I’m a poor author, and I’m beginning to wonder: when am I going to get the housekeeper that so many of my favorite books have promised me? Jo March, the girl who made me want to become a writer, grew up with a housekeeper named Hannah. That, even though Jo’s sister Meg lamented their family’s humble lot on page one of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, saying, “It’s awful to be poor.”
In my favorite Jane Austen novel, Sense and Sensibility, Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters lost everything because women were not allowed to inherit. Then Willoughby dumped Marianne because she had no money. Yet the impoverished Dashwoods had three servants at Barton Cottage!
I’m excited to announce that my latest creative nonfiction piece is now published in this month’s edition of Rivet, the new literary “journal of writing that risks.” In Which Words Come Last, I reflect on the way my mom’s last words carried us on a journey into our pasts, our futures, and ourselves. I hope it reminds you of the power of words to bind us to those we love. You can find my story here.
Once many years ago, when I was staying with a friend, she ran outside to kiss her husband goodbye before he drove off to work. “Wait, I have to kiss you!” she said. “We don’t want you to have an accident.” They chuckled together as she kissed him. She explained to me that they had recently read about a research study that indicated that married people who kissed their spouses before they left home each day were less likely to be involved in traffic accidents.
We all have favorite local businesses. I believe the best are those where we almost forget that buying and selling have anything to do with it, where we exchange something meaningful and the money that changes hands merely supports that exchange. Sometimes I describe such places with words like atmosphere, service, or quality. But my new favorite, Maria Empanada, reminds me that the key is the inexplicable chemistry of love—not mushy sentiment, but the love we feel when we share with others the simple pleasures that give us joy.
I think about death a lot. That’s not to say I’m obsessed or depressed. It’s just one of the two weirdest things I’ve ever been aware of: the inevitability of my demise, of the demise of all of us. The other weirdest thing: that I’m here in the first place, that we’re all here. As a storyteller, how can I not be attracted to questions of existence and oblivion? Sure, I believe in a God, a spiritual universe, and an afterlife. But that’s faith. I have no scientific proof. The only things I’m sure of are the same things all living humans are sure of: there was a time I was not alive, now I am, someday I won’t be again.
I recently heard an interview on Colorado Public Radio with Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and author Sara Davidson, about The December Project, her book about the aging Rabbi’s preparations for death. We’re talking some intense preparations. Let’s call them “death practice.” He practiced drawing his last breath, practiced choosing his final moment, even got into a coffin so he could practice being dead. He also did some things you might typically expect: reviewed his life, forgave others, forgave himself. His purpose was to prepare mindfully for the end of life, or as he put it: “to not freak out about death.”
When Ilona Fried of the À La Carte Spirit blog invited me to a blog-hop on writing, I was thrilled for a different reason than you might think. Yes, I love to write about writing. Yes, I felt honored to be chosen by a wise, thought-provoking blogger. I’m also in awe of Ilona’s talent at creating exuberant beauty with mosaic art. But the main source of my delight was this: Ilona sometimes writes about introversion and I sometimes worry I might drive her mad with my frequent bouts of extroversion. (I’m equal parts extrovert and introvert.) It seems she either a) has not tired of all I have to say, or b) would like me to say it to someone else. 😉 Thank you for the invite, Ilona. Here are my answers to the four questions passed down to us:
I write at home, which sometimes gets lonely. Here are ten of my simple strategies, for better or worse, for dealing with that:
1) Watch an hour of Netflix at lunchtime
2) Walk to my favorite neighborhood coffee house to write
3) Take a five-minute break to visit Facebook and Twitter