Thursday, October 30, 2014

Two Seasons

The stars were wild that summer evening 
As on the low lake shore stood you and I 
And every time I caught your flashing eye 
Or heard your voice discourse on anything 
It seemed a star went burning down the sky. 

I looked into your heart that dying summer 
And found your silent woman's heart grown wild 
Whereupon you turned to me and smiled 
Saying you felt afraid but that you were 
Weary of being mute and undefiled 


I spoke to you that last winter morning 
Watching the wind smoke snow across the ice 
Told of how the beauty of your spirit, flesh, 
And smile had made day break at night and spring 
Burst beauty in the wasting winter's place. 

You did not answer when I spoke, but stood 
As if that wistful part of you, your sorrow, 
Were blown about in fitful winds below; 
Your eyes replied your worn heart wished it could 
Again be white and silent as the snow.

-- Galway Kinnell


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Thank you

It is of course unsurprising that Mercury has lifted, that the sun has come out, that the jittery mess I was over the weekend has given way to a rested, calm, smiling person that I recognize. And not without your help. I am so very touched by the outpouring of sweet advice and support. I really needed it too. I was entirely at the end of my rope, and it was a scary place because it was completely unfamiliar. Thank you, lovely readers. I am most grateful. I hope you're having a lovely week, too, and that your Mercurial confusion has alighted.

I recommend a couple of things for re-jiggling your system: dogs (or animals in general), laughing, kundalini yoga, walking in nature, sleep, water (or all of the above).

Much love,

Miss W xoxo

Monday, October 27, 2014


"You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting."

-- T.H. White


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mexican Cowboy


here's a post script

"Sweetheart," says my ex-husband as I sniffle down the phone at him, "We love you. You are in a bad relationship. Which part of that don't you get?" I wish everyone had an ex-husband like mine.

I've eaten a fried egg sandwich and had a cup of tea and now I'm going to take my dogs for a hike in the mountains.

Thank you, everyone, for being there.


I'm not quite sure where this is going, but it feels as if my confidence has been eroded, and that it happened fairly quickly. I suppose you can view your life from two perspectives, one, it is what it appears to be, and two, that in fact, the whole thing is a lie, just a forced jolliness and way of looking at things. It seems that the narrative I chose -- the happy, lovely thing with dogs and blue skies and love and jolly stuff -- has great, gaping holes in it, and I'm not the kind person I thought I might be. This has been pointed out to me in many ways, and most of them by people I don't care about, so that is somehow easier to handle. There was the man that grabbed me at the Academy as I was walking through a doorway and pulled me so hard by my arm that it left a bruise. Then on Friday a studio head screamed at me so hard that I had to hang up (and sobbed, uncharacteristically for a good twenty minutes). I'd done nothing wrong and he apologized afterwards, but it wasn't fun. And then the man I thought I loved and who I thought loved me re-emerged from a war zone and has not called, leaving me to question the whole thing. I'm told by a friend in tv news that this happens when men go into war zones, and they witness things that no-one else has seen, and the combination of testosterone and adrenaline turn them into assholes, briefly. But the picture he has painted of me (in emails), of a needy, selfish, thoughtless person who is only interested in herself, who has no understanding or compassion outside of self-interest, is a very hard one to accept and really quite disturbing, shaking really. It sort of shakes your foundations when your foundations are feeling rocky anyway. I mean, if that were true, if there was truth in that, then what point is there to any of this? I find myself virtually paralyzed today, unable to move even out of the house, hardly able to leave my bed. But I have tea now, and I have been on a short walk with the dogs, and I thought that writing it might help.
I am lost today. I have spent a year in love with someone who for whatever reason feels that I am someone I don't recognize. And I've spent a year with someone who goes away and doesn't feel the need to speak to me when he gets back. And I have to tell you, that doesn't feel very good. It actually undermines everything.
I know this is temporary. I know that I shall rally. I know that I have friends, but I am feeling intensely alone at the moment.
And I only have myself to blame. I am a grown woman who has made my own decisions and chosen the direction of my life. I was with a man for 28 years who decided that we shouldn't be married any more. And I suppose he was right. But still, three years, still reeling from that, it feels almost impossible that I have made a wrong choice again.
Isn't all we want in the world as human beings to be loved, to be understood, to have two strong arms to hold us when we feel this way?
I am questioning everything. I hope it's Mercury. I hope it will go away. I hope that this horrible day will be over soon and that tomorrow will be brighter, happier, full of hope. I don't know what to do with this feeling.
Because, honestly, what would be the point of anything? I didn't know it was possible to feel this deflated.
I feel like a complete ninny.

I pull these quotes in the middle of night, they're like things to hold on to when I feel like I'm sinking. Here's the one from James Baldwin.

I think we all need something to hold on to, and I wish it were each other.

I've always had another, been part of a two that feels like a one, someone who had my back and made me feel loved and comforted, someone to turn to, and so this single malarkey isn't easy. I'm not sure where to turn or how. I am a little lost, to be honest.

Forgive me, please.


Thank you to my friend Katherine for  this. She says:

"We are alive for a short time. If we are lucky we create love and connection. Then we are gone."  

One must say Yes to life, and embrace it wherever it is found - and it is found in terrible places...  For nothing is fixed, forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock.  Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have.  The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us.  The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.

James Baldwin (1924 - 1987)


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Joan Didion on Self Respect

Once, in a dry season, I wrote in large letters across two pages of a notebook that innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself. Although now, some years later, I marvel that a mind on the outs with itself should have nonetheless made painstaking record of its every tremor, I recall with embarrassing clarity the flavor of those particular ashes. It was a matter of misplaced self-respect.

I had not been elected to Phi Beta Kappa. This failure could scarcely have been more predictable or less ambiguous (I simply did not have the grades), but I was unnerved by it; I had somehow thought myself a kind of academic Raskolnikov, curiously exempt from the cause-effect relationships which hampered others. Although even the humorless nineteen-year-old that I was must have recognized that the situation lacked real tragic stature, the day that I did not make Phi Beta Kappa nonetheless marked the end of something, and innocence may well be the word for it. I lost the conviction that lights would always turn green for me, the pleasant certainty that those rather passive virtues which had won me approval as a child automatically guaranteed me not only Phi Beta Kappa keys but happiness, honor, and the love of a good man; lost a certain touching faith in the totem power of good manners, clean hair, and proved competence on the Stanford-Binet scale. To such doubtful amulets had my self-respect been pinned, and I faced myself that day with the nonplussed apprehension of someone who has come across a vampire and has no crucifix at hand.

Although to be driven back upon oneself is an uneasy affair at best, rather like trying to cross a border with borrowed credentials, it seems to me now the one condition necessary to the beginnings of real self-respect. Most of our platitudes notwithstanding, self-deception remains the most difficult deception. The tricks that work on others count for nothing in that well-lit back alley where one keeps assignations with oneself; no winning smiles will do here, no prettily drawn lists of good intentions. One shuffles flashily but in vain through ones' marked cards the kindness done for the wrong reason, the apparent triumph which involved no real effort, the seemingly heroic act into which one had been shamed. The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others – who we are, after all, deceived easily enough; has nothing to do with reputation, which, as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O'Hara, is something people with courage can do without.

To do without self-respect, on the other hand, is to be an unwilling audience of one to an interminable documentary that deals one's failings, both real and imagined, with fresh footage spliced in for every screening. There's the glass you broke in anger, there's the hurt on X's face; watch now, this next scene, the night Y came back from Houston, see how you muff this one. To live without self-respect is to lie awake some night, beyond the reach of warm milk, the Phenobarbital, and the sleeping hand on the coverlet, counting up the sins of commissions and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promises subtly broken, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice, or carelessness. However long we postpone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously uncomfortable bed, the one we make ourselves. Whether or not we sleep in it depends, of course, on whether or not we respect ourselves.

To protest that some fairly improbably people, some people who could not possibly respect themselves, seem to sleep easily enough is to miss the point entirely, as surely as those people miss it who think that self-respect has necessarily to do with not having safety pins in one's underwear. There is a common superstition that "self-respect" is a kind of charm against snakes, something that keeps those who have it locked in some unblighted Eden, out of strange beds, ambivalent conversations, and trouble in general. It does not at all. It has nothing to do with the face of things, but concerns instead a separate peace, a private reconciliation. Although the careless, suicidal Julian English in Appointment in Samara and the careless, incurably dishonest Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsbyseem equally improbably candidates for self-respect, Jordan Baker had it, Julian English did not. With that genius for accommodation more often seen in women than men, Jordan took her own measure, made her own peace, avoided threats to that peace: "I hate careless people," she told Nick Carraway. "It takes two to make an accident."

Like Jordan Baker, people with self-respect have the courage of their mistakes. They know the price of things. If they choose to commit adultery, they do not then go running, in an access of bad conscience, to receive absolution from the wronged parties; nor do they complain unduly of the unfairness, the undeserved embarrassment, of being named co-respondent. In brief, people with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of mortal nerve; they display what was once called character, a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to other, more instantly negotiable virtues. The measure of its slipping prestige is that one tends to think of it only in connection with homely children and United States senators who have been defeated, preferably in the primary, for reelection. Nonetheless, character – the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life – is the source from which self-respect springs.

Self-respect is something that our grandparents, whether or not they had it, knew all about. They had instilled in them, young, a certain discipline, the sense that one lives by doing things one does not particularly want to do, by putting fears and doubts to one side, by weighing immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible, comforts. It seemed to the nineteenth century admirable, but not remarkable, that Chinese Gordon put on a clean white suit and held Khartoum against the Mahdi; it did not seem unjust that the way to free land in California involved death and difficulty and dirt. In a diary kept during the winter of 1846, an emigrating twelve-yaer-old named Narcissa Cornwall noted coolly: "Father was busy reading and did not notice that the house was being filled with strange Indians until Mother spoke out about it." Even lacking any clue as to what Mother said, one can scarcely fail to be impressed by the entire incident: the father reading, the Indians filing in, the mother choosing the words that would not alarm, the child duly recording the event and noting further that those particular Indians were not, "fortunately for us," hostile. Indians were simply part of the donnee.

In one guise or another, Indians always are. Again, it is a question of recognizing that anything worth having has its price. People who respect themselves are willing to accept the risk that the Indians will be hostile, that the venture will go bankrupt, that the liaison may not turn out to be one in which every day is a holiday because you're married to me. They are willing to invest something of themselves; they may not play at all, but when they do play, they know the odds.

That kind of self-respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth. It was once suggested to me that, as an antidote to crying, I put my head in a paper bag. As it happens, there is a sound physiological reason, something to do with oxygen, for doing exactly that, but the psychological effect alone is incalculable: it is difficult bin the extreme to continue fancying oneself Cathy in Wuthering Heights with ones head in a Food Fair bag. There is a similar case for all the small disciplines, unimportant in themselves; imagine maintaining any kind of swoon, commiserative or carnal, in a cold shower.

But those small disciplines are valuable only insofar as they represent larger ones. To say that Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton is not to say that Napoleon might have been saved by a crash program in cricket; to give formal dinners in the rain forest would be pointless did not the candlelight flickering on the liana call forth deeper, stronger disciplines, values instilled long before. It is a kind of ritual, helping us to remember who and what we are. In order to remember it, one must have known it.

To have that sense of one's intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference. If we do not respect ourselves, we are the one hand forced to despise those who have so few resources as to consort with us, so little perception as to remain blind to our fatal weaknesses. On the other, we are peculiarly in thrall to everyone we see, curiously determined to live out – since our self-image is untenable – their false notion of us. We flatter ourselves by thinking this compulsion to please others an attractive trait: a gist for imaginative empathy, evidence of our willingness to give. Of course I will play Francesca to your Paolo, Helen Keller to anyone's Annie Sullivan; no expectation is too misplaced, no role too ludicrous. At the mercy of those we cannot but hold in contempt, we play roles doomed to failure before they are begun, each defeat generating fresh despair at the urgency of divining and meeting the next demand made upon us.

It is the phenomenon sometimes called "alienation from self." In its advanced stages, we no longer answer the telephone, because someone might want something; that we could say no without drowning in self-reproach is an idea alien to this game. Every encounter demands too much, tears the nerves, drains the will, and the specter of something as small as an unanswered letter arouses such disproportionate guilt that answering it becomes out of the question. To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves – there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.

First published 1961 in Vogue; reprinted 1968 in Slouching Toward Bethlehem, included in Didion, Collected Works(Norton, 2006).



Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat.
My shoulder is against yours.
You will not find me in stupas, not in Indian shrine rooms,
nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals:
not in masses, nor in kirtans, not in legs winding around your
own neck, nor in eating nothing but vegetables.
When you really look for me, you will see me instantly—
you will find me in the tiniest house of time.
Kabir says: Student, tell me what is God?
He is the breath inside the breath.

By Kabir (as translated by Robert Bly)


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Be safe

My lovely man is deep inside a war zone and while I have faith that he is sensible and being taken care of by NATO, I wake up like this, each morning before 5am and see Twitter headlines that include words like "ambush" "kidnap" "Taliban" "suicide bomber." I cannot imagine what it would be like to be the spouse of a soldier, gone for months at a time in supremely volatile places, waiting and watching every day for news, or growing used to just not knowing. Sweet thing sends me pictures hastily taken on a military plane, in a flack jacket and helmet, or from the dusty streets, men in shalwar kameez walking in twos or threes, painted signs in the background, vintage cars in faded red and blue, a policeman, concrete, a lonely tree.

This worrying is entirely selfish, I know. Be safe.