Sunday, January 20, 2013

Opening Pandora's Box



photo by Amy Brandon


"I had diverged, digressed, wandered, and become wild."  Cheryl Strayed


There are parts of who I am and of who I have been that I block and avoid like the plague because they are dangerous to me.  Sometimes it is impossible to think about the person I have been.  Sometimes it will break me to reflect on who I once was, and the only way to keep from crashing is to become someone else.  When I chose to read Wild by Cheryl Strayed, I had no idea I was about to spend a month inside the dangerous, wild places of my mind I actively choose to avoid.


I marvel at how lost we allow ourselves to become without the outside world even knowing we are lost.  Only recently have I realized how starved for affection we can become when we go too long without it.  I would not posit that having a mother is the only way to avoid this.  I know that some mothers do not fill this roll for their children, and I know that it is possible to be loved by someone else in such a way that you feel sated and full, instead of starved and alone, but to be motherless damages you in an unnameable, pervasive way.  To those of you still with mothers who want to pass judgement here and say “get over it,” I would answer that this view is easy to take when you are still mothered.  Some of you never had real mothers and so I’m sure will think I was lucky to have had what I did.  I agree.  And almost all you who read this, because you only know me through this blog, will not know that this issue is not a crutch or a well-wallowed bog for me.  What I have realized fairly recently is that I am who I am because I lost my mother when I did.  I am fiercely independent and alone and just as fiercely lonely and at odds with the choices I’ve made that have made me this way.  Repeated detachment subtlely shapes you into an island of your own.  You end up choosing to destroy normal just to keep yourself from falling into it. 

I can be in the middle of a perfectly quotidian day, and one sentence can, as reading Wild often did, lead to this:  how hard it is not to have one person who loves you anyway, loves even the unlovable in you, is on your side justifiably or not.  And then someone will ask me, “What’s wrong?” and I will have to say “nothing” because “everything” is too much.  

You can’t out run, out drink, or out dance the truth, so you may as well calm down and deal with it, and become who you were meant to be. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

"If the World is Night, Shine My Life Like a Light"



My Two Favorite People in Saint Peter's Basilica 2009
photo by Amy Brandon

Last week, when I wrote about the books I read in 2012, I completely forgot about the six books I'd read aloud to some of my new friends over the course of the year.  A little over a year ago, I listened as a friend of mine spoke about her passion and her new business:  an adult day care program for special-needs adults.   My son had recently moved out to go to college, and I felt completely lost and unravelling in a world that no longer included one of my two favorite people on a daily basis.  He (along with my younger daughter) had been my passion and my calling for 18 years, and I had no idea how to handle his leaving.  My friend was so passionate about her vocation serving these truly special people that I wanted more than anything to give something of myself to them, but what?  What could I do?  After the presentation, I went up to her and asked if she could please find some way for me to volunteer at her center.  She said, "Well...what can you do?  What are you good at?"  I immediately answered the one thing that pops into my head when people ask this type of question: "I read well," I said, "Really, that's all I do well.  How could that be useful?"  She said, "Come read to us once a week."  And so I did. And it has continued, every week, to be a blessing to me to do so.  My new friends make me feel like a rock star everytime I enter the room, and they clap and smile and call out my name.  I am sure I get more out of it than do they.  So if you're thinking of volunteering, and you think you don't have a gift to share, think again, and ask.  We all have something to share, even if it's just our time and love.  Peace to you all in the new year.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I Lived Through the End of the World: Did You?

Photo by Anna Reavis

I've never done any kind of retrospective or "best of" list, but I thought I'd give it a go this time around.  The first thing I noticed about my 2012 list is that I actually read a few more books than in 2011 but still not as many as I used to read before I started dating again.  This dating thing may have to go!

My first favorite of the year was 11/22/63 by Stephen King.  This was my first experience with Stephen King, and I loved it.  I wish I weren't such a baby and could read his other books without having debilitating nightmares.  11/22/63 is one of those rare novels that is well-written, entertaining, and thought-provoking all in one (large) package.

My second favorite was The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh.  I love a good adventure story with a strong female lead.  These novels always make me want to drop everything and leave for more exciting, possibly dangerous parts.  Maybe someday.   I will definitely read more Ghosh in the future.

The Outlander by Gil Adamson continued the strong female adventure story theme, although I would never want to be in The Widow's place.   This was a poetic and engaging novel that I would love to read again sometime.

My last two fiction favorites were similar:  A Land More Kind Than Home  by Wiley Cash and The Cove by Ron Rash.  I've lived in the small-town South all my life, so novels like these awake the nostalgia in me.  Granted, nostaglia is usually wishing for and remembering something that never existed, but we can dream, can't we?

My favorite nonfiction book of the year was The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking.  Considering the brain-functioning level of the author and the difficulty of some of the subject matter, I found the book to be quite approachable and understandable.  (And I was an English major, so that is quite an endorsement.)

So there's my wrap-up for 2012.  My main goal for 2013 is to read more than a paltry 22 books.  WTF?!   Maybe I should become a nun.  Or a hermit.  Or even better a hermitic nun.