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May 2012 (135 posts)
In her thoughtful essay "The Lonely Ones," Emily Cooke writes about three female writers who recorded their battles with aloneness -- having it, enjoying it, using it, escaping it. As Cooke puts it, "A man who chooses to be alone assumes the glamour of his forebears. A woman’s aloneness makes us suspicious: Even today it carries connotations of reluctance and abandonment, on the one hand, and selfishness and disobedience, on the other." Reading this I had a flashback to banging on the door of my mother's art studio in the back of our house, saying, "But I just can't leave her alone for a minute, I just CAN'T!" Artists deserve time to themselves, of course. But mothers? No way!
Still, as Cooke points out, it's important for a creative person, for any person, to have some time alone. "Being alone lets you develop, become strange, be mad. If to be with people is to be socialized, to submit your rough edges to the whetstone of others’ desires, to be asocial is to be ragged and, thus, original." Maybe this is why our culture at large is so suspicious of women who want to be alone for a few hours or days or years at a time. We need women around, society seems to say, so it scares us when you say you need time alone. And I have to say, I get it, from society's point of view. Have you ever seen a little boy and a little girl playing together? It's basically a pantomime of the battle between wildness and civilization, personified. We need the females of the species to hang around and civilize everyone.
Get your brain into swimsuit shape by reading War and Peace as a tumblr-book-group this summer.
"We must stick up for each other against anyone or anything, and stand by each other in all danger." The Rules of Palship.
In case you missed it, what the annular eclipse looked like. From outer space.
How even the most devoted pessimist can learn the art of optimism. (Hint: it has to do with being kind to yourself.)
Need a chuckle? Tech-support-nerd graffiti.
Monday's got nothing on a manatee: The ocean's most calming animal dispenses soothing wisdom.
The Life-Lifter: Some news from the "No More Excuses" department: this paralyzed woman finished the London Marathon wearing a bionic suit.
Well, here's a dose of inspiration for 70-something-year-old me: Tamae Watanabe just climbed to the summit of the world's tallest mountain (that's Everest, geography whizzkids). She's 73. She broke the standing world record for oldest woman to climb Mount Everest, which had been held by, uh, her. When she was 63. How awesome is this woman? According to the Telegraph, she's scaled "some of the most famous mountains in the world, including no fewer than five of the 14 peaks that are more than 26,246 feet high." My favorite detail about this story comes at the very end of the Telegraph's account: apparently Watanabe has a rival, another septuagenarian climbstress, who is currently in the midst of her own hike to the peak. Maybe this could be a new trend -- extreme retirement for fit ladies. I hope to someday be as bold. And as fit. And as -- check out the photo of Watanabe here -- totally psyched about it all.
Valuable Lessons From an Alpha-Grandma
"She Got So Old!"
Every Monday, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors at O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. This week, we're in love with the blockbuster novel:
By John Irving
Imagine a small town in rural America where Grandpa is a cross-dresser, the town female librarian isn't female, and the 15-year-old hero, Billy Abbott, is adamantly bisexual. Sounds a lot like...most real-life small towns, except that in John Irving's fictional version, everyone ends up admitting their various preferences (at last), and all of them perform regularly at an impossibly pastoral village theater that shuns crowd-pleasing musicals in favor of Shakespeare productions. What transforms the story from a predictable novel about private secrets into the story of a young man understanding his identity in the context of his family and past is Irving himself. Warmth, love, humor and the unexpected are displayed by just about every character, even as they move on to larger, more urban pastures. The tone of the latter chapters deepens and darkness as Billy grows up and the age of AIDS-related dying begins, but the scenes astonish, full of the kind of compassion and wisdom that made A Prayer for Owen Meany such a life-changing experience. "We are formed by what we desire," announces Billy Abbot at the beginning of the book. But we are also formed by what we make and what we lose—including, sometimes, those we love.
New Thrillers That Do More Than Chill
Mysteries for the Thinking Reader
But what about life block? I think many of us suffer from this affliction too. Its symptoms are the same -- feeling like you have no new ideas, feeling like you don't know how to communicate the ones you do have. It's that potent sense that nothing can change. You have no new ideas for dinner; no energy to get exercising though you know it will make you feel better. You just noticed no one has worn or sold the cut of pants you've currently got on for the past five years or so. You're sick of the downer coworker you always eat lunch with but never manage to meet a friend instead. You'd like to cut bangs but you're too afraid.
One tried-and-true way to skirt writer's block is the prompt, which is why the writerly online community Figment.com offers Figment Daily Themes: daily exercises, often suggested by beloved writers like Judy Blume, Susan Orlean, and Nell Fruedenberger. The prompts offer great ideas for anyone looking to shake off a slump, whether it's a writer's block or a more general sense of blah. For example, acclaimed novelist Jennifer Gilmore offered a great exercise in perspective: "Using the same POV–first person, third person, whatever you choose–write a piece that centers around a single moment from three different perspectives. Each perspective offers new information...Each perspective sheds more light on the moment while also revealing more." A great way to unstick an inert scene in a piece of writing, but also, a great idea for untangling a stuck personal situation. What if you actually saw that argument from your friend's perspective?
I would write more but guess what? Blogger's block. To the Fig!
3 Ways to Break Through a Block
How to Get Unstuck
We all have those moments: you finally get through your evening to-do's and gather up your book and blanket and plop down on the couch for a nice relaxing cup of tea, only to realize you've left the cup of tea in the kitchen. So, if you're anything like me, you sit there and gather up your gumption and just try really extra hard to move your tea with your brain. It never works, does it. Nope, not for me either. So you have to gather up all your remaining energy and launch yourself out of the couch and all the way to the kitchen. Stupid brains, why won't you let us be magic?
But what we rarely take a moment to recognize is how amazing, how magical, what an absolute gift from the universe, to be able to (even if begrudgingly) get up and walk and clutch that tea cup. How there are plenty of people who would give anything to be able to move their bodies just by thinking. Like Cathy Hutchinson, who has been completely paralyzed from the neck down for the past 15 years. PBS reports how, thanks to a robot arm, Cathy just served herself a cup of coffee for the first time since becoming paralyzed. That is to say, Cathy moved this robot arm, which is not attached to her body, with her MIND. This is pretty exciting. It's even more exciting if you watch the video, and see the intense look of concentration on Cathy's face as she THINKS the arm into moving. And it's most exciting when you see Cathy's expression after completing the task: relief, pride at a hard-won triumph, and sheer joy. All from a sip of coffee.
Watch The Future of Prosthetics: Mind-Bending Robotic Arms on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.It's a moment that reminds us of our own daily acts of magic. We may not be able to move things with our brains, but there are brains out there that are figuring out how the people who need to, can. And if you ask me, that's pretty magical.
Deaf Woman Hears Herself For the First Time
One-Handed Violinist Proves Anything is Possible
Today's Thank You Game challenge is to thank someone you’ve known a really long time.
Thanks to my Baltimore buddies Richard Sher and Arleen Weiner—have known them since PEOPLE ARE TALKING, my first talk show.
Today's Thank You Game challenge is to thank someone you recently met.
I'd like to thank Jenna Hall, Mastin Kipp's girlfriend, whom I met just a week ago for lunch. I could feel your whole heart in your smile, your love of God and life and all things spiritual. Thank you for being such a joyful representation of Spirit in a body.