Thursday, September 09, 2010

Serendipity and Loss

I enjoy reading essays and have discovered several wonderful writers by reading their essays. Sometimes I read a book and find out they wrote essays and search until I find them. I'm seldom disappointed. It's a habit I acquired a few years ago when someone introduced me to Henry Miller. I had already read Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn years before and then I was guided to the essays. I was entranced and inspired, so inspired I began writing more essays and getting published. I had found my way.

A couple years ago, I discovered a columnist/essayist named Caroline Knapp through an Amazon suggestion. I had just finished reading Elizabeth Young's book of essays and literary criticism, found by way of her chick lit books, and Caroline Knapp seemed interesting, and she was. The only complaint I had, and still have, is that Young and Knapp are both dead. They each died too early and left too many books and essays unwritten and I feel the loss. So, imagine my surprise when one of the books sent for review is a book that is about Caroline Knapp by her friend, Gail Caldwell: Let's Take the Long Way Home. Serendipity. Pure serendipity.

I was in the midst of Deadly Fear by Cynthia Eden and decided to take a look at Caldwell's book. It was short and Caldwell won a Pulitzer Prize, and I wanted to see why. Caldwell writes about her friendship with Brutita, her nickname for Caroline Knapp, and their dogs, which is what brought them together. They were as different as night and day on the outside -- Caroline short and blonde and very upper class and Gail tall, dark and rangy as a Texan should be. Caroline was a rower and Gail a swimmer, Mutt and Jeff on the water. Their love of their dogs and the friendship that grew out of their similarities (both recovering alcoholics, very shy and writers) are the poignant threads that shine throughout the memoir. Serendipity. That's how I discovered this connection and how it came to me.

Gail writes that her friends call her the gregarious hermit. I can relate to that. I am sure there are many writers who relate to those seemingly opposite words. Someone who is friendly and open and outgoing and yet spends most of their time alone, by choice, to wrestle and communicate with the muse. Caroline was politely persistent and Gail finally relented, forging and cementing a friendship that resulted in Caroline leaving too soon. Gail inherited Caroline's beloved dog and some other personal memorabilia, and she inherited memories of the kind of friendship that most people long to share, the kind that changes and makes one better, more in touch with themselves and with the world. What more could anyone want?

More life to write more essays and books.

I look forward to the next serendipitous entry into my life and essays that will inspire and fire my imagination. Don't we all?

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Once more into the breach

So far, so fairly painless.

One of the hardest things for me to learn was to ask for raises in pay. In my transcription work, the only way to earn a raise is to work more hours and type more pages, a difficult task at the best of times.

The first time I asked for a raise from Authorlink was four years ago -- and I got it. Two years ago I asked for and received another pay raise. I just finished asking for yet another raise, and am not sure of the outcome. Whatever it is, the past seven years have been a learning experience, and not just because of the nearly 300 reviews I have written for them. No, the last seven years have been a time of upheaval and change and of discovering what it is I really want, and then asking for it, and usually getting it. No one has been more surprised than I have.

Possessed of a shy nature when it comes to extolling my own virtues and abilities, I am a staunch supporter of anyone willing to stand up for themselves, even when it looks as though the odds are stacked against them. Win or lose, the experience is not without positive value, if only to underline the fact that nothing is impossible. Impossible just takes a little longer.

Beanie is going through an ugly and difficult divorce and often talks of giving up and going back, tail between her legs. Whatever she does, she is still my sister and I will support her, even though I think such a move would be a huge mistake. It is after all her life, not mine.

I remember those feelings when I was divorcing my husband, the father of my children. The devil you know, as they say... Then one of the boys woke up crying from a nasty nightmare. He dreamed his father and I were fighting and I was hurt. I knew then I could not stay married and had to keep going, no matter how difficult the road, and it was difficult. I don't regret it. It was the right decision at that time.

Beanie feels alone and cut off, as indeed she is in some ways, but her married life has been difficult enough that keeping all those feelings and pain bottled up inside have begun to erode the lining of her stomach. She has ulcers, two more new ones since she began the divorce. Her married life is killing her and it's showing up where she's weakest, in her stomach. Despite the appearance of being cold and indifferent and hard-edged, my sister is sensitive and caring with a soft, creamy center, something she doesn't want the world to know. These qualities are what have made her a perfect target for abuse and for laying down the guilt trips. She takes it all to heart in the name of doing what she has been told is right. That is a crock of shit. It is never right to endure abuse by anyone (friend, enemy, family or spouse) and deny happiness in the name of propriety, social standing or religious beliefs. Forget about heaven when you're living in Hell on Earth. You may not survive the journey.

I am certain someone has said somewhere that the rough road leads to paradise, or at least to a better place, and I believe that. Change is good even when it is a bit uncomfortable, like asking for a raise or being willing to confront a difficult situation. Whether or not I get the raise is immaterial. What is important is that I constructed a strong argument for the raise and I have an excellent track record as an astute and careful reviewer. I have done all in my power to get what I want and need and it is now in someone else's power to determine my fate -- on this issue.

The results will soon be in. Until then, I have more books to read and review.

That is all. Disperse.