"Four years ago, when I was still at Ms. but had just learned about Bust, the editors of that zine asked me to interview Björk, the Smurfy Icelandic pop star, for their issue on motherhood... Trapped in my own earnestness about Third Wave feminism, I found myself asking a lot of goody-two-shoes questions about being a single mother. I wanted to know what had led Björk to divorce the father of her son after only a year of marriage. 'Why suffer?' she said, and picked her nose." --Jennifer Baumgardner
you have been, by all accounts, a bitch of a year. i don't really believe in the cosmos (not in the fatalistic, sun sign-moon sign alignment sort of way), but if i did, it would seem that they asked you to wreak some havoc pretty much anywhere that you could. big ways, little ways, in-between ways - any kind of havoc was preferable to none. in just under six months you've brought me and mine, in no particular order: weddings, tumors,, deaths, eye afflictions, heat waves, elopements, arguments, retirements, broken refrigerators, falling outs, denied medical treatments, tornadoes, the flu from hell, hospices, turbulence, ended friendships, surgeries, and one disintegrating pair of favorite jeans. just to name a few.
and honestly? it's been great. i mean, it's been god awful, a lot of it, but it's also been great. it feels like a year of forging, in a way - or maybe, more aptly, a year of being forged. of being both the sledgehammer and the red-hot metal underneath. a year of total upheaval, of these shifting tectonic plates that still have not quite decided where to settle. and i am learning so much.
after one particular decision i made recently - one that had to do with cutting off communication with someone that had once been very important to me - my sister made a very good point. she said, essentially, that we accept too much unnecessary negativity in our lives. if someone or something is bringing nothing positive to our table, why tolerate it? why not just cut it out, toss it aside, and move on?
why suffer, indeed?
i've been thinking a lot about this, this idea of excising undue suffering from life when you can. of embracing the positive, even if you're not the most positive person - because lord knows i'm not. but i think there's a way, even for the most committed of cynics, to refuse to engage with things that are not improving your life or helping you grow in some way. because, as far as life goes, there's good negativity and bad negativity. for instance, my work can be really depressing sometimes - the dogged societal persistence of inequality for nearly half the world's population will have that effect. but the reality of that negativity - as much as it sometimes makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and stay that way - ultimately fuels me, motivates me to take some action. whereas so many other kinds of negativity - pettiness, manipulation, fear, self-doubt - just wither you on the vine. they make you smaller, less engaged, less alive. and here's the thing - you don't need them. they are infinitely and continually disposable.
so, 2008, i'm rolling with your punches. i'm using everything that i experience as a filter, a lesson, a discovery, a new context. i refuse to be pulled under. i am more thankful, i am more mindful - i am easier on myself, much more gentle with myself. i admire shoes more. i worry about my hips less. i send facebook gifts more. i online stalk ex-friends less. i eat fruit more. i hurry through dinner less. i read more. i watch tv news less. i sleep more. i dwell less.
honestly, i have no idea what else is in store for us before new year's eve finally rolls around. maybe it will be harmony, maybe it will be catastrophe. who knows. but last week, i was home in massachusetts looking through some pictures, and i found one of my dad standing in the place where, thirty years earlier, my parent's wedding reception had been held - a big, warm, wood and stone-filled building which i'm certain has seen many a good party. on a wooden beam above his head, a carved inscription read: "enjoy yourself - it is later than you think."
and so i will.