Late last night, I came across a post in Salon’s advice column Since You Asked: I’m a successful book editor but I hate my job. The subhead: My wife is leaving me but I can’t feel anything. I’m depressed. My life is falling apart. How do I reinvent myself?
As a writer myself, I was curious to see what advice Cary Tennis — usually kind and thoughtful — would give. This instance was no exception.
Despite the late hour, I felt the urge to chime in, a rare event (it is, after all, writing for free). The responses ran the gamut from encouragement to chastisement. I could see both points of view, but I try to err on the side of empathy.
Yes, nature is good for the soul. Cooking. Gardening. Taking walks. Also, reading history books. I remember a book on Stalingrad. One reviewer commented that he would never, ever complain about his life again.
Back to nature. At sundown, I grab my camera and take pictures. I too am a writer, and I too grow tired of words. Some people go to church on Sunday, but I spend hours getting lost in clouds and colors and composition.
Last spring, my writing job was eliminated. I loved that job, and I was sick about losing it. But I’ve been sicker. In 2001 I got ovarian cancer. Horrible survival odds, but somehow I made it. Every morning, I wake up and say, “Today, I’m alive.”
I’m ten years out now, but I still say it. It’s still true. The cancer could come back. But even if it does, I got my ten years. Ten springs. Ten summers. Ten autumns. And lots of snow. Every winter I’d watch it come down, transfixed (that’s the Texan in me).
I, too, worry about the economy, but the worst that could happen is poverty. Poor, I’ll still have the sky. I’ll have music. I’ll have books. Friendship. My own thoughts. A utopia of the mind.
Most people have to do something for a living. Clerical work is the worst, and it sounds like you have a lot of that in your job. If I had to get a job tomorrow, I’d look for a pleasant place with windows. That would rule out many jobs right there.
You don’t really have to “build” a life. All you have to do is wake up each day and say: I’m here. We’re not here for very long, after all.
My grandmother died at age 100. By then her body was falling apart, but she wasn’t ready to go. Despite her reduced state, she liked waking up in the morning. She liked hearing things, seeing things. In my darkest moments, I remember how she’d grab my and hand and squeal with delight at a sunset, or at flowers blooming impossibly late in the season.
This year I planted Morning Glory for the first time. They were a gorgeous blue — gentle, but intense. I don’t know how they do that. But I think they’ve got the right idea.
On the other hand, the man might simply be a “miserable asshole.” Perhaps this caustic reply comes closer to the mark.