Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Worth of Difficult Years

Dear You,

I've been meaning to write, but I've been on break from work and school, and while it was my highest goal to spend that time writing, writing, writing, other impulses took hold, and boredom set in. There has been a lot of bread baking (good stuff!) and dancing about the kitchen to the old Springsteen songs. I'm poor as a pauper but I'm paid in time. And this life, while I'm still young, is a good, young life.

(Note to Us on the refrigerator door: "Work is good for the soul. Remember this. Every morning when I wake up, I'll try to remember it too, and spend the time with coffee at the corner desk where the story is shaping up, where the novel is slowly unfolding itself before me, page by page.")

Here is something that my dear friend Lauren said about her plan for the new year:

"More than anything else, I want this year to be full of doing the right things: when they're easy or when they're hard, when others understand or when they don't, whatever level of courage or gumption or honesty or work or love they require. However joyful or sad they might be."

I thought you might like this, because I liked it, and generally we like the same things, though we don't always tell each other that. The things we both like--what this man said, that quote I pasted to the bathroom mirror, this joke--we discover them like secrets accidentally revealed. You quote the quote from the mirror one month later and I'm stunned to know what you remember, because I remember it too. Our shared life living below the surface.

But I digress. What I have not much revealed but what I guess you may know is: this last year was often a very damn hard and difficult year. I was elated at the turn of the clock to midnight (or hopped up on sugar from the cookies and the pink wine I shared with my mother and my youngest sister, sliding about the wood floor of the kitchen in our winter socks and pajamas, clanging pots and pans in the frozen air over the dog's bark, calling for the darkness to awaken).

The clock turned. And later, searching for sleep, I could hear my father's voice down the hallway in the house where I grew. He was talking to my mother. Then he began to sing an old cowboy song. Third boxcar, midnight train. Destination, Bangor, Maine. My mother laughs her laugh, and I realize what it is that I've been wanting to say:

The difficult years are also often the most worthwhile ones, in the end.

Think of everything you've born. It was actual weight; it had gravity and it was heavy on your heart. It made a carving of your soul, so much so that when you greet the day the greeting is entirely new because the world is somehow new. Without the difficult years, it's easy to remain the same. Before, I thought that staying the same was what I wanted--it was safe, after all. Now, I tell you: I want to be carved.

For it strikes me that the carving makes space for what is most important: pink wine and winter socks and my mother's face. My father singing his beloved a cowboy song, thirty-one years after they first found one another. It's true: nothing else matters but this. Sometimes it takes a beating to make us see.

I'll sign off now, and promise to write you again soon. There's much to do: boxes to unpack in the new house that is mine, a dog to walk up a snowy mountain, plans to be made for the work to be done that is good for the soul, a new year to begin.

Thanks for reading.