I love long car drives; although I must say that the drive I did yesterday wasn’t very lovable, as it included bad weather, unusually heavy traffic, a lot of construction and a lot of accidents. As for many people , long drives give me the opportunity to turn problems over and over again in my head. Eventually, I get sick of thinking about the various personal traumas in my life and think of a math problem to work out in my head. The problem I came up with yesterday had to do with the relationship of the actual length of a diagonal of a triangle and the concept of limits, as used in calculus. For some reason I thought the relationship of the area of a polygon and the area of a circle were related to my original question, so I tried to remember the equation for the area of a polygon. When I couldn’t remember it, I tried to derive it in my head from what I knew about triangles. I couldn’t do that in my head, so I thought about how I’d figure it out when I got home, which involved which math books and how much paper I’d need. When I arrived home, exhausted from the grueling drive and starving hungry, do you think I unpacked the car and ate something before I did anything else? No. I went straight to my math books and when I couldn’t figure out my problem, I started thinking of who I could ask to help me. Then I ate something. No wonder I am usually tired and hungry.
L’esprit d’escalier: French. Literal translation – wit of the staircase. Colloquial meaning – the frustration of thinking of precisely the right comeback, only much too late. Where I found it – Spring 2008 issue of Gettysburg Review. Learning a new word or phrase is always a nice surprise.
I recently found an old Emmylou Harris cassette tape that I have always loved; now I’m using the cassette player in my kitchen boom box to play the B side over and over again. The lyrics from the song Ballad of a Runaway Horse always get to me: “And though he goes grazing a minute away, she tracks him all night; she tracks him all day. She’s blind to his presence, except to compare, her injury here to his punishment there.” How often is the thing I most want and love right there and I fail to see it because I’m too busy stewing?
Last night, at the event I go to most Fridays (See my November 15 post), a friend of mine who is much more suited to the Broadway stage than Richmond, Indiana, gave a final concert before leaving seminary for an east coast MFA. As part of the concert, he sang some incredible German lieders (songs). This reminded me of my green sparkly purse. I bought a purse two years ago that is covered in lime green sequins. (My Chicago friend’s husband named it my “Quaker purse,” which is very funny if you know anything about Quakers and how grey and serious they tend to be.) As predicted, I have never used this purse in my quiet Richmond seminary life. The only thing it does here is adorn my bedroom mirror. Neither has my friend had a reason to sing his German lieders here (until last night). Nonetheless, I think it’s really important for us to keep things that we love with us just because they are beautiful, even when they are rarely used.
Ever since that dinner conversation (see entry for Nov. 4) about the annoying habit Americans have of saying “How are you?” when they greet you, I’ve been noticing how often people ask me that. I try to avoid answering the question and launch into conversation instead, but that’s harder than you think. The thing is, people who really know and care about me ask me how I’m doing and I ask the same of people I sincerely care about. These are people who would stop if I answered the question in any way other than “Fine” and people for whom I’d stop. In that context, it’s sweet – this habitual check-in with friends. I still get annoyed when I’m asked that question by people who have little interest in me; in the same way that I’m annoyed by small talk. But I’m strongly considering changing my opinion of this ritual we have checking in with our friends.
I sign almost all of my correspondence “Love, Julia.” I started doing this a few years ago when I came across the question, “Are you willing to risk being compassionate?” and I wondered how being compassionate and riskiness were related. Being compassionate seems like such a nice thing, how could it be risky? Then I thought about what it would look like to be compassionate all the time, that is, to live out of love, rather than fear, all the time. I thought about all the times I have felt like my actions, which were intended to be kind, have been misunderstood. So I reframed the question, “Are you willing to risk being misunderstood to live lovingly?” Now, no one can live lovingly all the time; so I decided to start signing all my correspondence (and with e-mail I write a lot of it), “Love, Julia” in order to remind myself, several times a day, to act out of love, rather than fear. Every time I write that, I think about love — how risky, yet essential, it is. Sometimes when I sign a note, “Love, Julia” I am writing to someone I mad at and don’t feel very loving towards. And sometimes, even though I promised myself and God that I’d always do it, I just can’t bring myself to write “Love,” because I am certain I’ll be misunderstood. But, ending almost everything I write in that way has become so much of a habit that I think about it with every letter or e-mail I write. Which, I hope, is something – I think about acting out of love several times a day, whether or not I’m brave enough to actually do it.
On Friday evenings I often attend an awesome event at my church — a coffeehouse concert where many of the best musicians in town perform. There is no admission fee (although donations are welcome and I donate cookies whenever I attend) and it is both smoke and alcohol free. Last Friday, at starting time, there were only three of us in the audience: me, the pastor of our church and the intern who sets everything up (eventually there were almost twenty of us). Nonetheless, the musicians began playing amazing music. This got me thinking about loving what you do.
If I were to give advice to anyone embarking on a new business, I’d say that the most important thing is to love your product. When I was actively selling cookie dough, I had to be excited and positive about my product all the time – even when grocers and others told me that my product would never sell. When I walk into a library and see all the great books that have already been written, I’m certain that it’s not my place to add to the plethora. Then I go home and start writing because I love to do it. Those musicians on Friday night love playing music enough that it didn’t matter to them that the room was nearly empty when they began.
Well, it’s Sunday, so I feel free to be a bit preach-y with you – I believe God gives us this deep desire to do what we love in order to push us to share our gifts.