desk with small binder

Life changes without warning, and ends. We are fragile. Show more love. Show more love. Show more love.

Listen to me read this piece below:


I told Chris the entire plot of Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs in bed, his hand resting on my hipbone. The book is fraught with anxieties about being a woman of a certain age, of being a woman of a certain age who has always longed to be an artist and is instead working at something that she believes is boring and safe, and what can tear that sort of woman to shreds if she’s confronted by a certain kind of friendship: one with someone close to her age and who has made different life choices, whom the woman sees as a recognized artist in a fancy-gallery, Paris-New-York sense. I’d heard about the book from a friend who said that the book is distressing if you can, in any way, identify with being the narrator, and it’s true.

I don’t believe in regret, I told a friend, but my one regret is that I have but one life. By which I mean that growing older has meant the understanding of doors closing, sometimes permanently, as I choose which of the doors ahead of me to open.

A silly example: Chris and I have been watching a TV comedy starring a well-known actor, whose wife is famous in her own right as an artist. She and I dated the same awful boy in high school. “And we both moved on, thankfully,” I said. “She could’ve wound up with ____, and instead she’s going to the Emmys with [actor]. And I could’ve wound up with ____, and instead I have my life with you.”

There may be, in another dimension, an Esmé who is living with the awful boy. She is probably terrified every day of angering him. She has memories that have shaped the way she moves in the world, with small and fractured movements and gestures — memories that I don’t have, because I closed that door and can’t go back.

box on the floor with egg and feather

I read a piece by Mara Glatzel in which she shared her 10-second message, by which she means the one message she’d share with the world if she could, and I thought of mine:

Life changes without warning, and ends. We are fragile. Show more love. Show more love. Show more love.

We are so fragile, and some of us know it more than others. Some of us feel the hot breath of impending loss more acutely, which affects our movements and choices; I know that it pushes me to hold Chris more tightly, to rub my face in Daphne’s fur and breathe in her dried-leaf, smoky scent.

It pushes me to make things while I can. I’m flying to Nebraska on Monday to write at an arts center for three weeks, neglecting plenty of stuff while I do so, but I need to.

Choose what doors you open; choose wisely. Some doors shut forever, and such is the way of things: the carved line etched daily that is your life.

P.S. When I come back, I’ll have some things for you. In February, a workshop and a workbook-slash-audio for creatives, artists, writers, makers. And I have an idea for something extra-special, too, but am in the very beginning, exploratory stages, and would like to know what project you’re working on right now. (Tell me in the comments, please.)