Monthly Archives: July 2008

Notes on Going Forward

Posted on by

I remember one summer day when I was about 12 years old, walking home from the closest store to our house. It was a two mile walk along the hot, dusty ridge trail that wound like a ribbon of young pines and dry grasses between the north and south lanes of Skyline Boulevard in Oakland.

I didn’t have enough money to buy something that would really quench my thirst, so I was sweaty and miserable before I’d even left the parking lot. I would have given anything not to walk two more miles in the blistering heat. I forgot why the trip had seemed like a good idea in the first place.

All I wanted was a fast-forward button. I fantasized about reaching out my index finger and pushing a simple button which would magically skip me forward to my cool room again without having to take another step. How lovely that would be, to already be back home, and to avoid all the suffering of the next forty minutes.

But since I was being honest with myself, I had to admit that I wouldn’t stop there. I would proceed to fast-forward through the next two years of my life until high school—well, okay, through all the years of my life before I could leave home and move out on my own. Because surely sometime in my future there would be a time when I was not miserable—and here I was not just talking about the heat—when I would feel happy, loved, and in the right place.

This scene neatly sums up the lesson which has defined my entire adult life: resisting the urge to flee. Or rather, living with that urge, sometimes giving in and sometimes holding firm.

Both resisting and giving in have served me well. I stayed in a difficult marriage for many years, to give my children the most stable home life possible. When it was obviously time to leave, I had the strength to go and not return.

Neither staying nor going ever prevent the heart from breaking. All we can hope to influence is in what place and under what conditions the heart breaks open, because it will: unavoidably, regularly, and without concern for whatever else we might wish to be doing.

Anybody who hopes to live somehow without feeling heartbreak should not choose writing as a profession. The best writing comes tinged with loss, with the page edges torn and tattered from the gale force winds whipping through the writer’s open heart. On the other hand, it is nearly impossible to write while coping with a huge loss.

I should be more specific. It is not impossible for me to write now that my father is dead. What is difficult is writing publicly while feeling those gale force winds. The urge to fast-forward, to gloss over my actual experience and move into the abstract, is tempting. There are many things I could write now in this way, with a reasonable effort. They might even be worth reading.

But the part of me that is by now familiar many times over with the withering trail knows otherwise. Going slowly when things are the most difficult—that is the key. Staying loyal to the unfinished thoughts, resisting the urge to sum up, fingering gently the ragged edges of the heart. This is where I am. It is almost beyond my ability to tolerate. Almost. Thank goodness for practice.

I hate to say this, but…

Posted on by

…this may be the year when people aside from my kids get really tired of me saying “I told you so” all the time. Case in point: this blog post detailing how Toyota is worried about being perceived as an old people’s car. They have replaced Sly and the Family Stone in their ads with a band I’ve never heard of, which must mean they’ll attract that youthful demographic, right? You know, the youth who have no student loan debt, pristine credit, and jobs which pay them enough to afford a new car. Right.

I am also reading with interest the nervous reports from the Left about Barack Obama flip-flopping on the FISA bill, public election financing, and other issues. This is being written about ad nauseum in blogs the world over, so I won’t waste too much time on it. Just to be clear, I’ve got no problem with Obama being a centrist Democrat. I just had a problem with the people who insisted (and still insist) that he’s not. Now that he has been revealed as a mere mortal with an affinity for power, I hope people vote for him anyway.

That’s it for me this week. I wish I had something more interesting to post, but I guess I’m on bereavement leave for a while. I am wrung out, and not only from the extreme heat and terrible air quality around here. Hopefully I can get back to my weekly blogging schedule before too long.

On a positive note, even amidst the surreality of my father’s death I have come up with a couple potentially amusing future blog topics. Yesterday, for instance, I met a friend at the excellent Green Apple Books in SF. As I browsed through the voluminous used book bins out front, I realized that there is a whole list of rules to be generated on how to quickly weed out promising bargain books from immediate rejects. The first rule on the list: anything with “idiom” in the title is automatically thrown out. Even though it’s probably the cheapest book in there. (92¢!)