How do you sort?

Here’s a fundamental question that goes to one’s basic nature, preferences, and tempos: do you sort by sameness or difference?*

If you sort by sameness you like constancy, routines, familiarity. Change is hard for you. A preservationist at heart, you might crystallize around things, in fact, to avoid change. If you sort by difference, on the other hand, you like change and variety, quicker tempos. You move readily from topic to topic in conversation, work on a dozen pieces at once if you’re an artist. Flexibility is your hallmark. Your need for movement can make you impulsive and careless with things and people. Lots of projects left unfinished.

Understanding that this sorting difference is both critical and immutable can be a life-saver in a marriage.

My husband sorts by sameness, I by difference. We could not be more different about matters like how  often to re-arrange the furniture, how long to study maps on the ski slope, whether to chuck or save objects. And that’s the minor stuff. Viewing these differences as failures to accommodate one another or as character flaws guarantees struggle.

To blame someone for sorting differently from yourself is like getting mad at them for being tall or Chinese.

This week, prompted by (finally!) spending some time with Jude’s Feel Free class recordings (I generally read the posts, but the audios languish), I want to think about how sorting by change impacts my work and also to consciously practice her idea of treating ideas as questions rather than ways to solve a problem.

*Question posed in a lecture by Bill Harris, founder of Holosync

The gladness, it arrives

What many of you don’t know is that the most recent chapter of sister-drama and crisis lasted for nine years. That’s almost a decade. Nearly a decade of being drained, embattled, hopelessly entangled, desperate, and full of episodic fury and nearly constant resentment.

Mostly kept out of view here.

I can date my getting to know the thread-people here to the very beginning of this nine year chapter because — clear as day — I remember reading an article about Jude while waiting in the ICU (“The Artful Blogger” perhaps?)*

A few doors down, my sister was recovering from emergency abdominal surgery. A hernia and necrotic bowel. Then she went septic. When the doctor called, he gave her a 60/40 chance of dying and then announced in a voice dripping with judgment, “She’s almost 400 pounds, you know,” as if it were somehow my fault.

I honestly couldn’t tell in that moment whether I wanted my sister to live or to die. It might’ve been 60/40, too.

We hadn’t talked in nine years. For good reason.

Because of her size, they couldn’t close her up. The plan was for her to lose 150 pounds before attempting the final sutures and so there would be eight weeks in ICU and then a lengthy rehab. But because of my sister’s aggression, they put her into a medically-induced coma.

(I guess the male nurse got kicked in the balls one time too many).

That meant she had to be ventilated.

And that meant that when the tube finally came out, my sister couldn’t talk. Not even in a whisper. For weeks, she wrote me short notes in a shaky hand. As it turned out, a medically induced re-entry to relationship was a gift. What better way to reconnect with an estranged relative but slowly and with carefully selected words?

Around this time, I started taking Jude’s classes. I had two kids in high school. Often caregiving and exhaustion kept me from participating in the way I would have liked. That created some tensions that were mostly, but not exclusively, internal. Some linger.

Because of this fateful beginning, it was just weird to sign up for Jude’s last round of classes during the demanding and excruciating final weeks of my sister’s life. Talk about distracted. There were dirty diapers to dispose of, commodes to empty, calls to 911 to make (“she’s at 86% on four liters of oxygen”). There were DNR and DNI’s to be signed, regular care and hospice care to be coordinated, a nursing home transition to make, and should the priest come now, no not yet. Now.

Then her awful mess to clean up. And then (gratitude!!), Italy for more than half of April.

So once again, with respect to online participation, life thrust me into this position of “delinquency” (at worst), shadowy participation (at best). It’s a pair of bookends. A bit of a rerun. Not how I want it to be.

Because this burden of care has been on me for most of the time I’ve been participating in fiber circles, I am happy to mark a change. First with a brag and then with a photo.

The brag — I HAVE FINISHED MY NOVEL! I know I mentioned this in a comment a few days ago, but it bears repeating. First draft — done! Already edited 4/5’s, so edit last bit in July. Assemble list of agents in August. Compose query letter. Start submitting in September while also researching self-publishing.

Nine years in the making (there’s that number again). Ta-da! For all of the support I’ve received here: many, many thanks. I haven’t forgotten the tangible kickstarter support that got me to SC for an indigo weekend, for instance.

And to Deb Lacativa, fellow writer in arms, a special thanks — she is the only person to date to have read almost every goddamned word. Caught typos. Made thoughtful remarks. Cast her wild imagination in and around the plot lines. Whew, what a sensibility!

The photo below is to document how gladness can arrive. It was taken last night while another friend and I celebrated R’s birthday. It’s a tradition for us. Since my birthday’s in February, R’s in July, and our third friend’s in October, the tradition keeps us connected all year long.

I hardly recognize myself.

Gladness and a finished draft. Not an accident that they arrive not long after my sister departs.

And since there is ANOTHER birthday to celebrate this evening, I picked all our currants and will make a pie. Usually for my husband’s birthday, we go out, but tonight I’m keeping it easy: pasta topped with the last of the truffle oil from Assisi and basil from the garden.

Ahhh, summer! Ahhh! Relief.

*This was 2009, but November, December, so almost 2010.

Light and time passing

Just to say — except for events unfolding on the national stage (which were equal parts terrifying and excruciating), we had a restful and lovely weekend. Boxes were emptied! Lawns mowed! Corn on the cob cooked. A new TV series begun. The US Women’s soccer team cheered on.

And now, I’m back to it.

Mini Book Reviews – July ’19

“The Sellout,” by Paul Beatty, is set in contemporary California. The main character, ‘the sellout,’ is a farmer and the son of a social scientist — a social scientist who ran BF Skinner-like experiments on him while growing up. Though critical of his father, the protagonist ends up setting up his own social experiments — primarily by re-introducing segregation into the unique and isolated section of LA where he lives (or the specter of it, anyway). Also he allows a friend of his father’s to become his slave (at his father’s friend’s weird insistence). Both sound and are improbable, but work within the context of the story. The ‘experiments’ become vehicles for the novel’s convoluted and challenging commentary on race.

It’s a wacky novel that sometimes made me laugh out loud, but I’ll admit to missing a lot of the references. Given that and how little I know about satire or black literature, I encourage you to read Kevin Young’s review for the New York Times, here.

Side Note One: You might be familiar with Kevin Young. He’s an award winning poet who PBS interviewed for the series, “The Great American Read.” I heard him read at an event in Concord, Mass. a few years back).

“Less” features a man in the downward spiral of mid-life crisis. Arthur Less is a mid-tier novelist concocting excuses to be out of the country to justify not attending his former lover’s wedding. To achieve his dodge, he takes up every half-assed international award ceremony and teaching gig that comes his way.

Much of the story tells of his travels and on a pragmatic level, we can relate to the realism and comedy of fretting about currency, passports and transport to and from airports. Interactions with his international hosts also provide comedic relief — particularly in Germany where Less, who considers himself competent in the language, fails miserably to communicate properly. Through the narrator we get to be privy to his botches.

Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that the book takes a surprise turn and ends up being, quite simply, a love story. I didn’t figure out who the narrator was until nearly the end. Also an interesting surprise.

Good read.

Side Note: This novel won the Pulitzer Prize, which I learned during an exchange between characters in this novel, is pronounced PULL-it-zer (and not PYULE-it-zer).

“Lake Success” features a NYC hedge fund manager who is also on the run. His astronomical financial success may or may not have been partially predicated on insider trading, so in addition to fleeing a life cratered with disappointment by a severely autistic son, he’s on the run from a subpoena. He buys himself a bus ticket south in the vain quest to hook up with his college lover in Texas. For reasons not entirely clear, he tosses his cell phone and credit cards into the trash early on, making a man formerly accustomed to serving $33,000/bottle Japanese whiskey so reliant on limited cash that he has to deny himself hot dogs at bus stations en route. Hardly the Kerouac-like trek he hoped for.

The combination of delusion and desperation make his journey read more like an exercise in understanding homelessness and destitution than an intelligent man’s quest for reform or meaning. A classic unreliable narrator. His attempts to relate to people across racial and economic divides come across as well-meaning but ultimately self-serving and trite.

The protagonist’s self-destructive choices weren’t the only cringe worthy aspects of this unlikeable character. Seeing people through his lens of the .1 % was really harsh as well. He takes pride, for instance, in having married a beautiful and well-credentialed woman whom he takes off the job market. Lots in here about what the hedge fund wife should or shouldn’t be, with variations for wives three and four. Ugh! The difference in status and wealth evidenced in his apartment building alone, reveals his world view — floor three, for instance, being occupied by the ‘merely affluent’ while the top floors are reserved for the really wealthy, like himself and Robert Murdoch.

The redemption comes, after many more ups and downs, and is particularly hard won.

A more complete run down of the plot and author can be found in the New York Times review: here.

Side Note One: One of the most interesting features of the novel is that it takes place in the run up to Trump’s election and describes the brutal aftermath as well, a story line that was simultaneously re-traumatizing and comforting somehow. It said: we really have been through something awful and it isn’t over yet.

Side Note Two: In my experience when meeting an autistic child, even without much knowledge or training, one can often guess which parent the disorder comes from. I’m not sure our character ever figures out that it’s him, but we do — his over-the-top studious way of teaching himself how to be friendly by practicing small talk in the mirror while at Princeton was one sign, the other was his weird attachment to a collection of beloved watches.


More stunning clip files

Emptied another two boxes of my sister’s. Here’s a sample. Enjoy!

I had been posting these to Flickr but since I found out they’re limiting nonpaying accounts to 1,000 images, I decided it’s time to find another online gallery (thanks for the heads up, Michelle). I have a pro account now but what happens when I STOP paying?

Lately I just get tired when I read about the supposedly six simple steps to do something like this, especially because invariably it seems that I don’t have the pull down menu or tab required to perform the first simple step.

For now: finishing two quilts and listening to a storm roll in.