberally to our writing, a great number of sloppy craft projects, cooking, buying a new shirt; anything that can suffice will do just fine. (read more…)

Oops, I Did it Again. Or How Life Circles.

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Yesterday, I realized that I used to be smarter. You see, I found a letter I’d written to myself last October. It was tucked in a stack of papers on my desk, a pile of things that I want to keep handy, but don’t have a good place for. The letter felt like it had been written by a different person.

In October, less than three months into a new job, I’d had a realization. I had been feeling upset about my role, frustrated with my day-to-day tasks, and sometimes frustrated by structural issues in the organization. But I realized that much of these feelings were coming from things that I’d known about the job (especially the boring day-to-day tasks) before I had accepted it, but I had forgotten that and the reasons that I’d taken the job in the first place. (read more…)