Nelson Mandela died Thursday. And likely and rightly, he’ll be remembered for helping bring an end to apartheid. A pretty impressive stand-alone legacy yet his impact goes so much deeper, his life a lesson even more so now, a lesson that former President Bill Clinton summed up so well when he said this about Mandela:
I once asked Nelson Mandela whether, when he walked out of prison for the last time, he didn’t feel anger and hatred again for having all those years stolen. He said that, briefly, he did feel old demons rise up until he realized that if he held onto his hatred after his release, he would still be a prisoner: ‘I wanted to be free, and so I let it go.’
On another occasion, I asked him how he found the inner strength to do that. He said the long years of confinement had taken a terrible toll. He had been abused physically and emotionally. His marriage didn’t survive. He didn’t see his kids grow up. Then he said that one day ‘I realized they could take everything from me, except my mind and my heart. Those things I would have to give away. I decided not to give them away.’ Then he looked at me, smiled, and said, ‘And neither should you.’
Mandela didn’t give someone else the permission to define his life, his worth, and his tomorrows. If you have lost a bunch of yesterdays, welcome to the human race. You still don’t have to give anybody your tomorrows. That’s advice we should all take to heart and try to follow. Even for Mandela it was sometimes easier to say than do, but with discipline and determination, he did it. So can the rest of us.
So many good nuggets in this yet I want to focus on a few.
I wanted to be free, and so I let it go.
If you hear nothing else, hear this. Let this soak in. Forgiveness is not weakness nor is lack of vengeance, though, I and I am guessing a lot of us have been conditioned to believe otherwise. Letting goes of whatever it is FREES you. Let the person who ignored The Golden Rule or was intolerably cruel or just wrong sit with what happened, carry what happened around. You? You let it because that is where the freedom is.
And neither should you.
A big part of the genius of Mandela was how he was able to step beyond his situation and see the plight of all, of big suffering and little suffering everywhere. This reminds me very much of an adage of my dad’s: “Whether you steal a penny or a fridge matters not. A small wrong is still a wrong. Do right.” What Mandela was saying is applicable whether you have been imprisoned unfairly and savagely treated or gossiped about or backstabbed or whatever small injustice has poisoned your outlook and demeanor. Mandela understood what Viktor Frankl was saying in Man’s Search For Meaning that “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Boom. Mandela choose not to let the unfairness of life change his attitude, and neither should you.
If you have lost a bunch of yesterdays, welcome to the human race. You still don’t have to give anybody your tomorrows.
I have lost yesterdays. We all have. And this sucks. Then think of Mandela and what he lost, what he gave for an idea he believed in, what he sacrificed and what they took. If he is wise enough not to give away his tomorrows, shouldn’t we all follow his example.
ps. Many thanks to my friend Tara M for posting this quote from San Francisco. I had read this before and forgotten. I miss you, friend, your light and your inspiration.
Tuesday has been tabbed The Day of Giving, designed as an antidote to Black Friday which is now preceded by Heart-of-Darkness Thanksgiving Shopping and followed by Cyber Monday. A gluttony of more, more, more, stuff, stuff, stuff all to a backdrop of us talking about simplifying down to be able to spend more time on what really matters. In summary: Give thanks for what we have, leave early to buy stuff we do not need then stay on a four-day buying bender before giving away on Tuesday. This sounds as emotionally exhausting as it is.
So on this Day of Giving, I have a radical idea, an idea that came about when thinking about what to speak to at my 4:30 yoga class at Indigo. And as I thought more and more about this idea with them, I had to share with you.
What to give on this Day of Giving? And to whom? Love. To yourself. Boom! Just start right there.
Wait, I anticipated at least a couple of yogis thinking, how do I give love to myself? Good question because I am not talking about love as we usually do love: Treat yourself to a Starbucks, buy yourself a necklace, whisper affirmations. Love as a gift, in my humble estimation, begins with listening. Only through listening do we hear what that other person needs. In this case, giving love to yourself starts with listening to yourself. What do you need? What brings you joy? What is missing? Where in your life can you play bigger?
To listen, you have to get quiet enough to hear yourself. This means turning off the voices in your head, which is easier said than done. Mine are like play by play from 24 simultaneous games. My mind, on a good day, sounds like this: “You need milk. Where is my 4yo going to go to high school? Why hasn’t my friend texted me back? Is she mad at me? I need to go to yoga. I need to lose 20 pounds. I’d really like a hamburger. I miss my mom. Oh shit, did I move Jack, our Elf on the Shelf? What if I am unemployed in a year? I should go to Level 2 training. I’d really like a glass of wine. Why did that asshole just cut me off? I really need to meditate. Oh my God, I have not yet written a book. I am a failure. I think I’ll have wine with dinner.” And this is like 60 seconds worth. Imagine that 60x60x60x24x365=Oh crap.
Maybe, this is you too. Or maybe you have better control over your thoughts. Whichever head space you find yourself in, I invite you get quiet with yourself to figure out what self love looks like to you—yoga, meditation, healthy food, a Starbucks date with yourself and a good book, a date night with your husband. Then give that to yourself. First. Before you go online and give to the worthiest of causes, before you give your kids another trip to Chuck E Cheese, before you say yes to another friend or cause or party or event, GIVE TO YOURSELF. Yes, I just went all caps even though I hate all caps with the passion of 1,000 suns.
There is a reason they tell you every single plane flight to put your face mask on before trying to help others even though you have heard it 457 times. It is that important. You can not save your kid or your spouse of the loud snoring guy next to you if you can not breathe. And so it is with love, you have to give it to yourself first before you can give it to anybody else. You can not give love if you can not breathe.
Step 2 on this Day of Giving, and I promise this is only two steps, is: Give it up.
This comes straight from Baron Baptiste, a message I learned at my Level 1 yoga teacher training and he hammers home again in his book Being of Power. This is what feels really relevant to me:
Whenever you feel stuck, are unsure about what steps to take, or are ready for something bigger in your life, the question to always begin with is, “What do I need to give up right now?”
Only you know your “it”. Maybe, it is perfectionism or the thing you are so right on or your grudge or whatever. You will know your “it” because you have probably been dragging it around for a long time and it is heavy and it is holding you back.
Easy, peasy. Give love, give up. Repeat.
So let’s take a redo on this Day of Giving. Now, or bright and early on Wednesday, put on your own air mask of love and then give up whatever is holding you back from sharing that.
I love me some New Year’s Eve, and not for traditional reasons. I have a habit of kicking off every new year with a fresh journal, a fresh yoga mat and a fresh set of resolutions. This feels very symbolic to me; a fresh page devoid of what was, a mat not yet soaked by sweat or tears, another chance to follow through on my resolve to lose weight, speak Spanish, add another child to my family.
This is not unlike “a fresh set of downs” in football. For those of y’all that do not speak football, this is a very underrated and universally applicable term in the game. What a fresh set of downs signifies is that a team has reached a certain, rather arbitrary point and thereby gets to try again. How they got there matters not, it only matters that they have another four downs to get this next 10 yards.
This is also why I love Mondays and the first day of the months and especially months that start on a Monday. It is a chance to begin again with a fresh set of monthly goals which hopefully push me closer to my yearly goals which hopefully push me closer to achieving my life goals. Except Mondays and 1sts in December My love of New Year’s ultimately, almost always, leads to is a 31-day bender away from my goals. OK, usually earlier. Starting on Thanksgiving, I enjoy a little too much food and way too many cocktails, indulge in cookies and pies and many of my special occasion foods with regularity. I yoga less. I run almost not at all. I stop playing tennis and drinking water. I go away from my budget, spending and buying and buying and spending and, in my mind, I think “Well, I’ll be back all in on January 1.”
This is lunacy. This is yearly lunacy which makes me a lunatic. This is, to go back to my football analogy, getting a fresh set of downs and then immediately holding and false starting and digging myself a first-and-25 hole which is far less likely to be done.
What I kept coming back to, all day Sunday actually, was that old Nike slogan. Just Do It. Only if I am going to do this, why not now? Just start now. So I yoga-ed on Sunday, drank water, counted all of my calories and basically slowed a roll that had started long before Thanksgiving if I am being honest. And I feel good going into this Monday, this December 2nd, so good in fact that this seems like a better way to enjoy my holiday. In moderation. Still charging at my goals. And then, maybe, just maybe, I reach January 1 with my goals already checked and my blank page ready to be filled with something entirely new.
I actually like to bake, love to bake actually. The exacting nature of baking, with its measuring and leveling and X+Y=Zeverysingletime consistency, suits my Type A+ nature. And I find all of this measuring and rolling and baking to be wildly soothing, flaky little pie crust as the perfect balance for my sports-sports, go-go, rough-edged normal life.
What I am discovering about baking is, like every area of my life, I gravitate to what is comfortable. I love certain yoga poses, love reading certain kinds of books, love tackling certain assignments and yes, those loves almost always dovetail nicely with what I am already good at.
Surprise, surprise. And this is actual awful for my growth.
I read about this phenomenon of how being good at a certain thing actually ends up making us less successful overall in Nuture Shock. It is a nerdy book about raising kids that I love love loved. And their theory, backed up by studies and data, is that we praise need to praise effort not performance. Even when that performance is good. Especially when that performance is good. It turns out kids who are told they are really good at something do not want to try the next level for fear of having their pretty little praise trophy possibly taken away whereas kids who are told “good trying” or “I love how hard you worked at that picture” are more likely to say yes to another, harder challenge. They have nothing to lose. They do not know if they are good or bad at whatever it is, they just know the doing is what matters.
And yes, I thought of this Nurture Shock-Jen Engel life correlation while planning my Thanksgiving menu. We are hosting, and I want everything to be perfect so … I was going to make a bourbon Pecan Pie I had tried before to much praise and my mother’s pumpkin pie which is non-negotiable.
Why not try something new? creeped into my little brain. So I went searching for as Texas of a pie as possible, and stumbled across Sweet Potato Pecan pie from my favorite cookbook ever—My Texas Cowboy kitchen by my friend June Naylor and chef Grady Spears.
What the whole experience reminded me was I, we, everybody is better we push beyond what is comfortable, what is easy, what earns us praise. This is the only way to grow and growing is the only way to stay alive.
So maybe, you need to change up what you bake or what you read. Or maybe, you need to push yourself in bigger areas, try running instead of walking, try for that big promotion, try making friends or more-than friends. Or maybe, you just need to try “yes” as an answer to everything that scares you. Just remember, it matters not if you are good at it just that you tried.
This also means sweet potato-pecan pie is technically good for you. So have two slices.
(Writer’s note: I wrote this a week ago then got scared. This felt really out there, even for me. And then I went to yoga this evening and thought: Fuck it. No really, fuck worrying what people think. This is the truth, my truth, right now and we have to start a conversation among women about why we keep buying into this beauty ideal and torturing ourselves and guaranteeing our daughters will be tortured.)
My week, so far, has included having needles stuck into my forehead to erase what had been visual proof of every tight deadline I had battled, every trial I have faced, a lifetime of battling. That was Monday. On Wednesday, I had a laser zap genetic unfairness from my face, silently cursing my dead mother with every zap. Thursday brought the face pen, which loosely translates to “How you’d look if you laid your face on the sun for 15 minutes”. The whole idea is to aerate your skin like you do grass, poking tiny holes in your skin so they can pump stuff down there. A hair consultation, which as far as I can tell, is the female equivalent of an estimate for a car repair, only more expensive, still awaits.
This upkeep, or in my case demo and reno, qualifies as my job, or at least part of it.
This seems surreal to me most days. My job used to be telling stories and having opinions, and I did that a lot, writing what I thought were brainy think pieces detailing where sports and politics and life intersected, writing columns like this Gwen Knapp bit of genius, writing in jeans and a t-shirt with my hair pulled loosely back in a ponytail. And now I have little time to write between running, yoga-ing, aerate-ing, trying not to think about carbs, trying not to eat carbs, or eat anything at all, weighing myself daily, sometimes four times a day, hating myself, wishing I had worn sunscreen as a kid, wishing I had more hair, blonder hair, hating myself, standing in front of a mirror, obsessing, obsessing, obsessing, hating, hating, hating, committing and recommitting to doing whatever is necessary to look less like me. Failing and hating. Starting and failing and hating. In TV World, they value thin and pretty in women; they value what I am not.
Or in every world, if we are being honest. TV is just upfront about how America wants their women to look while everybody else is saying “beauty is on the inside” and judging outsides. I was reminded of this when reading Anton DiScalfani’s immensely engrossing The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls recently, when his narrator Thea—a young girl—noted this:
The few girls here who did care about learning were not popular. It meant you were too hungry, that you sought something unappealing and vague. It was better to be charming and witty, like Sissy than to care about books.
This is tragically true, or maybe not tragic at all. Just true. It is easy to rage against the machine when the machine feels like a flame thrower against your face. The truth is these micro-judgment of celebs like Jennifer Aniston were not problems I concerned myself with at all before August. It did not impact me directly so I stayed silent and naive and thus part of the problem.
Do not confuse what I write with a complaint. I signed up for every aspect of this TV life. And my motto, as preached to me by my dad when I said I wanted to write sports, a domain inhabited mostly by dudes, is: When you step into the arena, you agree to play by the rules of that arena.
I signed up for all of this, have immensely enjoyed the work at times and have been motivated to not simply be good at this art of telling stories on TV but be great. And yet I am questioning all of my own decisions lately. What message am I sending by aerating and bleaching and shrinking and extending? More importantly, what kind of standard am I perpetuating for my own daughter?
I really hope for a world where she can be judged by the content of her character rather than the content of her cup, her intellectual heft not her physical heft or lack thereof, or at very least be able to be brunette. So I question.
Fight for a career I have given my life to. Fight the power. Pay bills. Like myself. Lean in. Give up.
You know from looking at my week what I have so far chosen, what I have decided to try, what I can not seem to walk away from no matter how much my face looks like I have been over baked.
It is cold. For Texas. That sentence fragment of a disclaimer is needed because weather in Fort Worth actually is embarrassingly ridiculous starting in late November. Meteorologists send everybody into a panic with talk of impending sleetnadoes that almost always end up being frigid temps with a little cold. And so was it this weekend. Why I mention this because faux weather usually turns into an excuse for my lazy little, non-cooking, takeout-loving self to grab dinner, or more likely have Mac grab dinner as a fridge worth of leftovers grows another day older and less likely be to used.
Not this Sunday. No, I saw leftover steak from a dinner last week and rice and eggs and thought: I can make fried rice. At home. By myself. Like everything, this required a trip to Target which included buying my 4yo a pair of shoes and a funny pair of boxers for my hubs and a few supplies for my craft box. So just to be clear, this cooking at home has yet to reap the reward of saving us money. Maybe, next month.
What I needed was an ingredient called kimchi which Curtis Stone (still my food crush du jour) says his Korean MIL says is a key ingredient. This is both scary, and why I am doing this challenge. What if my 4yo hates kimchi? What if I do? It is not doing itself any favors with that name. Kimchi sounds like a Kardashian cousin, or a real housewife, or a name bestowed by a celeb indulging in baby naming idiocy.
Kimchi actually is very yummy, although, my 4yo disagreed. And this recipe was delicious and easy. Rather than bore you with the details of cooking—rice was fried, people—let me instead share what I finally discovered.
Cooking is a lot like going to yoga, or running, or whatever your workout of choice is.
There is an easier way, of course, staying on your couch rather than getting a workout in or ordering food rather than cooking. Why I get up and do yoga and run and play tennis is because what I decided a long time ago is how I feel after is better than any momentary inconvenience of getting up and starting. This is also true of cooking. Anybody who pretends cooking is easy is lying. There is making sure you have all the ingredients, and measuring and stirring and watching and timing. There is also, always, the potential for a screw up. Especially with me. But the end product, a healthy dish that you have total control over what goes in, is totally worth any hassle.
And I love how this is forcing me to try new things. Next up: Swapping my usual Thanksgiving pecan pie for Art Chapman’s sweet potato-pecan pie from my favorite cookbook, The Texas Cowboy Kitchen, by June Naylor and Grady Spears.
Tuesday sucked. Like really, really sucked for a couple of really, really good people I know. I learned an amazingly inspiring friend from my yoga studio had died and then I learned a brave friend’s cancer has re-engaged.
I have to be careful here not to do that super annoying thing where people talk about the challenges/tragedies/problems of others and act like their tangential suffering is what matters. But my heart breaks for them, and seemingly challenges everything I have learned from yoga and everything I have been trying to implement in my life and want to believe. Because what I want to believe is love wins, miracles happen and in happy endings. Yes, mostly in happy endings. And yet my brain naturally gravitates toward cynicism on days like Tuesday. I used to describe myself, without any trace of irony, as a person who not only saw the glass as half empty but as cracked and leaking. Always got a good laugh with that one, not really a good life strategy however. So now I consider myself a recovering cynic, taking this optimism thing a day at a fucking time. With days like Tuesday really testing my resolve.
Because what do I do when an end comes unhappily and far too soon? When news is bad? When our most fervent prayer seemingly goes unanswered?
The knee-jerk reaction is to let heartbreaking circumstances cast doubt upon all I have come to believe. “How stupid were you,” doubts screams into this darkness, “to believe all of that happy-happy, joy-joy nonsense.” And this feels gut-wrenchingly true in this moment, in a lot of moments really. Soon doubt gives way to despair that all of this bending and breathing, praying and bright-side seeing has been for naught, a meaningless Band-Aid on an onslaught of staggering tragedies. This is one way to approach days like Tuesday. Another is slapping fake feel goods like “everything happens for a reason” or “God’s plan” or “you have so much to be thankful for anyway” on the unspeakable.
I do not know which is worse, the false protection of I-told-you-so negativity that I long employed or this image of God in heaven constructing a weekly game plan that includes death and typhoons and schools shootings. I do not believe in this vision of God. And while I used to do cynicism, healthy doses of it, that seems useless too.
What I have come to believe is bad days are not to be glossed over with euphemisms or drown in with negativity. They are just to be lived, and this is why I go to church and soak in every bit of joy and beauty and miraculous wonder each day offers and why I practice yoga because, inevitably, always really, a moment comes when you will need every bit of that hope and joy and wonder you have been cultivating to be able to get yourself off the mat. The belief in happy endings is very much for the days when the endings are sad, when the news is tragic, when what we have been praying for hardest does not come to fruition.
It is when we want to scream “this sucks” that we absolutely need a deep reserve of happy and hope to draw upon. To quote from this great blog my yoga teacher Brooke posted Tuesday:
You don’t need to forgive until you need to forgive. You don’t need nerves of steel until you need nerves of steel. You don’t need to call on your reserves of compassion, or fortitude, or faith until you’ve used up everything else.
Boom, as my friend Reiter likes to say. A-ha, says Oprah. Whoa, says Baron. I believe loves wins, in miracles, in happy endings, in joy and hope and beauty not because I have been untouched by tragedy and sadness and unfair treatment but rather because I have seen more than my fair share. I know what it takes to survive days like Tuesday and it is not hollow words or rampant cynicism. It is the belief that better days lie ahead, that the beautiful days make it worth it, that there really is joy everywhere. I practice and pray to remind myself daily for days like Tuesdays. Because on days like this, I am able to feel every ounce of sad yet keep my hope.
"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but nor forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed."—2 Corinthians 4: 8-10
I just made the most amazing Red Thai Curry. This is said not in “Damn-I’m-good” voice but rather with “Wait-how-the-hell-did-that happen” inflection. Nor does credit belong solely to me as I followed Curtis Stone’s recipe for RTC w/butternut squash and chickpeas word for bleeping word It was in his What’s For Dinner cookbook, which I am borrowing from The Library.
All of these disclaimers are necessary because I can not cook. Or more accurately stated: I do not cook. Not complicated recipes. Not often.
My repertoire trends toward basic—pasta with sauce, grilled steaks, chicken sausages, blah, blah, blah. Inevitably, I tire of my plan and we go out to dinner at Mi Cocina, or we pick up dinner at Dutch’s, or we go to Central Market for a dinner other than what I had planned. And I love eating at restaurants except …
… this blows my budget.
… this blows my calorie budget.
… this blows my hopes of recreating the family dinners of my childhood; everybody hanging in the kitchen as my mom cooked and then gathering at the table to eat together and talk about days.
So I need to cook. And to cook regularly, I need to be challenged and I need to rack up some Ws with tasty meals that feel, well, not boring. So I am challenging myself every week to try a new recipe. Every week for a year. 52 weeks. A 52-week recipe challenge.
Week 1: Thai Red Curry with Butternut Squash and Chickpeas. Source: Curtis Stone’s What’s For Dinner.
Review: This was delicious. No really. It was spicy and silky. The squash added a nice sweetness balancing the spice. Could be served as a soup but I poured it over a little white rice and this felt like a really warm, filling dinner for winter. What I wish I would have done is experimented with a drink to go with this, and I may start doing that next week. So highly recommend. And I may even buy Curtis’ book. I do need another 51 recipes, and I am happy to take any recs, recipes or suggestions from you.
Johnny Manziel plays football like I want to live my life. Like you should want to live your life, if I may be so bold.
I had this realization Saturday. I had traveled to College Station for the Texas A&M-Mississippi State game; my third time seeing Manziel play in person this season. What struck me as I watched him pass for 446 yards and five touchdowns was how much joy he played with and how this joy was almost directly proportional to the amount of risk he was willing to take in his game.
For those of y’all not familiar with how the reigning Heisman Trophy winner plays football, it is with a significant amount of mostly calculated “Why the hell not?” He scrambles, for starters, eagerly crossing the line of safety demarcation. Behind the line of scrimmage, the rules of football protect him. Even coddle. Once beyond that line, a quarterback’s body becomes open to all of the indignities heaped upon other players. Getting blown up. Bruised. Battered. It is not simply that Johnny Football runs. All quarterbacks do eventually. Nor is it how good he is at it, and he is damn good. The lesson from Johnny is the impact his risk taking and running has on the rest of his game—rather than paralyze him, the risk and chance-taking invigorates him.
There was a series on Saturday where he scrambled for 12 yards and, at the very end, rather than safely slide, he dropped his shoulder and took on a defender. He got up, fired up. He ran on the next play, too, scrambling out of bounds. Under pressure again, on the very next play, he scrambled away from trouble only to pull up and fire a perfect pass for a touchdown.
This is what makes Johnny Manziel great. He knows the risk is out there, waiting and lurking, and realizes he has two choices. 1. Go charging into it with a smile, or; 2. Sit back in utter terror waiting for it to come get you.
The joy comes from facing it, from giving himself a chance. Because what this kid realized a long time ago is the stuff he wanted—victories and Heismans and acclaim and the NFL—were not coming to him if he stayed back. He had to go get them. This was a kid, after all, who was lightly recruited and mostly unknown his freshman year. He redshirted. When he started last season, nobody had any clue about him and certainly no inclinations he was that good. What attracted attention was his scrambling, his willingness to take chances, his warm embrace of risk.
And it has blown up in his face at times. It is also why he is here. The front runner for another Heisman. Being talked about as a NFL QB despite his height challenges. An iconic Aggie. He embraced risk, and not with grim resignation or a look of panic. He has embraced risk with a smile on his face. He enjoys living on this edge. Dancing along this line has brought him joy. The truth is it is almost impossible to have joy without risk and daring and fear. So you might as well run into it with a smile on your face.
ps. It will be noted by many that I did not note Johnny’s much chronicled off-the-field dramatics. This is mostly because they do not bother me in the least. He’s a college kid whose worst crimes are partying hard and possibly making a buck off of his talent, which is what almost everybody else is doing. He will grow up. We all do. I just hope he never loses his willingness to take risks.
The sky is grey and dreary this morning. This melancholic backdrop is unusual for Texas, a big reason why I have stayed in this state despite its very limited view of women. Blue skies and sunshine make me a better person, if only incrementally.
This may be why I woke up restless, or this may just be one of those lost days. You know those days when you wake up with 457 goals to start chipping away at, sure that this is the day that everything starts changing, where you start eating healthy and running and doing yoga and writing your book and studying for the GRE and being happy. Yes, mostly being happy. But you can not figure out where to start so you sit at your desk and “like” other people’s lives while becoming more disenchanted with your own. Or maybe, this is just me. Actually, please tell me this is not just me.
What I have taken to doing now, in such moments, is wandering through my stacks of books. I am looking not for something in particular but for anything at all. The dog-eared pages are like presents. I open them to discover a turn of phrase, or an idea that at one point I felt needed remembering, underlining, marking. This is how I happened upon Joan Didion’s Blue Nights on Tuesday, a beautiful and unflinching memoir about losing her husband and then her daughter and facing her twilight years without them.
The whole book was devoured and marked up by me long ago; the page I find on Tuesday though feels just as profound as the day I read it. She is talking about mementos, the ticket stubs and photographs and letters we keep in hopes of always keeping that moment at the ready for days when we need a walk down memory lane. I have shoe boxes filled with just such totems, and after only a couple of words I am reminded of why I felt I needed to highlight this:
In theory these mementos serve to bring back the moment. In fact they serve only to make clear how inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here. How inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here is something else I could never afford to see.
This is the challenge for me, right now, to be here. In this moment. As imperfect as it may seem. Because my tendency is to go back to what has happened and, more likely, to jump ahead to what I want to have happen and I miss now—with all of its joy and pain, beauty and dreary greys.
This has been said before, by perky yoga instructors and self-help hawkers and cheery writers of Starbucks-cup sayings. There is something about hearing it from Didion, though, that makes it stick. Here is a woman with no answers or platitudes only a searing look at what matters when we reach The Blue Nights which, as Didion noted, “are the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but they are also its warning.”
Maybe, it is only in this light we can see how inadequately we appreciated the moment when it was here. Or maybe, just maybe, we can learn from those in this light to …
Soak in this moment. Grey days, blue nights, vacations, crying jags, happiness, loneliness, wherever you are be there. Just do not linger too long because it is only by moving on and forward into the great unknown that we truly live. Liking the lives of others is no life at all.
Is this hard? Hell yes. But to be changed, we must be challenged.
And the challenge is not to collect memories but rather enjoy moments, specifically this moment. My challenge, if I am being honest, is to figure out what I want do right now and do that right now instead of focusing on next, next, next, next and missing now as a result.
My life does not begin with I:
1. Lose 20 pounds.
2. Write a book.
3. Create a legacy.
4. Learn do do effortless standups.
5. Feel beautiful.
6. Start teaching yoga.
7. Follow through on a diet/writing/running/life plan.
My life is currently playing, and whether I fully participate matters not. The clock is on. There is an end. And I do not want to be at the end, going through shoe boxes of to-do lists and realizing I never adequately appreciated the moment.