Success vs. Fulfillment

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What’s the difference between success and fulfillment?

Successful: adjective, accomplishing an aim or purpose.

Fulfilled: adjective, satisfied or happy because of fully developing one’s abilities or character.

Is it that others may decide if you’re successful but only you decide if you are fulfilled?

If someone asks me to do something, they decide if I have successfully accomplished the task. If I decide that I want to learn to play guitar, whether I’m successful at it or not is up to those that hear me play.

On the other hand, I decide if my chosen task fulfills me. I decide if the job I do is fulfilling. No one can answer the question “Is this fulfilling?” for me.

A relationship, a job, a goal can be successful but unfulfilling, or fulfilling and unsuccessful.

In life, I choose to work toward the feeling of fulfillment. I can choose to feel good about an unsuccessful attempt. I can’t choose if I’m successful.

You Really Are the Master of Your Own Universe

You know how some toys are kind of boring if you just buy one part and so you keep buying accessories? The car, the clothes, the house, the spouse, the kids, the career. It just goes on and on.

There are video games like that too. Sure, you can download it and play for free, but you only get two levels and then you have to pay to upgrade. You play more but now you see that you have to buy a couple extras, charms that help you rack up the points and levels faster.

Humans aren’t like that at all. We’re a whole, functioning human being right from birth. All our accessories are built-in. Sure, we need a bit of extra care at first, but we learn and grow quickly with good support and before you know it, we’re out in the world on our own, doing our thing whatever that is.

But lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of people that look like they are searching for their missing piece. They wander from job to job, adventure to adventure, and relationship to relationship, never really getting anything from the experience and lamenting that the whole thing even happened while they transition to the next. They proclaim loudly that they won’t give up, they’ll find that career, place, or person that will complete them and make their lives better. That job wasn’t right for me. This place doesn’t have what I need. This person didn’t give me their all and left, so they suck.

What if I told you (lol) that you don’t need any of that to be complete? What if you have the power to stand on your own two feet, to control your own destiny?

You do.

Every time we start a new job, try out a new location or enter into a new relationship, we could be learning more about ourselves and the world around us. We could be using that information to make our lives more interesting and more comfortable for ourselves and those around us. It doesn’t matter what the job is or how long the relationship lasts. It doesn’t matter what kind of relationship you have: long or short term, purely sexual or platonic. It doesn’t matter if you buy a house and live there for ten years or rent out a basement and live there for three months. It doesn’t matter if you go to college right out of high school, wait until you’re 45, or ever go at all.

What does matter? It matters that we learn something about ourselves and that we connect with other humans in as many ways as possible, that we live every day no matter what’s going on.

The Stoics have a decent idea, “Memento Mori” Remember, we die. We don’t live forever and (as far as we know) we only have one life. We need to stop wasting time.

Nothing is a waste of time if you learn something from the experience. That one night stand you had with that hot babe you met? Not a waste of time if you enjoyed it and look back on the moment fondly. That two years you spent at an expensive university, only to drop out and work at an amusement park? Not a waste of time or money. You gained experience, you met people, and you had fun in ways you never knew existed. And money? You can always make more. Money was created to spend. And what about that “failed” marriage? Did it “fail” or did it just serve its purpose and now you’re both moving on to something else? That job you spent five years at and then switched careers gave you fresh insight about your abilities and a set of skills that you can use anywhere.

What exactly do we think we’re working toward? What are we stockpiling for the future? What will we do with all of this shit we’ve accumulated? We’ll die. That’s it. And all your stuff will be redistributed.

So why not stop working toward anything and just enjoy what you have? If you don’t like the job you are in, find another one. If you don’t like the area you live in, move. If you don’t like the relationship you’re in, move on. Stop collecting things and start experiencing things. If you have no friends or family to experience it with, do it alone! Maybe you’d find it more fun or fulfilling if you had someone to share it with? Then blog about it and post pictures on Instagram! Or start dating…anyone, right off OKCupid! Or join a club online or in person!

You are a complete package all by yourself. You don’t need anything to start living and experiencing the world around you. Just live, damn it! Why not?

We all walk around acting as if we are pawns in someone else’s game but we’re absolutely not. It’s your life. Do what you want with it.

You do have the power. You’re using it right now.

Jump

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Photo by Blake Cheek on Unsplash

Sometimes we have to just do the thing that might ruin everything, the thing you might fail at, the thing that could change everything, just to see what happens.

That’s where the growth is.

And growth is what keeps us living.

A Grocery Clerk Can Change Your Outlook

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Photo by Arren Mills on Unsplash

“You have an interesting accent. Where are you from?” A conversation begins, enthusiastic exchanges, small family history tidbits, a flash of red hair and she’s gone.

Jogging up to an elderly man in a mobility cart, “Can I help you out with that, sir?” He looks at her abruptly, as if he needs the help, but softens, and smiles, “Sure, honey.” “You drive out and I’ll drive her back!” she chirps as she follows him out to the parking lot.

By the time it’s my turn at the register, she has returned. Grabbing groceries and putting them into reusable bags, she comments “Oh, I love these! So good!” I smile and laugh.

Does this woman have anything negative to say, ever? With all that energy, all those smiles, you’d think she were nineteen years old, the world before her, but she’s not. She looks to be about thirty, young but not a baby anymore, old enough to be worn down a bit like many of my neighbors. I wonder if she goes home from her shift at the grocery store happy and humming along, or does she collapse onto her couch in exhaustion. Is this her natural state, or is she putting on a show? All I know is that it is impossible to be sad or grumpy around her. I’ve seen a few people try and fail.

As she finishes up and runs to the next check stand to bag more groceries, I make a comment completely outside my own comfort zone. I feel compelled by her enthusiasm to speak up. “I just can’t help but smile and leave here in a better mood than the one I came in with when she’s here.”

The checker agrees, “Who? Joi? She’s amazing. We can’t help but be happy around her either. Feels like we’ll let her down if we do. You should tell our manager that! Oh, wait. He’s right here.” We stand and chat for a few seconds. It seems everyone that meets her, loves her. It must be nice.

As I’m heading out the door, she comes walking back in the store. I hear, “Hot out there?” It’s over 100 degrees in the desert parking lot. “It is!” she smiles, “but the wind is blowing nicely so it isn’t bad at all!”

I smile thinking about her as I start putting my groceries in the truck. And there she is again, chatting with an older woman, pushing her cart to her car.

Groceries loaded carefully in the back seat so that they don’t go sliding off the minute I turn a corner, I hope, cart returned to the corral, I climb in the front seat and start the truck. As it idles and the air-conditioning starts to cool off the interior, I take a deep breath and relax for just a moment, thinking about Joi and the joy she apparently carries.

It’s been a difficult day, not for any reason other than a bad mood, a dark cloud I just can’t seem to get out from under. It isn’t like anything is wrong, no crisis looms, it’s just…sadness. Watching her interact with the people around her, I feel chastised. Why can’t I be more like her? In a lot of ways, I am. I don’t usually tend toward the negative. I am generally good natured. But there is one thing very different, she’s not afraid to talk to people.

Several times, on this grocery trip and others, I’ve seen her notice and compliment people. She compliments the things people are wearing, shares her love of the things they buy, or asks where people are from. I notice those things, but I rarely engage people. Why? Because I’m afraid. What if I say the wrong thing? What if they don’t want to talk to me? I smile politely and nod to people, keeping even my positive comments and compliments, my joy, to myself.

Remembering the checker and the store manager’s reaction to Joi’s enthusiasm and openness, I straighten up in the front seat and resolve to be more like her from this moment on. Her honest love of people is infectious.

Shifting into gear, I remember…crud…I have a package to pick up at the post office. Should I get the groceries home before the milk spoils and then come back into town for the mail? Nah, I’m sure it will only add a minute to the drive home and I’ll save the gas of the extra drive.

I pull into the post office parking lot and run inside. Perfect. Next in line. While I wait a woman walks in behind me. The first thing I notice is the beautiful scarf over her head and around her neck. It reminds me of an Arabian princess, a flowing silk thing to keep the sun off her head. Now’s my chance to say something kind. On second glance, she is small and frail, her head is shaved close, and I hesitate. What if she doesn’t want that kind of attention? What if she thinks I’m weird for making such a comment about a stranger? I stay silent, get my package and leave.

 

A New Passion Has Emerged

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https://writerswrite.co.za/mos

At the beginning of the month, I found a graphic of one or two-word writing prompts for each day in the month of October and thought, maybe this would help me warm up a bit. I’ve been having a hell of a time thinking of things to write when I try to write every single day. Maybe this would jar things loose?

Seventeen days into October…it’s totally working. Some days I have things I’d like to write about. There are things that I read in books that prompt my thinking and things I hear people talking about or post on social media that I feel compelled to comment on. Podcasts and quiet time to think also spark my commentary. But these prompts, they are something different. I look at the word first thing in the morning and most times nothing comes to mind right away, but then, sometime around the dishes or watering the yard, it hits me. It comes in like a scene from a movie in my head. Sometimes it sparks a memory that comes out on the written page as an embellished memoir. Other times it hits me right at the center of my imagination and the new scene just comes pouring out.

All month I’ve been wondering where it came from. What new skill have I just discovered I can tap into? But yesterday, as I was driving to meet a friend for coffee, it dawned on me. It’s not new at all. I’ve always been accused of making something bigger than it really was, of attributing words to children that never said them and romanticizing the truth. And my worries, my anxiety? Guess where they from? My imagination. I don’t worry about little things, or what might happen in a vague way. I create vivid scenes in my head from a horrific accident to the details of the funeral and having to deal with people feeling bad about my loss. I don’t think, “Oh I hope my son doesn’t get into trouble.” And wring my hands over it. I see the whole scene played out before me down to the last detail. I don’t wonder what my husband is thinking when he’s quiet. I build up whole storylines about what could be going on in his head and end up sobbing in bed over the fiction I created.

When I was younger, I used to act on the feelings I created in myself with those imaginary scenes. I’d change my plans to go on a road trip because I imagined that I had a premonition about a horrible car accident. I wouldn’t let my kids play at the park the afternoon I imagined what life would be like if they were kidnapped and murdered. I went into a two-day depression spiral because I imagined that the reason my husband was late home from work was that he’d met up with new friends that coerced him into a going to party and got too stoned and drunk to get home to me.

It wasn’t until I was late into my thirties before I had some control over letting my imagination run wild. Why it took so long, I may never understand, but I finally figured out how to separate my imagination from reality on a permanent basis…mostly. I still embellish the truth a bit from time to time. Stories are much better told with a flourish of language in my opinion.

And now, because I just happened across a writing prompt graphic on social media, I’ve discovered a new passion and expanded on it. When I write fiction, it’s me in those scenes. It can get a little stressful because I feel it and sense it all. I want to sit in my imagination and find ways to describe everything I see, feel, and smell. I want to think the horrible thoughts, taste the food, and touch the things I see. When I write the story, it isn’t what really happened, it’s what I imagine would if I were there. I feel like I’ve finally found a healthy way to explore those thoughts which used to terrify me. I’ve found a way to express those imagined feelings without losing my grip on reality. It’s incredibly exciting and I hope you like reading them.

I’m thoroughly enjoying diving into that well of imagination and using it for good instead of evil. Who knows where it will go? I’m still writing non-fiction. I feel like I have a lot to say, a lot to process and share. But now, I feel like I have a new outlet, a new direction for my passion for words.

And don’t worry. I’ll clearly mark my “stories” fiction at the top. I’d hate for someone to read a non-fiction post from me one day and be inspired only to find a fiction one the next and wonder what kind of insanity has been occurring at this house!

Personal Narratives Can Change

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Photo by Liana Mikah on Unsplash

We all have stories about how things are supposed to work out. We get them from our parents, our extended family, friends, education, entertainment, everywhere. The trouble is, they aren’t always true, or at least they aren’t true for everyone. What happens when we run into a reality that conflicts with our established narratives? Motion sickness.

I’ve always been very susceptible to motion sickness. I was the kid in the back seat of the VW bug complaining that it was too hot and turning green on the way to the grocery store. I was the one that had to sit in the front seat with the AC on in my face. I’m the one using every trick in the book, from deep breathing to focusing intently on the road ahead, to keep from having to pull over and rest on the way to anything. And not just on mountain roads! I can get sick just driving down the freeway if someone asks me to look at the map!

Motion sickness is said to be caused by a conflict between your eyes and your ears. Your eyes tell your brain that you are still, but your inner ear says that you are moving. Conflicting information causes your body to rebel and become nauseous. I’m not sure what evolutionary help this is, but it does cause someone like me to reflect on the bigger picture.

As we grow we all create these personal narratives. They make it easier and more streamlined to deal with all of life. This works like this. He acts like this. This relationship works this way. We don’t need to think about those things as much. We put them in the back of our head and work on the new things.

But what if the story we’ve built in our heads about how things are supposed to go doesn’t match the reality of the situation we are currently in? Anxiety, anger, depression, that nauseous feeling that something is horribly wrong!

Just like when I start to get motion sickness, it’s time to focus on the reality and take some deep breaths because things are about to change. It’s what I have learned to call a “growth point,” the place in my life that I learn something new, my world is about it become bigger. It can be so scary though. What if reality isn’t nearly as good as my fantasy? Then again…how can one live in a fantasy permanently? Life, no matter how complicated, is much easier to deal with when we accept the reality, or at least as close as we can come to it.

Change is unavoidable. How we deal with those changes is what makes the difference in our lives.

Do we hold on to what we believed to be true and ignore reality? Do we get angry and blame the people around us for letting us down? Do we walk away from situations, people, environments when they fail to meet our expectations? It doesn’t seem very productive. If we keep searching for the world that matches our narratives as we know them, we may never find it. We may just keep walking away from the very people and places that are offering us the opportunity to grow into something better.

What else can I do? I could stop, take a deep breath, and make some space for my feelings first. Things are changing, something is different. What is it and how can I see it more clearly? I could ask some questions. Is this person or situation failing me, deliberately hurting me, or causing me some kind of trouble? Or are they only doing what they have always done, doing what’s best for them at the moment? Will it really hurt me? Is it really wrong? Looking at the situation or person with an open heart helps. I want to understand.

What seems to help is talking to a special someone, someone that is as open to change as I am, someone that has no stake in the game. That person is hard to find and changes according to the situation. I’m not really looking for advice what I talk. I’m only looking for feedback, someone that will ask questions from a different point of view and is willing to go down some crazy rabbit holes with me. Talking to the wrong person can make my situation infinitely worse. I’ve learned to be very selective.

When I lack another human to speak with, I write. And I write a lot. I write whatever comes to mind, even the meanest and nastiest thoughts. Writing out the hurt and the angry words, the words sparked by fear and mistrust, seems to release them into the void and make space for clearer thinking. Once my narrative is out on paper alongside of the potential for change, I feel like I can think more logically. I come back to that same writing the next day and walk away feeling stronger and ready to embrace change, only to come screaming back to scrawl on the walls of my paper cave over and over again.

I talk to myself on the pages. I fight and scold and lecture, I listen and give myself feedback. Lord, I hope no one reads that stuff some day and has me committed! Some of it strongly resembles the raving of a very sick person. But maybe that’s the reality of it. At moment, I am sick. What my eyes see and what my inner ear feels doesn’t match, and my mind is reacting violently. But I know from experience, the feeling is only temporary. Focus and adjust, take a rest from the effort, and try again. It’s the only way to grow.

Unproductive?

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A Bad Example

The picture above is the perfect example of how I get so frustrated. I’m terrible at focus, doing one thing at a time. I’m angry my breakfast doesn’t get in my mouth…probably because I’m not left handed and should put everything else away and eat. I’m actually not reading two magazines at once. It’s just one was already open from last night. My phone is right there and I’m interrupted by texts from friends. And my journal…Lord help the poor soul that reads those when I’m gone. My son walked in and gave me a strange look. That’s when I realized what I was doing and when I told him to take a picture so I could post about my insanity!

I seriously wonder how I’ve made it this far in my life without getting completely lost. I guess if you don’t have an ultimate destination, you can’t really get lost no matter how far you wander…and my mind really wanders!

It seems to me that we’re all too busy. Whenever someone asks me what I did this morning, I usually talk about my morning routine. It’s taken me years to develop and it has really just evolved into more the past couple of years since my sons have come into young adulthood. Suddenly my days aren’t filled with laundry, food, and rides. I have more time for the other things I want to do, but what is it that I want to do?

I’ve felt a bit lost, wondering where to start looking for new things to fill my time, how to feel “productive”. I guess it all boils down to what I want, but then it always has.

When I got married, I wanted my home life to be my focus, not my career. I spent more time at home after work. And when my sons were born, I wanted my children to be my focus, so I spent more time with them instead of my job, my friends, and other things. As they grew and we decided we would homeschool, my focus changed to providing them with the support they’d need to experience and learn new things. These were all my choices. I didn’t have to. I could have spent more of my time at work. I could have decided that it was more important to have “me time” and gone out with friends. But I chose what I wanted. And I wanted a close family.

It all sounds so smooth and thought out when I write it like that but really it was a huge mess of daily adjustments and a metric crap ton of self-doubt.

What is it that I want now? What is my goal these days, to be a decent person, to love those around me, to write what I’m thinking and feeling and share it with you?

Sometimes I feel incredibly busy and overwhelmed, and then I look at other people’s lives and wonder why I can’t take on as much as they do. I know everyone has a different tolerance for how much they can put into a day or week. We’re all wired for something specific. The complication is finding out what works for us personally in a world that seems to think what works for one would work for anyone if they just “did it right.” We can’t spend our lives comparing ourselves to others. It gets us nowhere.

Then there are days and weeks that go by that leave me feeling so unproductive. What does that even mean?

Why do we worry so much about being productive? Some of us just get lucky and never get so behind that we have to quit and start over. Some of us make enough good choices to be able to not worry about the bad ones. Some of us had a decent start. And then there are the others, the unlucky, the slow learners, the left behind. What about them? Is your life worth nothing if you don’t produce anything tangible in the end? What happens if you don’t end up with a stable family, a place to live, a good career, or a thriving business? What if you make mistakes you can’t fix? It all seems like a game, one you can lose.

The truth is we all die in the end. We all lose eventually. Life is not a game to win in my opinion, it’s a movie to watch, a book to read, an experience. What if we just enjoyed that experience, no matter where it led? What if we stopped worrying about creating anything but ourselves? What if we allowed others to do the same? What would that look like?

Full Plate

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Carissa Gan

Oh, how I love metaphors! Have you ever talked with someone that told you their “plate was full” and they couldn’t possibly take on another project? I’m sure you have. I’ve said it myself. Have you ever looked at a person that said that and thought, “Not as full as mine, and I seem to find time to help.” It seems we don’t all have the same size plate, the same appetite, or the same strength to carry it with.

From the outside, my life looks simple and full of time to take on new projects. But to me, my plate is balanced perfectly and I work hard to keep it that way. I don’t have too much to do because I’ve made the choice not to, and when I make other choices, like adding to my plate things I think other people would like me to do, I’ve learned by experience that it never ends well.

Here’s a question for you. What if we’re not born with an empty plate at all? What if we have one, we know it because we can feel it in our hands, but the goal of living is to figure out how big the plate is, what’s already on that plate, and how to balance it so it’s easy to carry? When we take more onto our plate before we’ve figured out how to balance what we already have, or even know what we have for that matter, we cause ourselves stress.

Why would people around us give us more to put on our plate? Because they haven’t learned what’s on their plate and how to balance it, so they’re passing it to you. “It’s too much for me!” they say, and they pass it to you instead of letting it fall to the floor.

Many days, I know what’s on my plate and I can balance it easily. When someone offers more, I politely decline. “No, thank you. I have enough.” Some days I see friends and family with their plates so piled high, I feel bad and wonder, “Well, maybe I can take some of that off their plate and help.” When I do, I quickly become overwhelmed and drop it all. It’s not a good feeling.

Some days, overwhelmed friends with plates piled high, see my relatively empty plate and think, “She has barely anything and I have so much! Take some of mine, you have to help me.” I feel guilty and try to help, take too much on and ultimately fail us both.

What if instead of passing items off our full plate to someone else, we just dropped those items away and let them go? What if we did less? What if we produced less? All of us? What if we just did without those things instead of insisting that they exist and that someone pick up the ball?

What if we prioritized mastering the art of doing what we need to do for ourselves first? And then started adding more of what we want until we are at a place of balance for us alone? And allow others to learn and do the same at their own pace, with their own plates? It seems like we would all get more done and feel better about our lives at the same time.

And then there are more questions. Do we think the plate is empty when we first realize we have a life to live? We think we must start fill it with things to feel productive. What if we spent our childhood just learning the size and weight of our plate and how to balance it with the essentials we are born to do on it? What if we are overloading our children with responsibilities, more for their plate, before they’ve mastered what they already have? Could that be the real curse of losing a free and peaceful childhood? Could that be why depression and anxiety are on the rise?

 

It’s Friday, My Friends Episode #10

This has been one of those weeks. One of those “What in the freaking world am I doing?” kind of weeks. Yesterday was a kicker so I’ll share it with you. Scrolling through my Medium stats, looking at old articles, I’m thinking, “You know, I think I’ll make files on my computer of my articles by subject. It might make them easier to shuffle through and find what I’m looking for.” I lose things. They’re just filed by date right now, like journal entries. Sometimes I randomly open a file and read one wonder if I should edit it and repost.

So there I am, scrolling down all the “not distributed” and “0 views – 0 reads” when I see “6K views – 3.2K reads.” What? Hold the phone! I look at the title, “What’s the difference between a porn star and a prostitute?” I open it up and read it. Oh yes, I remember that. I was listening to a podcaster talk about putting a camera in a brothel and suddenly it’s legal because…well…they’re making a porn film. I had to write about that and I did. I never received a like or a clap, but lots of people read it. Weird. Weirder still that a paragraph I put little thought into and posted on a whim got so much attention (and no feedback) and the posts I spend hours on and pour my heart and soul into…well…my family reads those.

That’s when I started to wonder why in the hell I actually bother writing any of this. But you know why I do? Because I want to. It helps me remember what I have read. I feel like I’m writing my life story as it happens. Yep, maybe it’s boring to the rest of the world, like the rest of my life is, but I like my life. I feel like I’ve made choices that make me happy. I’ve done the things that matter to me. I’ve raised my kids. I’ve loved and cared for my husband. I’ve honored my parents the best way I know how. And maybe I’ve made a few friends along the way.

Yes, there’s nothing to see here. Just an ordinary person, moving along through an ordinary life. On with the show.

Thing I learned: I’m honestly not a people person in real life. I think I am. I want to be. But I’m not. I like superficial relationships with lots of space, hence the reason I’m so fascinated with social media. Sorry to disappoint the world but it’s who I am.

Thing I’m reading: An amazing book on reading like a writer by Francine Prose. I think it’s hilarious that her last name is Prose and she is writing it. The book is interesting. She talks about noticing all the things that I never do, all the things you’re supposed to learn about reading literature in college. I read books because I love the stories or I want the information. I pull out tidbits and I’m well aware that I’m leaving a lot of meat on the bone. I don’t need it. The book is making my novel reading list longer and longer, which is a nice bonus!

Thing I heard: My son recording his music. That makes me happy, hearing him work on songs and record them, even though he won’t let me share.

Thing I want to do: Run away into the wilderness, never to be seen again! Don’t worry, I won’t. I’m too insecure and addicted to feedback from others for my existence to actually do it. I need you, dear reader, Facebook friend, and Instagram follower. I’ll be here begging for attention for years to come!

Picture of the week: The screenshot of the Medium anomaly that has added to my list of “WTF?” things in the world. This will continue to amaze me. It’s kind of like framing my first dollar, even though I earned it by conning a fool.

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Nearly 24 Glorious Hours!

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Yes! I keep track! 771 pages and nearly 24 hours!

“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt was a book I picked up on a book buying binge at Barnes & Noble a few months ago. It’s my favorite way to buy fiction, in person at bookstore! No reviews, no suggestions, just pure infatuation with a good cover. I go in to intentionally succumb to mass marketing. It’s an indulgence.

Why did I choose this book? One reason…well…maybe two. The cover, the ripped away piece revealing the bird, pulled my eye. And then Stephen King called it “A triumph.” How can I resist?

In my book notes, at the end of all those 771 words, all I wrote was, “Deep. Wow” The ending must have been impressive, although I can’t remember a lick of it without thumbing through it a bit and getting some reminders. And when I do thumb through and look at my notes…there it is… Some people may be appalled, but I’m glad I write in my books!

I both loved and hated this book at the same time. Typical, right? At first I was drawn into the story, mostly because of its intensity. She has a serious way with words. You can feel every scene. It’s very emotional. But then, I started to wonder where in the world the story was going. Would it ever end? What was the point of all these details? There better be some huge surprise at the end that wraps up all these little pieces and makes me want to read it all over again to catch them in action! I was not disappointed.

Some things I truly hated. There was a negative description of homeschoolers that triggered me to anger. I almost put the book down right there. How can I trust someone with my heart that so easily stereotyped my own education choice? That’s what we do when we read fiction, trust a stranger with our heart. It’s a relationship like any other, one we do not fool ourselves about. We know it’s a tryst, a few hours of adventure and it will be over, to be remembered forever and maybe returned to from time to time, if it proves itself to be exciting or fulfilling enough. I decided to love her anyway. I know my heart is pretty resilient. It will heal if broken and we’ll have our memories to look back on. I had to know how it all ends!

Hobie was one of my favorite characters. He repairs antique furniture and at first I thought that was completely irrelevant. Sweet and pretty, yes, but probably irrelevant. You’d think I’d have learned by now that nothing in fiction is irrelevant! She goes into so many details about how he repairs things and why, what pieces are worth saving and for what reasons, how they became damaged in the first place and how it could have been avoided. Different pieces, different eras, different kinds of wood, all take a different touch. Humans are very similar. Each of us has a reason for being here. We’re all damaged in different ways, by different usage. And we’re all savable for one purpose or another. Just beautiful.

And then there was this, “Even though a copy Proust was able to re-dream that image, re-shape reality with it, pull something all his own from it into the world. Because – the line of beauty is the line of beauty. It doesn’t matter if it’s been through the Xerox machine a hundred times.”

We are all copies. Not one of us is an original. But each time we go out in the world in our own way, whether just living, creating, or dreaming, we re-create that “line of beauty” for the world. Like an image of an image of an image, we are a link in the chain into the future. Don’t break that chain. Go out into the world, either in person or virtually, and share your joy so that someone else sees it and reflects it further.

“…good doesn’t always follow from good deeds, nor bad deeds result from bad, does it? Even the wise and good cannot see the end of all actions.”

“Because, if bad can sometimes come from good actions – ? Where does it ever say, anywhere, that only bad can come from bad actions – ? Maybe sometimes  – the wrong way is the right way? You can take the wrong path and it still comes out where you want to be? Or, spin it another way, sometimes you can do everything wrong and it still turns out to be right?”

“As long as I am acting out of love I feel I am doing best I know how. But you – wrapped up in judgement, always regretting the past, cursing yourself, blaming yourself, asking ‘what if,’ ‘what if.’ ‘Life is cruel.’ ‘I wish I had died instead of.’”

It’s been a long standing idea of mine that all of us are doing the best we can with the information we have at the moment we made the decision. There are no perfect answers. There are no perfect decisions. If we live looking back, we’ll never see what’s right in front of us. Don’t miss your life by looking backwards or by looking too far into the future. You’re life is right now.

And from the very beginning of the book…which seals the deal on reading the whole thing again, and soon, “Whenever you see flies or insects in a still life – a wilted petal, a black spot on the apple – the painter is giving you a secret message. He’s telling you that living things don’t last – it’s all temporary. Death in life. That’s why they are called natures mortes. Maybe you don’t see it at first with all the beauty and bloom, the little speck of rot. But if you look closer – there it is.”

I had underlined it right there on page 24. It gave me chills then, but not for the same reason it did just now, after 747 more pages and a month of reflection. That’s what makes life worth living, the fact that it is only temporary. Live it right now. Don’t wait. And don’t despair, because when one joy ends, another begins. No regrets, just love.

I’ve added her two other novels to my reading list!