There was a dark time in my life when very little delight seeped into my psyche.
I finally watched “Black Swan” last night, and aside from the fact that I thought it was a classier version of “Showgirls,” I could empathize with that very strain of trying to be perfect, of trying to be something that was impossible, of being told that I had to “let it go,” but being scared to let it go, because my insides were full of aged fermented sadness and rage and unfulfilled desire.
And then one day, I had to let it go, because my insides overflowed, and what came out was terrifying and liberating and broken and I had to put myself together, and I remember the Hemingway quote where he said that everyone will be broken, but the broken parts will be stronger, and how I have felt a healed bone in the body of the love of my life, and how that part was knobby but thicker and how it will never be broken in the same spot, and how beautiful that knobby healed spot was to me. He doesn’t know exactly why I keep feeling the knot in his collarbone, but that is why–I am so in awe of that strength.
And now years and years later I realize that perfection lies in the imperfections, like a vinyl record’s pop and crackle. But I didn’t realize it then, I gripped onto expectations, and derided myself for falling short, and I broke.
The thing is, I had to go to the underground to come back. To be happy. To be filled with joy. I used to say that morose people were deeper, because they saw something that the rest of the world did not…but in hindsight, it’s the happy people who are more complex and wise. It is hard to be happy in this world, and happiness requires deep strength, and sometimes lots of strategy.
As a writer, I am responsible for a group of characters. A story has to be about unfulfilled desire, and so I must inflict a great deal of challenge and unhappiness upon them…but in the end, they must still engage in delight, for their benefit and for the benefit of the reader. (Seriously, do you want to read 400 pages of grim torture? I think all readers need a little bit of relief).
So every once in awhile, I make a list of things that delight me. And these are delights that I vow to share with my characters…and thus, with my readers. Here goes my list. What are yours?
watching snow fall * hearing a city go quiet under snow * a full moon * akamaru modern ramen w braised pork belly + a boiled egg at Ippudo * birthday cake truffles from Momofuku Milk Bar * dachshunds sleeping with their tongues hanging out * cool foggy air on my face * crocuses after a long cold winter * urban hawks * forsythia under grey skies * foggy san francisco sunsets * cotton candy pink clouds * fall foliage * sweater weather without a sweater * a small child remembering my name * walking in manhattan * riding the 7 * when life choreographs to music * growing my own food * farmers markets * when old friends visit me in a new town * good practical jokes * practical jokes gone slightly awry * hugs * blue walls * creative sidewalk graffiti * jia jiang myun * when words pour out of my head onto paper in pitch perfect succession * when while i am writing my own characters surprise me * makeup * funny signs that don’t intend to be funny * open houses * the sounds of a city * open markets * urban wild turkeys * mariage freres tea * good sheets * finding a good sale * people watching * sleeping until i wake up on my own * lavender * lillet blanc * long car drives * long walks * the whimsy of my husband * a glass of water on a hot day * ice storms from inside a warm home * hot apple cider on a cold day * snow laced tree branches * tulips * tuberoses * Dominican food * Korean food * doughnuts * watermelon * Central Park * snowmen * Waffle House * New York City * carbs * wind on my face * AC on a hot day * feeling like someone is really listening to me * the company of true friends * trying something new and discovering i like it * kind gestures * random, well-timed compliments * loyalty * Olympics award ceremonies * acceptance letters * sudden understanding of something misunderstood in my past * voluntary hugs from small children * a book i cannot put down * the sea, a lake, a river, an ocean * the moment the plane touches down *
I’ll stop there for now. What are yours?