You know, there’s so much cult of personality with Elisabeth Gilbert, but the woman write like a goddamn demon. Here are my favorite excerpts of this book:
Arresting though these images may have been, the dreams somehow did not disturb Alma. Instead, they filled her with the most astonishing sensation of synthesisâ€”as though all the most disparate elements of her biography were at last knitting together. All the things that she had ever known or loved in the world were stitching themselves up and becoming one thing. Realizing this made her feel both unburdened and triumphant. She had that feeling againâ€”that feeling she had experienced only once before, in the weeks leading up to her wedding with Ambroseâ€”of being most spectacularly alive. Not mere alive, but outfitted with a mind that was functioning at the uppermost limits of its capacityâ€”a mind that was seeing everything, and understanding everything, as though watching it all from the highest imaginable ridge.
She would awaken, catch her breath, and immediately begin writing again.
â€œI will tell you why we have these extraordinary minds and souls, Miss Whittaker,â€ he continued, as though he had not heard her. â€œWe have them because there is a supreme intelligence in the universe, which wishes for communion with us. This supreme intelligence longs to be known. It calls out to us. It draws us close to its mystery, and it grants us these remarkable minds, in order that we try to reach for it. It wants us to find it. It wants union with us, more than anything.â€
â€œYou think me naÃ¯ve,â€ Wallace said.
â€œI think you marvelous,â€ Alma corrected. â€œI think you are the most marvelous person I have ever met, who is still alive. You make me feel glad that I am still here, to meet somebody like you.â€
â€œWell, you are not alone in this world, Miss Whittaker, even if you have outlived everyone. I believe that we are surrounded by a host of unseen friends and loved ones, now passed away, who exert an influence upon our lives, and who never abandon us.â€
I resisted this Oprah-sanctioned book, its mainstream appeal is repellant to me, but then I caught a bit of the film. It intercuts images of the past across the screen while the character has a voiceover about ordering a bagel, or whatever, and that feels much like life to me — where you know, time goes out of order in your brain. So, the book, my god, turned out to be the most encouraging piece of literature. The descriptions of the physical and mental challenges of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, her feet shredding nails, etc., but it reminds me of how hard some parts of life are, and it introduced me to a whole slew of great Winston Churchill quotes, for which I am grateful. Who knew that guy was so positive? I always want to give up but he says NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP. sheesh! Just what the doctor ordered.
when I read this novel in my twenties, I was so struck by the tragedy of this story — that two people who feel true love to not pursue it for the sake of propriety and their families. I reread that book as a middle-aged woman, and this time, I was like, Big Whoop.
I love First Sonâ€™s kindergarten teacher. I have no idea if sheâ€™s doing a good job or not with the kids, but on back to school night, she presented herself as a former dancer who fell in love with sciences. In addition to informing us what the kids were going to learn throughout the year, she taught us â€œin the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonightâ€ with sign language, which the kids do at the end of each day. (How freaking adorable is that? However a classmate’s mom who is studying sign language wasn’t sure the signs were actually sign words.) They have class ladybugs and snails and monarch butterflies they set free (I think now thatâ€™s it getting colder, maybe they will no longer release â€œwild lifeâ€ back into nature. But what do I know. I always ask First Son how Fred is doing, a name I gave to one of the ladybugs, in an effort to get him to tell me something about the day. He has shut down any access to information, well before adolescence has kicked in. I want to know stuff. He tells me a kid bit him during lunch, but it may have been that the kid â€œpretend-bitâ€ him, mimed biting. I mean, how are we going to keep track of these obscure stories? But it is the teacherâ€™s job to decipher these elusive conflicts and situations, not mine.
This feels like an innocent time, where gym consists of waving a rainbow parachute to bounce a ball in the air. (Wow. I wish. My gym time? The treadmill! the Trudge Mill! The run-of-the-mill, occasional sit-up set). I also love this teacher because she is psyched for this job. Itâ€™s her first year in this position after a long career teaching this age group, so sheâ€™s not burned out. She said quite simply that she knew she was important because she is a kindergarten teacher, that she still remembers the name of her kindergarten teacher. If only I could also feel that self-possessed and confident! Let me practice here:
Yes, I know I am important, because I am a mother. And I still remember the name of my mother…
Speaking of uncomfortable and stupid, a few years ago, I remember my doctor left a message for me on my cell at 11 at night to call him back. I figured it was something horrible, so I allowed myself 24 hours of fun before I braced myself for â€œthe call that changes everything.â€ I went to a museum, had a lovey lunch with wine, etc. because I knew if the next chapter was going to suck, I wanted a little fun before I dove back into it and had a good memory to turn to when the sh*t hits the fan. When we finally spoke, he said I was pregnant, which was impossible at the time but I said, that’s okay, pregnancy is a healthy personâ€™s problem, we will figure it out. In the end, it turned out it was a lab mixup. Anyway, I found my very sensible plan very funny so I tell the story as a joke but my in-laws were like dead quiet when I passed the story on.
Confession: I saw this on facebook. My friend Kara posted for a friend of hers who lost his partner. It’s written by some 18th century priest? Farmer? But I love it so much, I want to write a play where I can include this and say the words. I’m pretty sure that’s why acting appeals to me, for the prose out there that is so beautiful, I want to embody it. (Aside: Of course, an actor’s job is demonstrate passion for the text, even if it’s crap. But if the text is worthy? Oh boy, that is the best.)
Death Is Nothing At All
Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.
Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just round the corner.
All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!
Our friend Lauren works at a dementia organization and she developed an improv workshop for the folks who walked through the door. Through trial and error, she set up a scenes where two people began on a bench and riffed off an idea they pulled from a hat. She would sit in front of them with that piece of paper so they wouldn’t forget. One pair chose “proud,” which Lauren second-guessed, she thought, ugh, too complex of a concept for these peeps, etc. The “yes, and” rule is basically, you must agree with what your partner says and add to it. It is incredibly difficult to do (at least when I’ve practiced.) It’s one of my favorite things about improv, even more than the jokes, because you’re making something out of nothing. You are kind of wading and plumbing the depths of the unconscious, which I so totally dig and find so moving.
Dementia Woman 1: I really enjoyed that movie. Dementia Woman 2: I did too. Dementia Woman 1: Can you believe we raised the lead actor? Dementia Woman 2: I still remember him as a baby. Dementia Woman 1: I’m just so proud of him.
That’s it. Lauren’s patients followed the rule, and the next day, they had no memory of it the next day.
I blew it with First Son. He wanted to run a lemonade stand on Saturday from 12 to 2 p.m. By 12:30, he remembered his plan and I was in no way prepared to set him up (Christmas, cooking, cleaning, kid sick with ear infection, work, etc. etc. kept me preoccupied). He immediately flew into rage tears. Wonder Twins yelling about something at the same time so I couldn’t quite concentrate on what fire to put out first. Luckily, my mom was visiting.
Me: Mom can you deal with First Son? He’s disappointed, I dropped the ball, we are not ready to sell lemonade.
She goes to sit with First Son in his room.
My Mom: You want to run a lemonade stand? First Son: Yes. My Mom: Why? No one will buy your lemonade. I will not buy your lemonade. Me: Mom, not what I had in mind.
Mom laughs and changes her approach to something more nurturing. Lawd help us.
I’m not the first one to say it, but I mean it. This man is delivering his last sashay as President with not a care in the world. He is doing whatever he believes is right, and I just adore him. He has become presidential, a true leader. He is showing his spiritual side, his roots as a community organizer that comes out of caring. Please, with his tearful righteousness about gun control? (Please, we have to change this. Even the library needs to look through my bag now, and I really want to go through life without getting bombed or having someone close to me bombed, please please.) His singing “let’s stay together” and “amazing grace.” I think he’s been hassled more as president because he’s black and I also believe it’s been really good for our country to have a black president. I really like his beautiful wife and beautiful daughters, and it’s just so wild to feel affection for the First Family because that was never in the cards before.
I have no idea who is next, or even who I’m rooting for (I am a big fan of Hillary, she just works so bloody hard), but I’m going to miss this guy and am curious what he’s going to do next.