...I wanted to chime in on the "What's the best advice your father ever gave you?" meme; I was away from the Internet all day Sunday, and so I'm just seeing other folks' responses now.
My answer to this question's an easy one: In November or December 2004, I'd been living in Japan only a month or two, and although I'd just signed a lease on my own apartment, my future was about as up-in-the-air as it could possibly be. I'd gone overseas in large part to seek clarity on a relationship that, increasingly, I suspected didn't have a future -- but I didn't know what my future would hold once I cut loose that anchor (which, like many anchors, was sinking me as much as or more than it was stabilizing me).
I think I had just vocalized exactly that sort of doubt about the months and years ahead on the phone to my dad when he gave me the good advice in question. I distinctly remember that I was walking down the narrow, twisty little street between the neighborhood rice paddy and my new home when he said, "Very soon you're going to reach a point in your life where you know exactly what you need to do. When that happens, you won't be in doubt any more, and the only correct course will become clear as day." At the time he said those words, they struck me as a well-meaning but ultimately useless bromide, the kind fathers are always offering to their kids in lieu of something actually helpful.
Two or three months later, I was walking down the exact same crooked little lane, cramped houses to either side, persimmon trees and bonsai greener than ever against the white winter sky. I'd ended the relationship that had vexed me for so long, and to my great surprise, I'd fallen in love with a coworker. It could have been a rebound, wishful thinking, but everything in my gut told me it wasn't. Every ounce of certainty I had in me -- not just my desire for things to be other than they really were, a more familiar feeling -- told me she was the one, and that if I knew what was good for me, I'd hold on tight. Like Janet-of-Carterhaugh tight. I flashed back to Dad's advice, and realized that he'd been absolutely right. I knew, and I knew what to do: pursue the woman I'd fallen in love with with all my patience, faith, and ardor.
I did, and in less than two years that coworker was my wife. And I cannot overestimate the extent to which going after Kat, back in early 2005, was literally the best decision I've ever made. She's made my life richer, fuller, and happier than anyone or anything I've ever known. I don't post much to LiveJournal any more, and I don't crow much about my marriage, even though I could, but this morning I wanted to.
Thanks, Dad. You couldn't have been more right.
I learned yesterday from Facebook that surrealestate
and her husband had a healthy, handsome baby boy. This is wonderful news, and I wish the three of them great joy as the begin their new lives (in one case literally). Blessings on you all!
I do celebrate Christmas, in a half-assed, secular sort of way. (As Dan Savage once put it, a number of his atheist, bacon-loving friends of Hebraic descent nonetheless sometimes seize holiday opportunities to gather together and act like Big Fat Jews for reasons of tradition; Christmas is, I suppose, this agnostic's opportunity to act like a Big Fat Christian once a year.)
In any case, I think the following well-loved poem can speak for many of us, Christians, Jews, atheists, agnostics, and pagans, and really anyone who believes in the symbolic value of kindling lights during this, the darkest time in all the year. I've posted it before, but that's never stopped me in the past, now has it?
Wishing you and yours peace, safety, love, simple joys, and much wisdom in the year just ahead.
The Shortest Day
And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us -- listen!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
"First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months aren't rare. But there be bad and good, as the pirates say. Take September, a bad month: school begins. Consider August, a good month: school hasn't begun yet. July, well, July's really fine: there's no chance in the world for school. June, no doubting it, June's best of all, for the school doors spring wide and September's a billion years away.
"But you take October, now. School's been on a month and you're riding easier in the reins, jogging along. You got time to think of the garbage you'll dump on old man Prickett's porch, or the hairy-ape costume you'll wear to the YMCA the last night of the month. And if it's around October twentieth and everything smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash gray at twilight, it seems Halloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bedsheets around corners."
—Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
Happy my favorite month, everyone. Now go do something spookly-ookly!
No, I'm not including Kat and the cats, nor family and dear friends. Those all go without saying.
1. The staircase fencing battle between Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone in The Adventures of Robin Hood..
2. David Schow's short story "Monster Movies."
3. Lewis Shiner's novel Glimpses, which along with Lewis Shiner's novel Say Goodbye says nearly all that needs to be said about why I love rock and roll.
4. The moment at the start of a roleplaying-game session where we leave the phenomenal world and enter the sublime.
5. The last two or three pages of The Great Gatsby.
6. Lou Reed singing "Anyone who ever had a heart" in the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane."
7. Osekihan onigiri from the train-station sushi restaurant in Matsubaradanchi, Japan -- all crunchy adzuki, smoky black sesame, sharp salt, and yielding rice.
8. A glass cube, edged with patinated bronze and filled with sand, beach glass, seaweed, and a crab claw, given me by two dear friends after a visit some eleven years ago.
9. The final episode of Freaks and Geeks, with its glorious tribute to Dungeons & Dragons.
10. A late-1950s vintage tiki mug in green glaze that I've had since 2001.
There are more. There are always more. But reminding myself of even a few of the things that make life splendid is never a bad exercise.
Absence from LJ-age in general has prevented me from making my usual doomed assay at posting a poem a day during April-is-the-coolest-month. Seeing a couple of friends' lovely selections, though, has inspired me to venture forth from my hermetic redoubt and post at least the odd verse or two.
This one, I've posted before, though not during National Poetry Month. I have loved it since I first read it back in 2004, and it speaks for my own vision of happiness as well as anything can these days. (I also powerfully associate it with Katrina, which is hardly coincidence.)The Orange
At lunchtime I bought a huge orange
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.
And that orange it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.
The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all my jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.—Wendy Cope, 1992
For those of you who remember this poem from earlier postings and so demand new content, may I offer the following spiffy image link, courtesy of one Lisa Hammond