Tonight I read some Joan Didion, but not what I was expecting to read. Last week I heard her on discussing her book, A Year of Magical Thinking on "Fresh Air", and I realized that I needed to read this book, and it's been on my mind since then. However, tonight I read "Goodbye to All That". It's an essay from Slouching Towards Bethlehem, something else I've been thinking about as I recently read a description of it as the "best book of essays, ever."
So tonight I read this essay, and I am blown away. First off, it's just perfectly written. I can't imagine a word a single word being altered. I find myself reacting to it on a number of levels. One,the circuitous path that led me to read it, I can't even explain. But it plays into my ever-expanding belief that we come to things (more than they come to us) when we need them. And tonight, I needed this. It was odd to read the piece, written in 1967 and full of melancholy, while holding in my memory the sound of her voice, almost forty years later, talking about not being able to divest herself of her dead husband's shoes. "Because he might come back," she said. The pain of a young girl discovering herself contrasted with the pain of an old woman who must find herself after being a part of a "we" for that same four decades.
Whenever I read something like this, I am inevitably struck by the same feeling -- profound gratitude. I'm grateful for being led to the work, grateful that there are people who are brave enough and skilled enough to put their own lives into words, and grateful that I can open myself up enough to receive those words in a way that affects my own life and builds my own self-awareness.
*This is not to imply there are clever titles elsewhere in this blog. It simply means that this post is about something beyond cleverness.