Thursday, May 26, 2016

Threads, Bits and Pieces of Gratitude and Exercise

Santa Cruz, CA

I'm reading a children's book called Cloth Lullaby The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois. I have a weakness for children's books, have quite a collection that I keep adding to, and this one complements a recent exhibit I saw downtown of Bourgeois' work. Really, it's so beautiful I could cry:

With the remaining fabric of her life, Louise wove together a cloth lullaby. She wove the river that raised her -- maternal pinks, blues in watery hues. She wove a mother sewing in the sun, a girl falling asleep beneath the stars and everything she'd ever loved.

Speaking of tears, last night I shed some. Unbloggable. Oliver came home late after a Dodgers game and brought in a package that had been left outside the house by the mailman. It was addressed to me in beautiful handwriting and wrapped in the prettiest paper, but I couldn't figure out who had sent it. Honestly, I was feeling not a little anxious and unsettled from the unbloggable, so when I opened the package up and found a pound of artisanal coffee, a mermaid sticker and a beautiful note written by a long-time reader of this blog, I really did start crying. I am moved to action and advocacy by your writing, she said. I won't "out" the kind and generous person who sent me this gift, but I am filled with gratitude for her and for this community and for -- let's face it -- the bountiful universe. As my friend Carrie says, There are no accidents.

Last weekend, I was in Santa Cruz with my dear friend Tanya Ward Goodman (whose book Leaving Tinkertown is a must read) and Kari O'Driscoll, whom some of you might know and all of you should know as the writer of The Writing Life. We rented a little house near the ocean and spent two and a half days walking, eating, writing and talking. Mostly writing. On one of our walks, Tanya and I discussed the tyranny of gratitude -- how there's a whole business dependent on the concept of gratitude and how it's unrealistic and often depressing to be or feel grateful. I compared it to the tyranny of exercise, but that's because I hate to do it and Tanya had pressured me to get out of bed, a place I vastly prefer, and go on these long walks along the coast. I think Tanya believes walking and writing go hand in hand, and given her output I guess I'm going to have to surrender to that tyranny. What did happen is that I began the reconfiguration of MGDB*, and I think I've finally found the key, the flow, the whole shebang.

I'm going to surrender to gratitude as well as exercise because it's filled me up to overflowing.

*MGDB stands for my goddamn book which I know is an ugly, ugly thing to say and hardly grateful, but it's good isn't it?


  1. I'm glad you said that about the tyranny of gratitude. It's become cliche. My mother used to say it all the time but as admonition, not advice.
    I appreciate it now because it's bathed in love, from me, for me.
    It's most particularly hard for me to give it when I don't receive it, but the more I give it, the more I remember to give it, the more I remember to give it to myself.
    I certainly know I am grateful for you.

  2. Do you remember that song "Count Your Blessings?"
    I remember singing that as a child and hoping it would allow me to see, as if promised, "what god had done."
    Ay-yi. Me and religion. We never were a good fit.
    Still, I can be grateful. And so can you. But fuck if it cures the blues. Coffee now? Mermaids and sweet words? That can go a long, long way. Those are love which is what always works, somehow.

  3. Yes, it is an industry. Much as Buddhist philosophy has become an industry. Veganism. There was a spray painted thing in Paris that said "Vegan!" and someone else wrote "Eat the hippies." We discover these little gems that help us through our day, and they are profoundly important to us. No matter how mass produced these days. I used to talk 'gratitude' all the time. Now I just shut up about it. Actions speak louder than words, as your dear package sending friend knows. I would've cried as well. That is a G I F T.

  4. Cloth Lullaby sounds lovely.

    I've been struggling with depression again. Last weekend as I was painting a thought popped into my head, "It would be so much easier if I was dead." That's what depression is like. It's a nasty bugger. This week was tough to get through. Lots of crying, lots of pain. Last night I made myself go through everything I was grateful for. It keeps me from tipping completely over the edge. This morning I was better. Still a little blue but the pain, the hurt, the longing for death have gone. Fuck I hate this disease!

    Sorry, didn't mean to ramble on. I'm glad you found your voice for your book. And I so envy a weekend of walking and talking and writing. It sounds wonderful.

  5. I love that we had that weekend of sunshine and good food and writing and walks. I am so excited for your new perspective on your book and I do believe that you're doing exactly what Bourgeois did - crafting a rich tapestry of your own, complete with tears and anguish and love and equanimity and deep, penetrating discussions that resonate. I am reminded of my own turnaround with respect to gratitude when I realized I may have been doing it wrong. Do you remember my blog post about what gratitude isn't?

    In any case, sorry to sound cliche, but I am so grateful for you and the opportunity to write and talk about writing and life with you. May today have more mermaids and coffee and sunshine than you think you can possibly hold.


  6. What I discovered about my gratitude was than I was being thankful for specific things I considered good. What has made everything feel more free is being thankful for it all, no qualifiers, for simply being regardless of circumstances. I cannot say why this works for me, it just does. Meanwhile, I await wisdom and/or guidance on turning years of writing into a book or two. More will be revealed. I' m glad we share the same planet. Love to you. xo

  7. What sweet relief to find the key to the whole shebang, congratulations! What we resist, persists, I've found. Perhaps, just in dropping the rope with gratitude and exercise, you will experience a shift that serves you well. Maybe just a shift from "I don't like to exercise," to not thinking of walking as exercise, but a treat - a break from the day, a time to be with your thoughts and/or with a friend, and process.

    The other day, I was walking the dog, and walked straight into a person I've been wanting to connect with. There is something so "confessional" about walking side-by-side, not having to look at one another, that allows for deep, healing, helpful, life-shifting conversation. Like we say, no accidents!

  8. What a beautiful gesture that was! :-) No wonder you welled up.

    Greetings from London.

  9. MGDB-I'm stealing it, I am. I don't think you'll mind.

    Bless you, darling,


  10. So glad you are carving out space and time to write.

  11. I totally get that about gratitude. My cynicism shows when I try grateful on for size. It's too tight - like I need a new bra or some other foundation garment I would hate to wear.

    You have lovely friends sending you mermaid coffee like that. Love to you.



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