Having No Regrets

First, I’m sorry that I haven’t commented on posts for the last few days. This is the last week of the semester, and I’m so tired! I promise that I’ll catch up. (It’s the sort of deep tiredness you have when all you’ve been doing is working. No museums, no going to antiques stores. Barely reading, although I left Shadow hanging on the tree, and I don’t know whether he’ll live or die. Quantum Gaiman.)

Second, I have one final item listed in the auction for Terri Windling:

Offered: Signed Copy Of The Thorn And The Blossom, With Bonus Manuscript, By Theodora Goss

Offered: A signed copy of The Thorn and the Blossom, by Theodora Goss, with cover art and illustrations by Scott McKowen. This book is coming out early next year, so you will be among the first people to have a copy. It’s a wonderful book to give as a gift, to someone else or yourself! And because one of the main characters, Evelyn, is a poet, Theodora will also include a signed manuscript of a poem she might have written.

One enchanting romance. Two lovers keeping secrets. And a uniquely crafted book that binds their stories forever.

When Evelyn Morgan walked into the village bookstore, she didn’t know she would meet the love of her life. When Brendan Thorne handed her a medieval romance, he didn’t know it would change the course of his future. It was almost as if they were the cursed lovers in the old book itself . . .

The Thorn and the Blossom is a remarkable literary artifact: You can open the book in either direction to decide whether you’ll first read Brendan’s, or Evelyn’s account of the mysterious love affair. Choose a side, read it like a regular novel,and when you get to the end, you’ll find yourself at a whole new beginning.

Here is the cover of the book (actually the slipcase):

And here is a video showing how it works:

Opening bid: $15

Auction ends at 5 p.m. Pacific Time, December 15th 2011

The publisher has just told me that there will also be bookmarks, so I will of course include some of those as well.

Today I’m too tired to write about literature or art. So instead I’m going to write about life. I came across a blog post called “Regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware. Here is what she says:

“For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

“People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

“When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again.”

She lists the five most common, which I’m going to list here, without the accompanying explanations. You can read those in her post. Instead, I want to think about my life, and whether I’m going to have those particular regrets as I’m dying. (I know, this is a bit grim. But it’s a way of checking myself. You can check yourself as well.)

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

I think I’m doing pretty well at this. The life others expected of me was the life of a corporate lawyer in Manhattan. That’s what I was trained for. (After all, I went to law school with the President. And here I am teaching writing to undergraduates.) But it wasn’t my life, so I left it. I went back to school for the training I wanted, to be both a teacher and a writer. I could have taken an easier route and worked toward an MFA, but I felt that a PhD in literature would be the best training for the sort of writing I want to do. And for my particular temperament. Although the PhD has, at times, caused my much anguish and some boredom, I think I was right. I think this was the degree I was supposed to get.

I think I am living a life true to myself. The next step in living that life is focusing on the writing.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

I’m not sure what to say about this one, because the work I do is work I love. There’s the work I have to do, of course, because I have to keep myself in stockings and fans (that’s a Cold Comfort Farm reference, in case you were wondering). But the honest truth is that I love teaching. And in addition to the teaching, there’s writing, and doing publicity for my writing, and all the other projects connected to the writing that I seem to have so little time for.

I do think I need to keep in mind that I need more time to rest, more time to simply experience the world. Go to museums. So that’s something to remember.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Yeah, I’m terrible at this one. I was raised in a European family with distinctly old-fashioned expectations, in which one did not express inappropriate feelings. Let’s just say I’m working on being more honest about what I want and need out of life.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

This one, I need to work on. There’s so little time. But I need to make time to talk to friends. Or the only one coming to my funeral will be my therapist.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I don’t think it’s a matter of let, with me. I tend to take hold of any chance at happiness I get. I never refuse chocolate, or free tickets to anything. Preventing yourself from being happy is the stupidest thing you can possible do. Why would you do that to yourself?

I’ve been to the depths, to the shadowlands. Happiness is a glorious gift. I’ll take it whenever and wherever I can find it.

How did I come out? Pretty well, I think. And I know what I need to do: connect more, express more. Those have always been my problems, and I’m going to work on them. Assuming I survive this week.

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3 Responses to Having No Regrets

  1. Terry Weyna says:

    I have your alternate life — not Wall Street, but still, practicing law when I just as much wanted to get a PhD in English and teach. Much as I sometimes ache to be a scholar and teacher sometimes, I made the right choice for me — especially now that I’m older, and have realized I don’t have to work full-time at the law to have a comfortable life, enjoy the practice, and still have time to read and study.

    They’re such hard decisions to make, the ones that steer you for the rest of your life, or at least for a huge chunk of it. One is very lucky to come out of them happy with the choices one has made.

  2. (1) I love Cold Comfort Farm. Read it over again when I need to cheer up.

    (2) I had 2 stepmothers. One very briefly and not very talkative and the last one who was kind of
    horrified I wanted to be some kind of artist. My dad had only an 8th grade education and was fearful of my ambition. I managed to apply for a scholarship and got into a small private college which provided me with just the right teachers, a wise poet who became famous later on and a lively woman with children who taught theatre and also, how to live as a woman and an artist. I have been paying that forward whenever I can. Dad finally was OK with it all but my stepmother
    was, well, a classic stepmother. Wherever we come from, it is best to go where we need to.

  3. “Wherever we come from, it is best to go where we need to.” I like this, and it sounds as though you both found the right paths for you. It is hard, especially when we’re not encouraged. But in the end, we can’t live anyone else’s life. We have to live our own.

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