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I was giving a talk recently to a group of local parents. Good public speaker that I am, I have trained myself to scan the faces of the entire crowd. On this evening I noticed one woman sitting dead center to me. From word one, she was yawning.
Before I could have any success as a writer I had to get over the idea that in order to do so I had to be special. From the outside, this seemed empirically, quantifiably true. I read some writers whose work reminded me why life was worth living, who could snap me to attention with one sentence, who seemed to write with such clarity that I could recognize myself in their stories. Other writers bored me, or irritated me, or seemed to be telling stories that somehow I’d already heard.
A few years ago I went on a run of interviewing authors on my podcast who had had near death experiences – or NDEs, as they’re frequently known. Though the stories of what these authors experienced beyond the veil of death varied, the impact that experience had on their lives was consistent.
I’ve been in a funk lately. I entered it unwittingly and have had trouble finding the exit, and when I do, difficulty remembering where it is. I don’t like to use the word depression, which makes me feel blanketed – as though it’s wall-to-wall sorrow. There are always corners and areas where all is clear.
The other day, I was rooting around my work area and opened a drawer mostly forgotten. Inside was a large envelope filled with letters from about three decades ago. They were from friends – some with whom I’m no longer in touch, some with whom I still have contact, some with whom I remain close. As I read, the letters helped me spot those clear areas in me. The letters, at least for that moment, helped me remember.
We often focus on remembering. We like to remember the good: special occasions, landmarks, graduations, birthdays, vacations; and we also choose to ruminate on what feels bad, what we consider failures, betrayals, scary things, and pain. We tag these groups with either like (good) or dislike (bad).