I usually avoid making resolutions—they never seem to stick so why start out with failure?—but this year I've decided to give resolutions another try. To explain this change of heart, I need to share a brief anecdote about our two cats:
Every morning at 6 am, kittenish Safi springs from atop our headboard and lands directly beside my face. She does this over and over until I get out of bed and go downstairs to feed her. There she circles my legs, meowing incessantly, as I peel off the top of the cat food can. I empty the contents into a dish just in time for stately plump Artemis, our giant Mainecoon, to rumble in and claim it for herself. In the few seconds it takes me to peel the lid off the second can, Safi loses her mind. She meows, claws, hops, skitters, and sprints, flinging herself around like an MDMA-soaked interpretive dancer until I put the dish down, and she plunges her face into it.
I used to find this routine annoying, not only because Safi would headbutt my hand out of the way, spattering me with oozy cat food gravy, but because the sheer mania seemed unjustified. Why did Safi act like she had never eaten before in her life and might never again? “Just relax!!” I’d shout, with disproportionate dad rage.
And then one day it occurred to me that as far as we know cats have no sense of time, and so, in a way, every meal is the only meal of Safi's life. Of course she's going to freak out. In her excited, carpe diem brain, this is her one Alexander Hamilton shot.
It made me think about the late great Mary Oliver, whose poetry I have turned to over the years for pleasure, awe, and inspiration. When I read Mary Oliver, I'm reminded of just how much I love language, both as a reader and a writer. And yet, despite this, I'll often spend days in a row without writing a single word. Why?
I'm not about to solve the illogic of the human heart—the ease and frequency with which we get in the way of our own happiness—but I’d like to outmaneuver it. So this year, I’ve resolved to write every day, even if it's only a couple sentences. They don't have to be great. They don't even have to be good.
2019 may officially be Year of the Pig, but for me it’s Year of the Housecat. More trying, less doubting. More passion, less perfectionism. More now, less tomorrow. I hope it will be for you too.
Save the Date: March 8, 2019
I am occasionally reprimanded by friends (Hi, Diane!) for not giving enough advance notice about upcoming readings, so I'm letting you know now that I'll be doing a reading on Friday, March 8th at 7 pm.
It's part of the Spring reading series at the Hudson Valley Writers Center, a place I discovered last fall when my wife and I saw Anne Carson read there. The venue is charming and cozy: an old railway station converted into a writers space. You just take the Hudson line of the MTA north from Grand Central to the Sleepy Hollow station, a thirty-five minute ride with a scenic river view.
I'll be joined by the wonderful novelist and memoirist, Danielle Trussoni (bestselling author of Falling Through the Earth, Angelology, Angelopolis, and The Fortress). For those of you who can make it, I'll be offering a sneak peek at my novel-in-progress—which I've never shared in public before! If that doesn't entice you, there are also homemade chocolate chip cookies on the lineup...
Things I'm reading that you might like
Less: A Novel
Andrew Sean Greer
Yes, I know, I'm way behind. I finally read Less, and I can't stop raving about this beautiful, funny, moving novel. It's one of those books that, if you're in a terrible mood, will gradually pull you out of it, moment by moment, laugh by laugh, insight by insight. Here's one of my favorite passages:
“Was he testing to see how elastic love could be? Was he simply a man who had gladly given his youth to a man in midlife and now, nearing midlife himself, wanted back the fortune he squandered? Wanted sex and love and folly? The very things Robert saved him from all those years ago? As for the good things, as for safety, comfort, love—Less found himself smashing them to bits. Perhaps he did not know what he was doing; perhaps it was a kind of madness. But perhaps he did know. Perhaps he was burning down a house in which he no longer wanted to live.”
365 Tao: Daily Meditations
I was skeptical of this book. My wife received it as a gift and the cover made it look like bathroom reading from a spa. I'm not even sure why I first dipped into it, but I'm glad I did, because it's fantastic.
I expected palliatives and empty inspirational bullshit. Nope. It's smart and complicated and surprisingly relevant. And it's inspiring in its own way, like having a long, winding conversation with an old friend who just returned from a journey overseas.
Thanks for reading. I hope 2019 is off to a great start for you!