Dearest Richard.

January has been a wild animal. Like you, I think it is an absurd time to mark the beginning of a New Year. I think an elder should begin walking the neighborhood every day beginning mid-February. When the first tiny tip of a green blade of crocus pokes through, she lets us know. Singing would be nice. Then we begin again.

It is odd that you should be writing now about selfies and beauty and art. Perhaps not odd at all. Serendipity and all that. It is all a matter of perception, isn’t it? How we choose to (subconsciously) draw lines to connect things. I have been reading a poem each night from the A Year with Rilke. Last night I discovered that somehow I have missed a night. I was on the wrong page. So I wound up reading “Not by Grasping” from Sonnets to Orpheus 1, which hit me in the chest with relevance.

“Song, as you teach us, is not a grasping,
not a seeking for some final consummation.
To sing is to be. Easy for a god.
But when do we simply be? […]

And now you write:

I studied a text by Heinrich von Kleist (one of my favourite irrationalists) called Über das Marionettentheater (On the Puppet Theatre), the essence of which is that humans are basically incapable of gracefulness because they are always thinking, whereas puppets will always be graceful because they have no thought.

This is really interesting. I have never heard of von Kleist. But I disagree. I do believe humans are capable of grace. Much more so than marionettes, with their stuttering movements that so perceptibly demonstrate the “push and pull” of external motivations. On the other hand, like you, I would agree that we lose our grace when we become self-conscious. Like you described:

Thus, if we catch a glimpse of ourselves (in a mirror, for example) and like what we see, if we try to consciously repeat that pose, we will never be able to recreate it because we’re consciously thinking about it.

tip2And I think there might be even more to it than that. When we glimpse ourselves in that way, we are unaware that we are seeing ourselves. We are looking objectively at the world (in the best sense), and seeing with the compassionate – or even admiring – eye that we look at others with. When we recognize ourselves, we turn on ourselves. With the conscious “posing” comes the conscious judgement. Or vice versa. We wilt under judgement.

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Early morning therapy session with the smartphone.

Funny you should bring up selfies. I have been thinking about them a lot lately. Carolee and I have been discussing them. I have been talking to B. about my issues with them. But I’m beginning to agree with them: that selfies can be tools for self-compassion. This has been on my mind because, for the last six months, I’ve been disappointed and shamed by images of myself. I wasn’t even this insecure about myself when I was 13.

I have ever been a “lenselus“, but seeing photos of myself is painful lately. I think often of my grandmother who told me that every time she glimpsed herself in a mirror she was taken aback. She would see an old woman, and only slowly realise that she was “the old woman”. Her mind was utterly disconnected from the image of her body. And it happened almost daily.

I am wondering if it was a disconnect from her body, or just its image. Do you think blind people deal with their ageing bodies differently than sighted people?

I’ve been forcing myself to look at pictures of myself. To take selfies. (Not that I do anything with them.) It’s not an artistic practice, but a form of therapy, I guess. A meditation in acceptance and forgiveness. I am still self-conscious about it, but remind myself that the judgement we often make of people who take selfies is maybe unfair. I would feel much more uncomfortable and narcissistic asking E. to take a photo of me for my website or Instagram feed, for example.

I also think selfies are a feminist issue. And by that, I don’t mean a women’s issue. Feminists are aware of the complex issues of objectification: male and female. And our deeply ambivalent relationship with it. I suspect you have this ambivalence, too? They talk all the time about how our culture presents men as the adventurers and women as the prize. But I have known and do know many men who would like to be the prize: the object that represents value and beauty. It’s funny how our culture won’t really acknowledge that, and how it punishes men by labelling that desire as “effeminate”. The patriarchy smacking everyone down with whatever form of shame will keep us in line in the tacit framework of the established hierarchy and prescribed forms of personal value. (You’ll have to forgive me for the pompousness of that sentence).

(I just looked up the definition of effeminate and is says: “[…] having characteristics as typical of a woman; unmanly: he lisps and his handshake is effeminate.” Lisps? WTF?!)

At any rate. I do not have an Arctic to sit with in meditative moments. I envy you that. But I do have the path along the lake and this morning (for the first time this year) I was able do my morning run. My knee has healed. And the gathering of crows in the grove this morning was like a stadium of cheering supporters.

Not that they knew it.

I’m working my way back. Perhaps now back to working, too. There is a play knocking around my head, with trumpets and drums. I’m going to try to attend it before it moves on.

Much love to you. I hope this weekend is – Wait. What happens on March 21st?

XO
Ren

P.S. Regarding you comment about comments. I don’t actually have a lot of traffic to my blog. I am okay with that: terrified of trolls. Even when people leave really beautiful comments, my first thought is that they are being ironic. So, as they say, it’s all good.


This is one of a series of weekly open letters to friends – friends who write back to me on their own blogs. Please click through.  Category: Correspondence.

If you’d like to catch up, read the letters in chronological order here.

 

 

 

Good morning, Carolee!

I’m sitting down to write a bit late this morning. The old lady is here, and that means I used extra time to walk her this morning. It rained last night, and the road was a sheet of ice. We walked slowly. The world was still inky, and the sparkling asphalt was disorienting.  I lose depth perception looking at the “stars”. Maybe this is nature’s  compensation since the sky is overcast?

Seems every year this sneaks up on me: Advent. But, reading your letter, I had wondered that the farm animals were still out where you are. I haven’t seen a cow in weeks here. Yesterday we got into the car after the run and our breath fogged the windshield, then froze. We scraped it and made it snow inside the car.

It takes extra effort to keep running in this kind of weather. The bedroom is cold in the mornings, and it’s difficult to pull myself out of it. Also, my stupidity in wearing the wrong winter shoes the past two weeks has wreaked havoc on my knee. I’m off running for a few days, to do the balancing exercises each morning. I have lazy gluts. Literally: a lazy ass.

You asked about synchronicity. Yes. And I’m actually guilty of magic thinking now and then, too. Last weekend I interviewed a woman for the podcast (one that will air next month), and she was talking about how the poetry community was small and everyone knows one another other. She didn’t know me. Nor I her. After the interview we chatted briefly about why we write, why we seek to publish when we aren’t going to be rich or famous. I said that I do it because, on a rare occasion, I get a letter out of the blue from someone who was touched by my writing. Someone that I connected with through my writing.

Later that night, feeling disconnected and discouraged because the “poetry community” is small and “every one knows one other”, and  I wondered if I was lying to myself about why I write.

The next morning I woke to a unexpected message from a tenuous connection on Facebook: someone who’d read one of my books and reached out to tell me what it meant to them.

I wasn’t lying to myself. But I had to put the question into the universe – and got an answer: a verification. Synchronicity. Magic Thinking. Who knows: it does matter, though. Doesn’t it?  We find meaning where we find it. I’m grateful for that.

I love what you said about the farm animals and their collective wisdom: how you didn’t need to turn it into a lesson for humanity. I was thinking about when I took my MA and Ted Deppe told me to just let the fox be the fox, (I think he was paraphrasing W.S. Merwin?). I was working too hard at interpreting everything for everyone, instead of just holding up a frame for readers to isolate and find meaning themselves. I can be a pedant.

I’m thinking now that maybe this kind of “letting it be” is the key to not writing sentimental poetry? Or kitsch. To let the reader’s appreciation, the poet’s attention speak for itself? Maybe no metaphor needs to be intellectualized to be understood? It makes me think about food photos, and selfies and the real value – maybe even the impulse – for our cultural compulsion to Istagram the details of our lives?

When it doesn’t slide into kitsch, that is.

I read a great definition of kitsch as being the product of two tears: one for the experience, one for the self-congratulatory awareness for having the experience. (Denis Dutton expounding upon Milan Kundera’s definition).

I think, as a poet, sometimes it’s difficult for me to stop myself from wandering towards that second tear. Does that mean kitsch is a product of the ego? Or just insecurity? Is it a sign of faithlessness in regard to the world itself being enough?

What I’m getting at, is the haibun-writing is making me conscious of my own intrusion into the poem. The over-wrought lines I keep writing and deleting. There is a necessary wu wei in nature writing, isn’t there?

I hope that, by the time you read this, you will have let your body lead you out of this post-election hurt. You wrote: “I’m extremely uncomfortable in it, but when I put it in motion (through sex, running, hiking, etc.), it takes vulnerability in stride far easier than my mind does.”

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My second year students, sending love because I asked them to.

Activism. Isn’t the actor then so entangled with the cause that self-care is really not an option, but a requisite? You said it: the body overcomes vulnerability before the mind does.

Have you begun writing again?

Last week, I learned that some of my students consider themselves “Trump supporters”. It surprised me, because most Norwegians are quiet about their right-leaning attitudes.

It freaked me out, actually.

And it made me more certain than ever that the separation of the corporal and the intellect is truly the root of every evil. It’s why all the studies show that getting people to talk face-to-face, breaks down bigotry in a way nothing else ever will. A linguistically relayed concept has to be replaced by a body that we experience in the sensual world.

It brings me to Orr’s phrase to describe poetry: “the eros of langauge”. I think poetry is necessary because it bridges the gap between the corporal and the intellectual in a way no other writing can. Why we say novels that tell the truth are “poetic”. When we speak poetry, sing it, it becomes corporal. It’s funny that when we sing the word “love”, we are not supposed to sing “luhv”, with its stingy and clenched vowell, but we’re supposed to open the mouth, sing “lahv”- with a wide-open palate. Because it hits us in the gut with its beauty then. Openness.

And counter-wise (which should be a word),  we can infect our minds with the routine that reinforces ugliness: I believe writing or drawing words and images of hate can infect the body. Our stories infect us as self-fulfilling prophecies. Last week I found a piece of paper on which a student had been practicing drawing swastikas. Right alongside bunny rabbits.

We’re obligated to be activists.

I get an image of Anne Sullivan tracing and retracing the letters into Hellen Keller’s hand. Suddenly all those photos with teenagers making hearts with their hands don’t seem silly at all.

Looking forward to hearing from you!
XO Ren


This is one of a series of weekly open letters to friends – friends who write back to me on their own blogs. Please click through.  Category: Correspondence.

If you’d like to catch up, read the letters in chronological order here.

 

 

 

Dear Di,

 

I’m glad you’re beginning to recover from the nasty cold. I think our bodies often take the lead to slow us down when we need to recalibrate. I’ve been sleeping 9 and 10 hours a day the past week. Funny that the body needs to recover with sleep after a depression. I still half-expect, when the fog lifts, to have the energy of a calf let out of the barn in spring. But no.

I dragged myself out of bed this morning and ran 6K on a sore ankle. The marathon is in 11 weeks. At this point, I really need my mind and body to make friends. Although right now, in the bibliotekette, with the space heater blowing on my ankle, the rosemary oil burning, and the red curtains pulled, I am peaceful. Optimistic, even. The sun will be up soon, and the skies are clear. There is a sparrow calling outside the window now, actually. Which reminds me that I need to check the feeder on the porch. The magpies eat from it. Greedy bullies.

I can’t say I enjoy running in the cold, but I have to admit that the range of temperatures on these mornings brings me into my body. After running, I peel off the fleece tights and do the 15 minute yoga routine; my thighs are splotched with swashes of bright red goose bumps.

Then a hot shower, and stepping out into the cold again to towel off and dress. When we moved into this house, E. bought me slippers. I haven’t had a pair of slippers since I lived with my grandparents. Slippers were necessary then. One of the rules. I find them comforting now, slipping into them every morning before I head into the kitchen to make coffee. Flop, flop, flop.

And there is something about a space heater. It brings with it all the ambivalence of nostalgia. One particular, tiny, cold two-room house in the desert, and the tiny, bright-red filaments of the metal box that kept us warmish. I slept on an army cot in the bedroom. (I remember that once I was sitting on the edge of the sink to brush my teeth, and the whole thing ripped out of the wall and water flooded the bedroom, cot and all. I got in trouble. But that’s a digression, so before that…) 

The little space heater: warming one side of the body at a time, while I ate TV dinners in front of a portable television (rabbit ears decked with aluminum foil). Star Trek. Gilligan’s Island. As the Norwegian’s say, I was a “sofa pig”. But on a kind of rotisserie. My left side would get red and overheated. Then cold, when I turned to warm the right side.

This tiny bibliotekette is like that: Like soup from a microwave; spots of cold, spots of hot. Like the currents of a natural spring in the desert. The heater blowing hot air on my right ankle, while the left leg is chilled. I cross my legs. Then back again. I think it keeps me aware. Not that I think comfort is overrated, but there is a kind of emotional comfort in being aware.

At any rate, I am glad you found a source of accountability for finishing the book. A regular jolt of awareness to keep you moving. When the book is finally complete, it will be rich with all the life you’ve lived meanwhile. The lulls will demonstrate their purpose in resonance then, I’m sure.

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On my way to the day job: Pretty morning. I noticed.

It is so interesting to read what you write about photography “deepening the experience”. My first thought was – well, that is why I am not a photographer. But then, I have discovered that taking photos does make me stop and appreciate the moments. I remember you telling me once how photographing people, for you, was a matter of looking for the beauty. I’m going to start doing that. I mean: I do look for the beauty in people I love and trust, in my students (something teaching has taught me), but generally not with strangers. I think I am too defensive. I need to learn from you. Camera in hand, or not. 

Okay – back to accountability. I think external accountability can be a good tool for avoiding perfectionism. I know I function so much better with an external framework. I’m far too skilled at getting in my own way. I take on related projects – related, but still: diversions. For example, right now I have a translation project, waiting on my computer in the other room. Midwife to someone else’s creativity again. I’ve written before about that, though, haven’t I? Since I’ve always thought of myself as a selfish person, this must be a form of self-sabotage. I procrastinate with work guaranteed to get in the way of my own work. I can almost convince myself that there is a good reason I’m not making as much progress as I’d planned.

Almost.

Yeah, so. This is the kind of morning I’m having. Mindless chatter with a friend, whom I miss.

Your friends seem to be living the dream. It’s really inspiring. But it brings me back to what I was writing about the other day – my tendency to begin with the desire to simplify, then working around full circle back to consumerism and a concern with image-projection. There are berries here in the forests if I head out on the weekends. Did I tell you we are setting up a greenhouse this spring? That will have to do. I don’t get a cottage by a stream, but I have a tent. Best of both worlds, if I make it so, right? I had a good day at work today. At least some of it. One of those days when I know I’m doing something useful. These tendrils reaching into the periphery of my students’ rich lives. The good, the difficult, the things that make them grow. I learn, too. Am better prepared for the next bit of drama. All this is to say, I looked at your friend’s photos and kept my envy in check.

Mostly.

You’re right. We are blessed, Di. It just doesn’t always feel like it. And like you said, it seems to be about balance. What pays the bills vs. what makes your heart flow. What we do for others vs. what we do for ourselves. Maybe most importantly: What we desire vs. gratitude for what we have?

Not sure if your question about the throat chakra was rhetorical. But for what it’s worth, I think you’re beginning to break through the block. Are you living somewhere where you can sing? (The only thing I miss about driving a car is driving alone and belting out show tunes.) I think belting out a tune is good for your soul because it’s almost the same mechanism as screaming: lifting the hard palate, really using the lungs, focusing outward. It’s cathartic. So is vomiting, I guess.

But singing is more pleasant. At least for the person doing it.

First get better. Then sing.

Much love,

XO Ren


This is one of a series of weekly open letters to friends – friends who write back to me on their own blogs. Please click through.  Category: Correspondence.

If you’d like to catch up, read the letters in chronological order here.

Dear Richard,

All these strange connections when one lets the subconscious bubble them up. I’m very certain that, were I not a poet, I would be one of those conspiracy theorists connecting Atlantis to the Bermuda Triangle, and to the disappeared women of Juarez. I’ve read that this is actually what creative people have in common with the mentally disordered: loose associations. Why there is likely much overlapping between the two groups.

First, what is a little coincidence, a digression, and a bit of proof that you and E have so much in common: last Saturday E picked out The Cursed Child as a Father’s Day gift. He hasn’t started it yet. (He just finished Unbroken, which he says was a much better book than film). You’ll have to let me know what you think. I probably won’t read it. K. told me that all the rules regarding magic that were established in the Harry Potter books, are broken. I hate to start a book with a bad attitude.

So. Yes. The “repeating myself” thing. I do that. I absolutely do that. And when I read that, I remembered a poem in mixed states called “On Not Repeating Myself”, which is about just that.

And the thing is, when I looked the poem up, I find it’s riddled with connections to our correspondence. In fact, the last stanza is:

I gave her the key
to the box
with all your letters.

20161123_075704.jpg(Your letter arrived yesterday and when I am finished here, it will go in the light blue box on the shelf in the library – with the others.)

The poem begins with the old lady, but she’s still a puppy. And then there is the “hip” Anti-Christ as an infant (yeah, I am reaching here but these days it feels relevant…). And then there is a mention of one of my recurring “ghosts”, this one perched at the foot of my bed (she is the one who has the key, by the way).

I think I’ve done nothing but repeat myself in some kind of Hegelian spiral my entire life. Or at least I hope it is more a spiral, than it is a puppy chasing her own tail.

I saw the shrink yesterday. It’s a relief to know I’m not mad. And I feel a bit like Sheldon saying, “My  mom had me tested”.


And I think I’ve reabsorbed all my ghosts again – for now. Even the one “in cartoon prison garb” that I mention in that poem. She told me to keep writing.

The shrink also told me that, and then the rest of the day, I couldn’t write a thing. Like you, I find this whole political climate alienating. I thought that we would see an apocalypse. A sudden clash of extremes, and instead we have these horrors coming in “on little cat feet” like Sandburg’s fog. Part of me is relieved. And I’m deeply ashamed of that.

Already here in Norway the extreme right has been emboldened. Well. Perhaps. It could also be that the media now has sought them out, and is giving them attention. There is a fine, and messy line between uncovering the hate, and “ufarligjøring” it. I still can’t find a good English word for that. Everyone is saying “normalising”. I guess that is technically correct, but it doesn’t sound as dangerous in English, does it? We shine a light on what we find repulsive until we can actually tolerate it. Until we do tolerate it. Until we shrug, and seek out the ever-more outrageous news stories that will trigger a inexplicably pleasurable surge of hormones. It is supply and demand. I read that the President electoral -Elect pointed out to CNN how much money he made them this last year. We are a self-fulfilling prophecy of self-loathing and schadenfreude. And greed.

Last week I posted something to my students – I wanted them to see a possible indication of a parallel between Stalin’s suppression (and execution) of Meyerhold, and Trump’s tweet which attempted to define the role of the artist in his America. Some of them expressed concern, and I then tried to comfort them. I meant well, but wondered if I was just fanning the flames.

You know, I don’t take periodic breaks from Facebook because what is there upsets me, as much as because what is there affects me: I find myself on witch hunts of sorts, filled with anger and looking for opportunities to justify it. It is a kind of mob mentality, isn’t it? And yet…

Struggling to find my role here, as a white, cis-gendered ex-patriot (sic.) – I don’t have “boots on the ground” and I need to find a way to be supportive without appropriating, and to do my best to stop the spread of this… well: evil. I know you are doing your part.

All this seems to bring me back to Harry Potter. There is a podcast called Imaginary Worlds. The last episode I listened to talked about JK Rolling’s work with Amnesty and the empathy-effect of literature, especially the theme of racism in the Potter series. They talked about the werewolf Greyback as an analogy for homosexuality, but I had been thinking all along it was an analogy for bipolar disorder.

At any rate, I was thinking how one could view the whole series as another dystopic story. Albeit one with a bizarrely happy ending. I think it would be kind of funny if The Cursed Child made Harry out to be a kind of Walter Mitty. Full circle dystopia to status quo. What if it were all a daydream?

I think this is just me trying to comfort myself.

It sort of drifts back toward what we were talking about: giving in to what is difficult: the cold, the harshness. And your warning of how that kind of giving in can lead to giving up, accepting, euphoria and death. I guess I could avoid calling it “a test of manhood” – but the fact is, most women give birth and that is a test of womanhood in these old stories and traditions. Seems men in these stories battle nature from without their bodies, women from within.

Though I suppose in the end we all figure out that our own bodies are nature. When we no longer recognise ourselves in the mirror, and our limbs no longer do the things we will them to as quickly, as smoothly.

A lot of people say that old people turn to religion because they fear death and long for a distinction between body and soul -to comfort themselves. But what if it is just a recognition that becomes impossible not to see as one ages?

Nah. I guess I don’t really believe that. It’s probably just a lack of attention. We should do more like your acupuncturist suggests: eat and do nothing else, pay attention to the food, to our teeth, to our swallowing. We would probably know ourselves better and recognise our nature.

Maybe if we did, we would recognise and do something about the baser sides of ourselves? The self-loathing, and the schadenfreude? The greed.

I opened the last remaining bottle of red from my birthday stash tonight. A wonderful Barolo. I don’t know who gave it to me, but I’m grateful. It takes the edge off. It puts me in a forgiving state of mind.

Let’s hope it doesn’t kill me.

It helps to know you aren’t shrugging and giving up.

smilefjes, and love to you and yours.

XO Ren

Richard’s reply


This is one of a series of weekly open letters to friends – friends who write back to me on their own blogs. Please click through.  Category: Correspondence.

If you’d like to catch up, read the letters in chronological order here.

Dear Di,

You write about language as music:

“I fell asleep one night, in Istanbul, listening to the retired officers wives playing cards in the next room. Playing cards, gossiping, laughing … and I realised that the sound of them soothed me, like the sound of the sea, or a river would. I love language, like others like music perhaps […]”

Yes, the music of overheard, muffled conversations. Funny that I was just thinking about this the other day – in a different context. There is the freedom of eavesdropping without having to participate. It’s like being a child again and listening to the muffled voices of grown-ups in the next room after bedtime, isn’t it?

Maybe there is a special freedom and relief of knowing that no one gives a damn about you. The privilege of sometimes covertly and uncomprehendingly enjoying the world’s activity.

Again: opening to wonder. Like listening to the birds in the park without trying to identify the calls of the individual species. There’s something rather meditative about that, about not putting things in boxes, not categorising, not judging. Just sitting in a teeming civilisation of birds – or humanity – and listening to the music. And then dancing on your own.

I fear that psychiatrists might call that parallel play and diagnose me with some kind of anti-social disorder. But then, authenticity is about rejecting arbitrary boxes, isn’t it? Like I tell my students every year: “Pity the Platypus”, who doesn’t fit the man-made categories. But we should all be the platypus. Be the Platypus, I tell them.  Someday I will get around to writing the book with that title.

And that leads me to: I could kick you for giving me yet another book to buy. I’m assuming that Rod Judkins has already said all of this in the book you quoted.

I cannot tell you how tired I am of all of these online tests to categorise ourselves as this or that. The Whitman quote is ubiquitous, but there is a reason it is. We have no choice but to reach for it!

I crave attention.

I want to observe.

Interactive theater always makes me uncomfortable. By pulling me into the experience, it pulls me out of it. Did I ever tell you about my little epiphany in Oslo a few years ago? I was at a conference for teaching artists and we all took part in a “happening” in the park. Some of us were paired up, with our opposite on the other side of a huge circle of 40+ people. We  held strings that stretched across, criss-crossing over a great expanse of withering grass. There were two dancers in the centre, and a director who told the dancers where to move, and how to negotiate all of the strings.

I really wanted to give my end of the string to a passer-by, and head up to the top of the hill so I could watch – so I could write about the associations the event was giving me. I think I’m an interpreter at heart. Not an actor, not a director. I see metaphors where no one else does.

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A fish, half-out of water. Japan: when I was “forest bathing” without knowing it.

But when I think about it, maybe it isn’t that surprising. A shaman, a oracle. A poet. All of those are just people who deal in metaphors, aren’t they? People who just can’t distill experience into straight talk. (I am settling for poet, by the way, that takes hubris enough).

The reason this was an epiphany is that, all these years, I thought I wanted to be the director.

But I’ve wandered – back to your letter: You aren’t in the pub just to watch football. You are there to soak it all up, aren’t you? With your book as a barrier during half-time. (I bet you hate that you can’t whip out your camera at the pub, and have no one notice.)

I think it’s like Japanese forest bathing, only among humans. It sounds healthy to me. At least for people like us.

But you are more flexible than I am. More skilled, at any rate: your ease with putting people at ease. I have been in awe of that since I met you. I think of how you soothed the angry woman I photographed (incidentally) in downtown Stavanger. You immediately made her feel “seen” instead of observed – with just a sentence or two. You would be a good diplomat. But then, that would probably be a bastardising of your talent.

That is a gift beyond that of the shaman, the oracle, the poet. I don’t know what that is. You may say you had no mentors. But you have become one.

From what you write, maybe it did spring from something that you don’t see as a strength, this “sacrificing for each other”? Because I think it is a strength, or has become one, at any rate. Sometimes I think sacrificing can mean giving up one’s own sense of knowing and stepping into another person’s point of view. Not all of us do that as easily. Few as quickly and intuitively as you do.

Maybe that is why you can deal with the mocking in a way I think I would struggle with. You understand it comes from a place of recognition – that is is a way to break down any attempt at pretence and posturing? As I think about it, I realise that it would probably do me good to learn to see it as you do. To “stand it”, as you describe it. And to focus on the curiosity and joy.

You describe me as “settled”. But that’s not how it feels. Yes. I’m happy in the partnership I’ve so fortunately stumbled upon. E. doesn’t anchor me, though; he knows I’m in motion, and he moves with me, or is comfortable trusting I’ll not choose to untether entirely.

And I feel at home in this landscape. I have this nest – thought it feels as temporary as any, no matter how long it will last. Like you, my children are elsewhere. And I know all of this is healthy, because of who we are.

But God forbid I should ever be settled and satisfied with what I’ve seen and sucked from life thus far. Imagine. Were that true, I wouldn’t be reaching still towards you and your stories.

I remember your blog when we met: “People become stories, and stories become understanding.”

I am still waiting for the book with that title.

I wanted to end there, but there is this thing about learning the language. I have tried. I have hired private tutors at 1000 crowns an hour. I honestly believe it all comes down to the fact that I don’t like myself in Norwegian. I don’t like the lack of music, the lack of humor: I can learn the rules, but I can never really sing.

So, yeah. 23 years here, and my Norwegian still stinks. There’ll be no judgement from this corner.

Much love, Di!

XO Ren

Di’s reply


This is one of a series of public letters to friends – friends who write back to me on their own blogs. Please click through.  Category: Correspondence.

If you’d like to catch up, read the letters in chronological order here.