Weird thanksgivings

My brother was reading aloud from something today that said depression rates are much higher in countries where people have more.

The gift of focus  appears when there are physical hardships that have to be overcome–and when the simple act of preparing shelter or food for a family is all-absorbing.

We know we should stay in the moment.

But can we?  Do we?

I know the gifts of being part of a disaster.  At first there was such a narrowing of attention.  Living in the day.

Later, I got to experience the pouring out of other people’s generosity and sympathy and care.

My own capacity for compassion and empathy grew, too, through experiencing the flood and having to walk away from a house and a neighborhood where so many memories and sensations were woven through.

What about failure?  Horrid failure?  The act of writing knocks the stuffing out of most people I know, including me.  It’s a much harder art form than I knew when I began.  I fail over and over again.

But there are gifts in the failure and the hair-tearing-out frustration.  I pay much better attention to the physical world when I’m writing a book.

I pay attention to the sensations inside of me, too, and to the patterns that compell and propel me through my days.  I always have something useful to do with vulnerability and humiliation.  Shaping characters who come up against obstacles and don’t do well with them is a big part of what fiction (and creative nonfiction) is all about.

Other Vermont College MFA faculty and I find ourselves saying to our writer students that it’s SUPPOSED to be hard.  What a mountain we’ve all set out to climb!  No easy, smooth, happy people need apply for the artist’s life.

Sometimes interesting words pop into my head as I think about my volunteer life with Ethiopia Reads.

You need joy.

They need books.

Want to trade?

Children everywhere need safe places to read and think and dream.

They need adult models in their lives and in the pages of books.

They need encouragement to believe in telling their own stories and finding roots and windows through other people’s stories.

 The other volunteers and I do what we do…we donate our time and money because (as this coffee expert said at one of the DC fundraisers) it gives us joy.

Yes, it’s hard.

The money is always tight.

The choices make our brains hurt.

We often want to respond to far more children than we’re able and the need is never-ending.

But I’m thankful for the toughness because it comes hand-in-hand with joy.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Nicole Valentine on November 24, 2011 at 3:21 am

    This was lovely and so true. Difficult climbs are usually the ones with the best views.

    Reply

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