All I want for 2016 is to learn how to embrace the bitter along with the sweet. I don't think there can be one without the other and I'm not sure that there should be: to appreciate a moment is to be aware that it's passing (this is also what it means to "grow up"). The goal isn't to dwell or attach a false significance to every event or interaction but to remember that regret can be useful. Looking back can still move you forward.
I don't mean in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Wizard of Oz, or The Lord. I mean in community, in possibility, in beauty/art/science, in small leaps and big gains, in new vision with old eyeballs, in taking chances and making choices, in yes over no, in yourself most of all. And by "you" of course I mean me. But also you. And me.
Merry Christmas, my little gingersnaps! Get out there and tie one on.
I read 57 books this year, which is a 42.5% increase over 2014 (don't check the math), and the year isn't even finished yet. I'm happy to pat myself on the back for something, believe me, although I'm not sure what sort of achievement this counts as. I can't swear that it made me wiser or cooler or better at anything. Did it? Maybe. Should it? Maybe not. Who cares? Do whatever you want.
I won't go nuts and commit to reading more than one book a week for 2016, so my next resolution is to read with a more critical eye—less to make judgments than to see how and why—and then to actually write about what I'm reading (as my 2016 list grows and grows and grows). Seems like time to cash in on that valuable English lit degree, so look for Kari's Thoughts on Books & etc., right here at a future near you.
In the meantime, these were some of my favorites from 2015 and come very highly recommended (by me). Only two of them are novels, which seems new and surprising for a person who used to read fiction almost exclusively and would never have imagined otherwise:*
- The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
- Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe
- Laurel Canyon by Michael Walker
- The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks
- Poverty Creek Journal by Thomas Gardner
- The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander
- 100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write by Sarah Ruhl
*I listened to this "On Being" podcast while I shopped for groceries this morning; it's a conversation between Krista Tippett and Mary Catherine Bateson, who's the daughter of anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. They talk about marriage at one point and Bateson says something about how marriages need to evolve and grow in the same way that babies evolve and grow: parents understand that their children will change from week to week but people in relationships don't necessarily expect that from a partner, which is one reason marriages fail (as Lillian Hellman puts it: "People change and forget to tell each other.").
It's so easy to get stuck in the mindset that we are who we are, that we like what we like and hate what we hate, but how much easier it might all be if we could remember that nothing about us is settled or static, regardless of our age; we shift every day (per Wendell Berry, "we are either beginning or we are dead.") Maybe I read to remind myself of that.
I cut through ROCKEFELLER PLAZA two weeks before CHRISTMAS to get to the POST OFFICE at LUNCHTIME and didn't lose my cool. Those four entities are all discrete hot buttons for me, so the fact that I survived them simultaneously qualified as a major breakthrough.
Impatience and short tempers are glamorous & all and I excel at both but my goal is to not use them as an excuse to ruin someone else's day. Working in midtown can be exhausting any time of the year but right now it exists on a whole other plane of insanity, and when I'm in a hurry or not paying attention it's so easy to forget that there are thousands of people who come out here to look up at this tree because it's this tree. That's an amazing thing! And I may just be on my way to buy stamps or coffee or Potbelly or whatever but surely I'm mature enough to keep my irritation to myself while I do it. Surely I can succeed at not fucking up somebody else's exciting New York City holiday trip that they probably planned months and months ago and dreamed of and spent $$$$ on and lost sleep over and jumped out of bed for and may never get the opportunity to do again. Surely I can step around and not through. Surely I can take a breath and wait. Surely I can stop and remember what it was to see what they see. SURELY that's possible.
Never fear, I will remain the same good-natured curmudgeon you know and love today, convinced that the world is a cesspool and the people in it compliant if occasionally amusing numbskulls, but I plan to make a conscious effort to remember that this is never 100% true, or at least never 100% of the time. I do believe the brain feeds on itself like an ouroboros, and that cynical thinking begets cynical actions, that eventually it seeps like a slow-acting poison into your bones, and then what do you have? What are you wasting your thoughts on?