The other day I was at the dinner table with a group of talky people, most of whom I was related to. The conversations to my right was about spirituality.
“Spiritual work [on yourself, I think he meant] is the most profound work you can do,” my relative claimed.
I’m about as spiritual as your average tree-hugging atheist. Probably less so. I was raised as a secular Jew, became an atheist at 17, and have never looked back. I try to be a good person most days, I love rivers and mountains and stones and woods, but the word “spiritual” isn’t in my vocabulary.
You know what I like better than spiritual work? Sonnets. But I know there are very very few people in this world who give a shit about sonnets. So I don’t talk about sonnets, which are intensely important to me.
And I quietly remember my viola teacher in college who said, “Don’t tell my husband, but I like string quartets better than anything else in the world.” She would understand. (Aside: violas are more obscure than sonnets.)
I am happy that the person at the table has spiritual work. I am glad people are religious, as long as they aren’t being assholes about it. Some of my best friends are married to preachers!
But the thing I find irritating is the utter confidence with which he made that claim. I know line breaks, meter, and metaphor won’t save the world. But it saves my world. What if I had said to him that I thought sonnets were the most important work in the world? He probably would have laughed in my face. (I don’t really think sonnets are the most important work in the word, but it is some of the most important work that I do.)
I wonder if he thinks about other work that is important. I wonder why this overheard comment still bothers me. Is spirituality privileged? What do you think? What bothers you?
In the past week I have visited six states and three old/new friends. I have rearranged my house, spent time with Sophie the New Poodle, hosted a bunch of people, cooked, and after that went to an obligatory social occasion where I knew no one but the hosts.
In between, I have collapsed into naps and sat amongst the poodles. Yesterday I enforced a Pax Clause between Sophie and new roommate poodle. Then I went to bed. This morning I have a plain old workday. Thank god.
My proudest accomplishment this weekend, besides Pax Clause, was faking my way through Hebrew songs when no one else on my side of the room did. The words were written down. I have been faking my way through Hebrew songs and prayers half my life. Hasn’t everyone?
What are your proudest recent achievements?
And someone please send me a good editorial question so I have something more interesting to write about. Thank you.
I get it, I get it. Writing is not physically hard. Nope. It is a privilege and a luxury. I’ve got my gorgeous messy little office with a view of an appropriately spooky graveyard and the corner store. I’ve got my coffee cup and my glass of water and a pile of books and my computer. I’ve got citation style guides, some poetry books, and the Scandinavian mystery book I’m going to read one of these days.
I’ve never shipped off to Alaska to remove guts from their fish. I have picked blueberries, with friends, and it is surprisingly difficult. But don’t fucking tell me that writing isn’t hard work. If you want a memoir to be good you can’t just tell a story. You’ve got to think and plan and do the hard emotional work of figuring out what the story is.
You have to be honest and meaningful, to go through your life as if someone else lived it, and then go back and live the worst parts of it again and again. As Anna says you’ve got to put your left foot forward and then your right foot for fucking years. You have to keep going when there is no reason or encouragement to keep going.
Thinking, emotional work is hard. It’s hard to say something new and interesting and to say it well. It’s hard to do the research and revising. I don’t want to whine about writing as if it were working in the mines, but neither do I want to portray writing as if I sat on my candy ass all day and whined. That’s what my blog is for.
And here is the article that set me off.
Yesterday I parked at least 20 miles from my place of employ and walked through a bona fide gale to get to teach a class. Pulling the sweatshirt from over my head and neatening my hair (as neat as one can get the good ol’ Jewfro), I said to a colleague, “I guess if walking through the rain and wind to my warm job is all I have to complain about, then I’m doing pretty well.”
It’s like I don’t even know myself any more.
My class was actually talking to each other when they got to the room. They peer reviewed each other’s papers like bosses. I taught them some copyediting-fu about how to cut garbage words/phrases from their prose. They listen and (gasp) participated.
Christmas has officially been cancelled. I don’t have to buy for DP’s family. Third Sister is going to see Second Sister and doesn’t want to celebrate Christmas until I see her in March. DP and I are giving each other a trip to New Orleans. So now whenever something pisses me off, I can say, “Whatever. I’m going to New Orleans.”
I’m downright fucking cheerful.
I leave you with the 2014 Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog, which is one of my very favorite things about one of my least-favorite seasons.
There are thousands of newfangled cooking tools and gadgets and devices that only a Greenwich, Conn., kitchen could possibly have space to accommodate. There are dustings and sprinklings and twee little bows, all perfectly arranged for your perfect little evening of perfect holiday entertaining with your perfect neighbor guests and your perfect children standing by the table in their john-johns and singing gaily to you all as you pipe fresh, warm cognac into each other’s butts.
What do you hate about this “season”?
I went through my spam comment list today and found many interesting things.
To the robot who wrote “Don’t start off negative or you’ll never find something to be positive about. If you’re upset about nothing, you will end up having to be upest about something. Don’t make problems in your life, just fix the ones you already have,” all I have to say is HAHAHAHAHA, clearly you’ve never actually read this blog.
Please don’t criticize my post as a screenplay when it is very clearly a negative rant that makes me less of a godly woman (see above).
Lars wrote: “Just ordered my copy! Love the cover. Is it weird that I tgouhht that it matches my new favorite dress? A bit, right? Love accessories that enlighten so I will carry it everytime I wear the dress. Congrats!” Lars! I want pictures of you in a dress with my nonexistent book…unless the nonexistent book is the same color as your nonexistent dress? Maybe I don’t want pictures after all.
There was a semi-dirty limerick about a man from Purdue. I checked that twice, but it is definitely spam.
“Burndog — Your blog is totally cahrming. I’m not cahrming at all.” Burndog? Cahrming?
I’d almost think this was real “wow i was just thinking about this this moinnrg as i walked home from the coffee shop to find a dairy free muffin for my wife i dont know anything about grammar but i use a lot of dashes because of the way that i feel about sentences and thats my right im using no marks here to avoid talking about dashes with dashes in my sentence which is so tempting its just about communication and everyone has their own style and taste know yourself and know your audience and if they dont match up choose which one to ignore” if it didn’t come from a totally bogus-looking email address. And spammers across the board seem unable to type letters in the right order.
Or this one: “My guess is it’s a chicken vs egg pnohomenen, Jim. Which comes first, people avoiding responsibility for their own well-being (blaming greedy Jews and job stealers) or socialism?” Where to begin? I find this funny because I have a friend named Jim who is a philosopher. And a socialist. I guess that makes me the greedy Jew.
“It is almost like Dead Space just with cosmic zombies. Unknown to humanity before, kind found in the depths of Mars.” Uh, right.
How are your cosmic zombies doing?
Today’s post is brought to you by DP. When I first met him, he used to tell me about the comedian David Cross, who had a schtick about growing up Jewish in Atlanta. His friends’ mom would say things like “Day-vid, what can ah get you fer breakfast? Do y’all’s people eat oatmeal?”
This is David Cross on the use of the word “literally’. It is unsafe for work or small children, unless you have earphones and no one will ask you why tears of laughter are running down your face.
I’ve been all worked up about real things in my life, so it’s time to lose my shit over something literary. Seriously, it’s one of the ways I get my kicks. (Internal sigh.)
I checked out Marie Curie and her Daughters from the library the other day. A book about Marie Curie (Obsessive Genius) started up my interest in women scientists, which eventually lead me to my current Fucker. I started reading it while waiting for DP to show up at our favorite gyro joint. The author apologizes for herself a bit too much in the beginning, but it looks like a good read. This is not why I’m mad.
The cover is beautiful. It’s a silver gray and has a rack of test tubes. There are dried flowers propped in the test tubes. The colors are gorgeous. It’s all very Anthropologie. And fucking appalling.
Marie Curie was a scientist. One of Curie’s daughters was a scientist and the other was a journalist. They fought against the idea that women should stay at home rearranging flowers. They were denied jobs, teaching positions, lab space, respect, and resources because they were women. They balanced careers in science with family life.
We don’t need fucking marketing departments to soften science to appeal to women. Not so long ago, women were once thought to be unable to study physics and math because it would make them insane. Today women can get Ph.D.s in physics or nuclear medicine with much less opposition. And yet it is not as easy for them as it is for men. And still, we think we can sell books to women by putting some flowers on the cover, because science is intimidating, foreign, and male.
This is not what Marie Curie won two Nobel Prizes for.