I’m not well-read. I’m not one of those intellectual sorts – those cool people – who can quote verse or lines from a classic. Could be that my memory sucks.
I tell my kids that I’m fun to watch movies with because I could have watched it last weekend, but by this weekend, I won’t remember how it ends. So, yes, if you want to watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty for the 47th time, I’d love to. (But, seriously, that movie is a favorite.)
I’ve never gotten into poetry, which is weird because I love art. I occasionally read a poem that clicks with me, and then I think, “See? I could get into poetry,” but I never pursue poets or collect favorite poems. What am I supposed to do with a poem? What does it fix? Does it make me better?
You probably love poetry, and at this moment, you are typing a response about how poetry leads to escape, and transformation, and understanding and beauty.
And one day, when I’m not the mom and the dad and the realtor and the teacher, I’ll find time to read poetry.
I start a lot of books, and read until my mood changes. I have several different books laying around the house – non-fiction, self-help, fiction and more self-help. Depending on my mood, I’ll pick up one, read a bit, run out of tea, make a cup, and come back. By the time, the tea has brewed, my mood has changed, and I pick up a different book.
Maybe I have commitment issues. (That made me laugh.)
A few years ago, I declared that I was done with self-help books. I checked out two at the library last Tuesday. I never will be done with self-help. It’s an addiction, like coffee and complaining. All three feel good, even if they aren’t always good for me.
So it’s no surprise that when I was driving to the office with the muffled sounds of public radio filling the car, thinking about phone calls to make, and documents to download, Garrison Keillor read a line from a novel that I wasn’t familiar with. (Garrison Keillor could very likely make me enjoy poetry, but I digress.)
“Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own,” from Nelson Algren’s novel, A Walk on the Wild Side.
I was pulling into a parking spot as he read the words. Luckily I didn’t scrape the car next to mine.
My mind raced with, “How come I’ve never heard that before?” “Sure wish someone had told me that 45 years ago as I was about to venture out into the dangerous world of relationships!” “Now you tell me?”
(To be clear, I changed the gender to make it more applicable to my experience. Never sleep with a man …..)
As I set up my laptop to get some work done, I thought through the list – it’s not a long list – of “relationships” and their problems. Okay, the list of problems was long.
Yep. He had more issues than me. Whoa, he had way more problems than me. Uh huh, he had problems that I shouldn’t have touched with a 10-foot pole.
And then I thought about all my problems. Who’d want to touch those with a 10-foot pole?
WE ALL HAVE PROBLEMS.
Gawd! Why do we bother sleeping with anyone? Show me one who doesn’t have problems!
The worst part is, the problems aren’t revealed until the vulnerability sets in, and that’s usually after we’ve jumped in bed. Could we really discover those issues beforehand? On a first date: “So, here’s my list of issues. See that one there? I’m working on it. That one there, well, honestly, that’ll never be resolved, no matter how much I throw at it. Show me your list.” He reaches into his jacket pocket. “Here’s mine.” Some are highlighted. One, in particular, has been crossed out so much she can’t read the letters underneath. “What’s that one?” He winces, “Oh, that’s too embarrassing.”
They shake hands, split the bill and decide they would be better off not sleeping together.
Right. Like that is part of any relevant reality.
I’m still chewing on the line from Algren’s novel, as the last stack of documents come off the printer, warmed by the process of tumbling through the machine. I decide, “Yep. Never getting into another relationship again. Never. Never. Never.” Too scary. Too many problems. Too much isn’t revealed until it’s too late. On my side, and his.
I could take up poetry, learn to paint as well as 14, listen to more of Keillor’s soothing voice, become well-read, or learn to love fishing like 18, and keep my list of problems to myself.