Tag Archives: didion

Top Ten Discoveries of 2012

Okay, I admit, this will be a very subjective list. They are not in order of importance, and I only chose ten because it’s a pretty number.

1. Vanilla-rose tea. After leaving my beloved loose-leaf tea shop to teach Latin, I began drinking tea with even more abandon. I NEVER thought I would enjoy a floral tea, but there’s something addicting about this sweet/rosy black tea. A little milk and sugar, and it’s like I’m drinking dessert. (Rooibos is still my go-to tea for all my non-caffeinated needs.)

2. Joan Didion. 

didion1

There are some authors who speak to you, and then there are other authors who keep speaking to you even after you’ve finished their books. Didion is one of the latter. When I think of a memoirist I want to emulate, she is high up on the list. Some quotes that stuck with me:

We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself.

On Self-Respect

(I keep reminding myself that this one is only half-correct; we realize that perhaps we don’t like ourselves, but this is only helpful if we choose not to remain here, choose to reach for the truth.)

[Writing is] hostile in that you’re trying to make somebody see something the way you see it, trying to impose your idea, your picture…Quite often you want to tell somebody your dream, your nightmare. Well, nobody wants to hear about someone else’s dream, good or bad; nobody wants to walk around with it. The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to the dream.

The Paris Review

3. Teaching. Sometimes, I think surprises are funny. Sometimes, I think there are too many surprises going on in my life. Teaching is one of the biggest ones this year. While I don’t know (yet) what this will mean for me longterm, I do know that I am loving learning the language of children again, sharing my love of learning, sharing a language that will shape how they approach their own language from here on out. Decline puella? You got it. Explain how Latin uses the Dative Case? I can do that, too. I have a lot to learn, but that’s the exciting part.

4. Directing. I don’t know if I can count this as a discovery, per se, because it hasn’t officially started yet. But a week before Christmas, I went in for an interview to teach voice lessons at the YMCA, and left with a job directing the Y’s children’s musical. “Have you ever directed anything?” “No, no I haven’t.” “Are you interested?” “Yes, I guess I am.” I went home without giving an answer yet, afraid that I was – again – biting off more than I could chew. That night, we got Chinese for dinner. I read my fortune (which, let me tell you right now, I do not hold ANY store in), and was a little shocked to read: “If you understand everything you’re doing, you’re not learning anything.” Shoot. So I emailed her Yes, yes I would love to direct the musical and rehearsals start in a few weeks. More on that later, I’m sure.

5. Tom Cruise. 

tom

Okay, true confessions: I have a celebrity crush on Tom Cruise. On The Crazy. I’ve decided to afford myself this one, bizarre luxury. I don’t understand it, and I don’t expect anyone else to. The first movie I ever saw with him was “Far and Away.” I was so caught up in the story that I forgot for the moment that life was beyond the confines of this one world, and when Tom’s character falls, hitting his head and seems to die, I screamed. Literally. I ran up the stairs, angry at my brother and sister for not warning me. “Why didn’t you tell me?!?!” I shouted. Because, it wasn’t just that he died. He and the woman he loved were running for land in Oklahoma, striving for a dream together. That is my favorite image of love, and I know it’s romanticized and American and probably wrong. I can’t help it.

tom1

Needless to say, Tom’s character isn’t dead, and the movie has since become one of my favorites. So far, I’ve watched “Top Gun,” “Jerry Maguire,” “Rain Man,” “Valkyrie,” and a handful of others. For some reason, I am able to forget the fact that Tom is a Scientologist, that he’s had some crazy bouts of weirdness, that he’s made some terrible life choices. That’s the point of movies, after all – to suspend your disbelief and get swept up in something.

I feel lighter after this confession. Thank you.

6. Blogging. Yes. Writing this blog has been fun. Digesting the experiences, the blessings and the harder times, through this blog, has been really rewarding. Reading other people’s blogs and learning about their lives and what they think has broadened my own thinking.

7. Parenthood. 

parenthood

I. love. this. show. Sometimes, I sit there, tears in my eyes, and I wonder, Why do I do this to myself? Why do I watch things that make me so incredibly sad? I’m not entirely sure, to be honest, but there’s something about it. The characters are annoying and lovable and funny, and even though they make some terrible choices, they love each other. The writing is strong, the characters are believable, and I love it. (Other shows I’ve been loving: “Mindy Project,” “Ben and Kate,” and “Raising Hope.” Tuesdays are good to me.)

8. Homemade granola. I wrote about this last spring. I have to make another batch; I’m going through withdrawal. There’s nothing more delicious than a little granola with Greek yogurt, homegrown (homemade? home-what?!?!) honey, and dried cranberries. Delicious.

9. Music. Fleet Foxes. Lumineers. Florence and the Machine. Ingrid Michaelson. Bob Dylan. (Some) Adele. Of Monsters and Men. Judy Collins. Joan Baez. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Ray LaMontagne.

10. Living at home can be exactly what you need. I never would have thought this. As graduation approached, I stared at the possibility of moving home, and I was scared. I thought I would hate it. I thought my family would start to hate ME. I thought I would never see my friends. I thought I would turn back into the girl I was before college, and that was not good at all.

But what I’ve discovered is that sometimes God gives you what you need, even if it isn’t what you want. I needed to be home this year. I needed to remember what it feels like to know your family has your back, no matter what. I needed to feel loved and safe, especially as I faced uncertain health issues (all is good, praise the Lord).

Above all, I needed to trust.

I discovered that trusting God looks different in different situations. For some, trusting God looks like moving far from home and going out on your own. For me, trusting God looked like moving home. It looked like allowing my picture of my future to change.

Trusting God is a constant discovery. It’s a pretty big one.

Bring on 2013. I’m ready.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

I finished Joan Didon’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem and I LOVE HER STILL. Or more, depending on how you look at it.

The preface begins with Didion’s explanation of the title: “This book is called Slouching Towards Bethlehem because for several years now certain lines from the Yeats poem…have reverberated in my inner ear as if they were surgically implanted there.”

I love the way she ties everything in, what she sees, smells, reads, talks about.

One of my favorite essays was the last, “Goodbye to All That.” Didion writes about her time in New York in the sixties, how little things like the smell of Henri Bendel jasmine soap or the perfume she wore transport her back to that place.

She talks about the changes New York wrought on her in a short time, how she wondered what happened to that old self:

I know now that almost everyone wonders something like that, sooner or later and no matter what he or she is doing, but one of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened to anyone before.

When I read this, I thought, No, I’m not like that. I mean, other people are, sure, but I know there’s nothing new. I know we are all the same.

And then I look at how I actually operate, and it seems like Didion knows me without having met me. I wish I were so levelheaded, so logical and able to weigh evidences, but it seems that the feeling of uniqueness is built into us.

Ha, what a contradiction.

I think Didion’s strength (or one of her strengths) lies in her ability to be honest but not whiney. Honest but without begging for pity. She is removed enough from her subject – her self – that she can bring the reader in with nods of agreement, of recognition. I felt this even with the memoirs of her darkest times, Blue Nights and The Year of Magical Thinking.

I like her because she gives a voice to so much of what I feel.

Back Home!

Back from a week of the midwest. How’d I do with my list?

On the Plane
  • Finish Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking and start Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Let’s just say I finished The Year of Magical Thinking long before I got to the plane, and I didn’t have time to grab Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Did read Diane Keaton’s Then Again, which was pretty good. Could’ve used more pictures of Warren Beatty though…
  • Watch all the passengers
And make up stories about them…BIG CHECK
  • Write in my journal
Of course this happened, but it’s always harder for me to write when there is so much to look at and experience. What if I miss something?! The real writing comes later.
Oklahoma
  • Hang out!
We got lost on the way home from the airport (not so shocking to people who know us), and we talked the entire time. And didn’t really stop until the last hug at the Tulsa airport three days later. A lot happens in two years, but it’s amazing how you immediately fall back into the way things always were.
  • Eat sushi and barbecue
Yes, I consumed both sushi and barbecue while in OK. I didn’t even have to ask for them. Now that’s good hosting.
 St. Louis
  • Relax
Definitely. Read. Wrote. Ran dogs in the woods. Went to Barnes and Noble, drank coffee, and looked through books with beautiful houses. Talked a lot. (I’m pretty sure I left A. exhausted, both emotionally and verbally. He’s not used to my lifestyle.)
  • Check out a church
Went to church. A lot. Early service in chairs in a make-shift sanctuary while the real sanctuary is being renovated. Then on to Sunday School (and yes, people are interesting/weird/lovable wherever you go). Then to help out in children’s church. I have a new appreciation for people who work with children. The patience those helpers exhibited could only come from God. Then at 6:30 there was evening church. The evening sermon was thought-provoking, and on the way home we got burgers. A good ending.
  • Check out a museum

Um, St. Louis closes down on Mondays. No art museums were open! But my girlfriends and a husband and I rode the tram up to the arch and looked out over the city. While we waited to go up, we strolled through the Lewis and Clark museum, so I guess that can count. The tram was like a little capsule for five people. We only had four in our group, so some unsuspecting bald man had to squeeze in with us. And the three of us girls sure know how to be annoying when we’re happy. Poor guy.

And I come home, a little more broke than when I left. But who’s complaining? Too many good memories to care.

What I Want to do on My Trip!

On the Plane
  • Finish Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking and start Slouching Towards Bethlehem
I opened Blue Nights by Didion last week and it was as if I’d already read it. DRAMA ALERT! As if she were an old friend, and our souls had spoken to each other. I felt this way when I read Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood the summer I worked at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – there is something about women who show you their truths. I think they illumine my own.
  • Watch all the passengers

And make up stories about them…

  • Write in my journal
Writing on planes is so much fun. It’s like you’re suspended in time and whatever you write was written in an alternate reality. Also, the idea of writing before you have any idea what your trip will hold is so romantic. All the hopes, fears, and anticipations rolled into a little notebook, no matter what kind of  trip it is.
Oklahoma
  • Hang out!
I can’t wait to spend time with old family friends! So much to talk about, so much to fill each other in on.
  • Eat sushi and barbecue
I make it a point to eat sushi as much as possible, but the idea of eating it in the midwest is a little strange to me. I guess people who don’t live near the ocean still eat fish…? And who doesn’t want a little Oklahoma barbecue?!
St. Louis
  • Relax
One of the best things about my friend A. is that he has no expectations. I can be whoever I want, do whatever I want, and he won’t mind at all. So if I feel like hanging out on the couch all day reading and drinking coffee, he won’t be surprised.
  • Check out a church
Growing up in New England, I’ve only had fairly typical New England church experiences. Most churches have been really small, many hurting, and the few larger ones I’ve gone to have been so academic that it’s hard for me to implement any aspect of the sermons in my life. I’m looking forward to seeing if the churches in St. Louis are different, or if young Christian men have to hide from the ever-eager young Christian women everywhere you go.
  • Check out a museum

I want to hit up the St. Louis Museum of Art and/or the Contemporary Art Museum. Also, there’s a great outdoor art exhibit called the Laumeier Sculpture Park. On Monday, my good friends from college are meeting me in St. Louis (you should be humming the song right about now), and I’m hoping they’ll be up for a little art!

25 Things to do in St. Louis:

http://explorestlouis.com/visit-explore/discover/25-things-to-do-in-st-louis/?gclid=CJDGs9WWlK4CFY9W7Aod6UGCMQ