Tuesday, February 22, 2011

That Is Not My Story

I wrote in my journal this morning about feeling holy. I am divine. A holy spark. I’d read this somewhere and thought, let me try it on, see how it feels. 

I felt holy for about three minutes. Then the dog laid his head on my knee and began to whimper. And Claire, sweet Claire, came in, rumpled from sleep, sighing about going to school. 

I made oatmeal. The dog needed walking. Claire needed a lunch packed. Nothing difficult, not like people being shot in the streets of Libya, or the man lighting himself on fire in Tunisia, the fruit seller who sparked a revolution. No, nothing like that. 

My life is charmed, luxurious. Divine. But I felt the spark sizzle out, a drop of water from an icicle had landed on the ember. I was a crabby woman, spreading peanut butter on a piece of bread. I felt Claire reacting to me, oh no, Mom’s slipping. I tried to pull myself back. 

What is it that I’m looking for that I don’t already have? Maybe the holy spark is the peanut butter. And the dog whimpering. And Dad lifting the lid off the pot of oatmeal I’d made for me and Michael and Rob, saying, “Hmmm. Maybe I’ll try some of yours this morning.”
He always makes his own and now he wants some of mine? 
So protective of my pot of oatmeal. Nothing holy in that.
“Go ahead, Dad,” I said, “Have some. I can make more.” 
But I felt let down; another person, dog, wanting. 
My brother, Rob, got up from his seat and said, "Where's the oatmeal, Bean? I'll make you some."
"No, no! Eat yours, it'll get cold.
"But I want to," he said, "I want to make you some oatmeal." 

This is so embarrassing, my crabby unholiness, my divinity lost under a pile of winter coats in the laundry room. Three minutes?

By midmorning, I was home alone, writing at the kitchen table when this shot through me, Maybe I should write about one-night stands and how much I love vodka. That would sell millions of books. 

But that is not my story. I am so grateful for that.


  1. Amen Bets. I love your refusal to write fluffy, endearing but disingenuous bullshit. It was 3 minutes, no more damn it!
    In one Latin American Lit class I took in college, we read a magnificent Pablo Neruda poem and after scanning it the prof.asked the usual, "So what's it about?" question. One of the less eloquent of my classmates blurted out, "Nothing, just stupid shit, like putting on your shoes." My witty prof replied, "We call that 'stupid shit' the quotidian. And isn't it beautiful?!" I paused, granted the way he wrote about the everyday was breath taking, but my everyday was more ho-hum. It took me a long time to get it. My professor should have kept going and said what you did. It isn't that the everyday is beautiful necessarily because of what it is, but rather for what it isn't. Hell Bets, most days I'm wet wood, no divine spark, but like you said, at least my story has potential to ignite, it's not burned out by short-lived pleasures. not always the most comforting of thoughts, but it's a start, right?

  2. Thanks so much for writing. I so appreciate hearing back.
    And I love your story. "And isn't it beautiful?" said your prof. And indeed it is.

    I've had a beautiful day; walking out by the river with my brother and the dog, writing, more time with Claire and dog at the river. Bright sun on snow and water. More minutes strung together...

    It's the ordinary [divine] moments that fires up our wet wood and get us going.

    amen, indeed!

  3. When I heard about your writing workshop at the library, I thought, "This is exactly what I need." However, I can't make it during the week. Do you ever have workshops on the weekends? Right now, I write a rambling blog that my daughters and husband like to read and one stranger. I write about food, my dogs, memories, and some other random thoughts. I was just thinking today that I don't have enough high drama or conflict. Just ordinary stress. Well, I write because it calms me so thank you for validating my ordinariness. http://www.myblackpoodles.blogspot.com

  4. Okay - my thoughts are back to your story. I was thinking about your story throughout my day today (teaching, making food, more teaching, office hours, watching a movie, eating dinner). I had a chance to read some of my current book today, too - yeah! And one thing I was thinking about is that Betsy seems to be searching for something - or at least that seems to be a theme that I get from her blog. I wonder what it is. What does she want that she isn't able to give herself? And why can't she? I also thought, aren't there more choices, or manners of living, than either vodka and one-night stands or oatmeal? Not that oatmeal isn't gorgeous, I know very well it is. But if there is a longing for something else than oatmeal..vodka isn't the only other choice, at least that's what I was reflecting about off and on today. Thanks a lot, Betsy, for giving me something to contemplate.

  5. Thank you all for writing & sharing your "hits" about this piece. From validating "ordinariness" to the gorgeousness of oatmeal and choices...
    "manners of living" (I love!) & Pablo Neruda...

    I have been stirred all day in a wonderful way and know I must write more about this.

    Thank you!