Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Matters of Consequence Be Damned

Perhaps a lesson of aging is accepting that we will not be able to do all of the things we once thought we would do. The world in which we live promotes a lifestyle in which people spin like dervishes, people are sucked  dry by days end  harboring a sick feeling that how they spent much of the day was not really important let alone fulfilling.

I can no longer do this; in fact, I refuse to do this. I have only so much time left. That is the fact of being sixty-one years of age.

I am learning the long lost art of convalescing. Any of you who have read Victorian novels know that after a period of stress or illness  the character always took what is often called a "rest cure". And I choose to make the rest of my life a rest cure as much as possible.

Yes, of course, there all all of the "have to do's", but I have a choice to redefine which of those really must be done.

My idea of a rest cure is to sit in my bed surrounded by my cats with my bedside table piled high with books and pens and paper.

Nothing makes me feel as satisfied as reading a well-written book. As a young girl, I knew this, and as I grew older I too often  forgot it.

I remember spending the whole week of a spring vacation lying in my bedroom reading Gone With the Wind. Mom had to peel me off the bed to come down for meals.

In college I would hole up in a remote corner of the university library to complete my goal of reading every single issue of Life magazine. I did it.

Here I offer an except from Antoine de Saint -Exupery 's The Little Prince.  The book is often thought to be a children's book but it is loaded with wisdom, and was actually written by the author as he was dying. I have never forgotten this particular passage:

"The fourth planet belonged to a businessman. This man was so much occupied that he did not even raise his head at the little prince's arrival."

"Good morning," the little prince said to him. "Your cigarette has gone out."
"Three and two make five. Five and seven make twelve. Twelve and three make fifteen. Good morning. Fifteen and seven make twenty-two. Twenty-two and six make twenty-eight. I haven't time to light it again. Twenty-six and five make thirty-one. Phew! Then that makes five-hundred-and-one million, six-hundred-twenty-two-thousand, seven-hundred-thirty-one."
"Five hundred million what?" asked the little prince.
"Eh? Are you still there? Five-hundred-and-one million--I can't stop . . . I have so much to do! I am concerned with matters of consequence. I don't amuse myself with balderdash. Two and five make seven . . ."
"Five-hundred-and-one million what?" repeated the little prince, who never in his life had let go of a question once he had asked it.
The businessman raised his head.
"During the fifty-four years that I have inhabited this planet, I have been disturbed only three times. The first time was twenty-two years ago, when some giddy goose fell from goodness knows where. He made the most frightful noise that resounded all over the place, and I made four mistakes in my addition. The second time, eleven years ago, I was disturbed by an attack of rheumatism. I don't get enough exercise. I have no time for loafing. The third time--well, this is it! I was saying, then, five-hundred-and-one millions--"

I believe I have spent way too many an hour dealing with "matters of consequence", so now I intend to make up for lost time.

Speaking of books' I just finished Joan Didion's Blue Nights. I recommend it. She writes like no one else. Her last two books have dealt with personal grief. The Year of Magical Thinking  was a lyrical delight. I am now on a mission to reread all of her earlier works.

Books are my love. They are going to get the bulk of my attention from here on out.

Here are some books of fiction that I have really loved and admired.

1. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
2. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
4. Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine by Ann Hood
5. Hard Laughter by Anne Lamott
6. Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
7.The Hours by Michael Cunningham
8. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
9. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
10. A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
11. Bastard Out of Caroline by Dorothy Allison
12. My Antonia by Willa Cather

These are just off the top of my head. I will add many more.

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