“Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream abut. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation in which we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. It’s a very tender, nonagressive, open-ended state of affairs.” –Pema Chodron
I was talking to a friend about the word gratitude. It’s a big one these days, isn’t it? An Oprah buzz word. We’re told to be grateful, to make our gratitude lists, to practice gratitude. My friend, who has become this unexpected unofficial guru in my life, was explaining her problem with this word. At first I was surprised, given how much I admire her spiritual practice. She strikes me as the type of person who is grateful all the time. ”But we have to be grateful!” I thought.
My knee-jerk reaction actually ended up supporting her point. I realized I had equated “gratitude” with being a good person. I had come to believe that if I didn’t feel grateful for all the good things in my life, they would slip away out of my grasp. (But, hello, we can’t grasp anything anyway!) I was putting pressure on myself to be grateful all the time — and in doing so, I was smothering the sweetest moments.
I can think of so many examples of this. I remember walking down Stinson Beach at dusk last December. Stinson is one of my favorite places on this earth. But during this walk I was literally having a dialogue with myself: “remember this moment, be grateful for this moment, look how beautiful this sunset is, be sure to enjoy it, be grateful.”
Trying to be grateful was distracting me from being present.
I know it’s different for all of us. But I might be shifting away from gratitude, thanks to this friend. Lately, when something bowls me over with its beauty, or I feel a deep sense of calm, or am truly enjoying the company of another person, I’ve had the sensation “I love.” It’s hard to explain, but the “love” feeling isn’t tied to a particular person or thing. It’s just a general, open feeling, and it passes through but it feels good.
“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
― Andy Warhol
Slow down, you move too fast, you’ve got to make the morning last
Just kickin’ down the cobble-stones, lookin’ for fun and feelin’ groovy . . .
–Simon and Garfunkel
“It has been said that studying ourselves provides all the books we need” — Pema Chodron
When all else fails, look within.
Photos of some small moments from my month, paired with quotes that have spoken to me lately.
“It was possible to feel superior to other people and feel like a misfit at the same time.”
―Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot
“She wanted a book to take her places she couldn’t get to herself.”
―Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot
I missed you since the place got wrecked
And I just don’t care what happens next
looks like freedom but it feels like death
it’s something in between, I guess
–Leonard Cohen, “Closing Time”
Leonard Cohen’s been on my mind since I went to see him a couple weeks ago at the beautiful Paramount Theater in Oakland. Leonard played for 3 1/2 hours – pretty incredible for a man of 79. I was there with my dad which was really special because he was the first one to introduce me to his music. As I sat there watching Cohen play “Suzanne,” I remembered listening that song over and over when I was about four. I can still see the white cassette tape in my mind, how my dad would pop it into the tape player in our old green Volvo. I think “Suzanne” might be my first real musical memory. Isn’t that wild to think about? Do you remember the first song you loved?
Here’s a shot of the man himself with his incredible band. And a link to “Suzanne,” a song that I will always love.
Ten reasons to love this book:
1. The whip smart, world-curious, cynical-yet-thoughtful, determined, and funny 15-year-old protagonist, Bee.
2. It will have you suddenly fascinated with Antarctica — a place I forgot about immediately after learning the seven continents in 2nd grade.
3. The characters are cracking at the seams, but Semple renders them lovable and hilarious.
4. Gossip. Lots of gossip.
5. It makes Seattle out to be a rainy corner of Hell.
6. Semple turns modern suburban life inside out to reveal the truly ugly and twisted innards lying just under the surface. It is extreme satire that you will (sadly) relate to.
7. The cover!
8. You will have no idea what happens next.
9. You will not want the book to end.
10. This quote: ”My heart started racing, not the bad kind of heart racing, like, I’m going to die. But the good kind of heart racing, like Hello, can I help you with something? If not, please step aside because I’m about to kick the shit out of life.” –Bernadette