Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Advice from Sheila Heti

This extraordinary message is from Miranda July's project We Think Alone, which has just released its second round of emails. 


From: Sheila Heti
Date: Wed, Jul 29, 2009 at 1:54 PM
Subject: Re: fridge
To: Kathryn Borel

sprinkles the wonderhorse is the best thing you've ever called me.

i haven't read the piece yet -- i'm sorry. moving around, writing,  self-involved. now in the motel.

i wish i had words of advice about S. i have been thinking about M (and N!) excessively for the past week. how exhausting. i know just how you feel. these are the things i have been thinking / doing to calm myself down. here is my wisdom so far.

1. why am i so anxious? i've been feeling like half a soul without a man. so i'm realising that maybe who i want to meet is actually myself, and not some guy. this has been a pretty relaxing realisation. i sort of see my face in front of me (not as in a mirror, but in a soul or metaphysical way) and it cheers me up. i am not alone. i don't need anyone.

2. loving someone means loving their ugliness. if you do not love also what's worst in them, you do not really love them. it's hard in a new relationship because every bit of ugliness is a surprise; but these are the parts that must be loved. or else it's not love. it's icon-worship or something like that.

3. i sort of feel exhausted; like i have had so many years of relationship anxiety. i want to be on the road for six months, going from place to place and developing no attachments and forgetting all the boys that didn't work out.

4. what do you really *feel*? do you really want or need him?

5. are you staying in it to be a *better person*? you are a good enough person. i learned from my marriage (and from watching mark with michelle) that remaining in a relationship to make yourself a better person usually makes you a more odious person; it also can't hold up very long.

I met an amazing choreographer at Yaddo -- an 80 year old woman; Sally Gross. From NY. She told me that I was young. That there was enough time in my life for everything; being alone, being with women, with difficult men, with not-difficult men.

This was soothing. There's enough time in my life for everything.

But I don't know what you are finding so hard about S; is it the distance mingled with you losing respect for him cause he's not a good writer? If you can't find a way to love that about him, then maybe he's not the person for you to love right now. But why twist yourself up into knots about it? You are a curious person, you get excited about people easily (as I do), and you're desirable, sexy and beautiful. There will always be men who want you, which means that you have to call time out when you're not ready.

Of course, it could be the book that's getting you down and you're taking it out on S.

My head is not so clear that I can give you any good advice. I always am temperamentally in favour of breaking up, but intellectually in favour of the rigours of going on. Who knows? It doesn't seem like an easy situation, what with the distance, and if the distance is not going to end within the next two years, it's hard to see why it's so necessary or worthwhile. It happens all the time, doesn't it, that people meet, but they don't live in the same place, so it doesn't work out.

Do you, deep in your heart, feel like he is absolutely so special that these two years of distance are worth it? Or is he simply another amazing guy, of whom you can say, It's really too bad we didn't live in the same place so we could see what a relationship would have been like.

The only thing I can advise is to be a bit easier on yourself. It is not a moral failing not to continue a romance with a man who you knew for two weeks, who lives across the world from you. Unless one of you can move, it seems like a terrible strain.

Another piece of advice: Don't make any decisions when you are overly emotional. Like, don't break up with him in the midst of this feeling. Wait until you have some equanimity, or you may regret any actions you take as impetuous.

Try to ride this panic out. You don't have to decide anything. You're not going to miss anything -- the man of your dreams, etc -- by delaying thinking about it in the midst of your book turmoil.


Monday, July 08, 2013

Interview on Big Picture Science Podcast

Right here you will find an interview I did for the Big Picture Science Podcast. The episode is called "Mummy Dearest."

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Memorable Lines from Nathan Englander's For the Relief of Unbearable Urges

He took a deep breath and ignored his sense of injustice, a rich man’s emotion, a feeling Mendel had given up the liberty of experiencing horrors and horrors before.
—“The Tumblers,” p. 50

The Jewish day begins in the calm of the evening, when it won’t shock the system with its arrival.
—“The Gilgul of Park Avenue,” p. 109

“Eighty-eight dollars’ worth of the blandest food you’ve ever had. The soup is inedible, pure salt. I had a spoonful and needed to take an extra high-blood-pressure pill. I’ll probably die before dinner’s over, and then we’ll have no problems.”
“More and more,” Charles said, taking a yarmulke from his pocket and fastening it to his head, “more and more, you’re the one that sounds like a Jew.”
— “The Gilgul of Park Avenue,” p. 128

“Am I really your second?” she asked.
Dov heard more in the question than was intended. He heard a flirtation; he heard a woman who treated the act of being second as if it were special. He was sad for her—wondering if she had ever been anyone’s first. He did not answer out loud, but instead nodded, affirming.
—“For the Relief of Unbearable Urges,” p. 188

Memorable Lines from Nathan Englander's What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank — stories

“And tell me this,” Rena said. “When a little bar mitzvah boy says to a pretty girl as a joke, ‘You are my wife,’ and he gives her a bracelet as a token—”
“A divorce is arranged,” the young rabbi said. “We have done it before. Yes, if it is uttered and the gift is received, they are married, the same and any two people in the world.”
“Even if neither really meant it?” Rena said. “Even if an innocent joke between two young adults at play?”
“Even then,” said Rabbi Kiggel.
—“Sister Hills,” p. 65

“It’s a delicate thing being Jewish,” Ace said. “It’s a condition that aggravates the more mind you pay it.”
—“How We Avenged the Blums,” p. 81

44. She is gone. She is gone, and she will be surprised that I am alive to write this—because she, and everyone who knows me, didn’t think I’d survive it. That I can’t be alone for a minute. That I can’t manage a second of silence. A second of peace. That to breathe, I need a second set of lungs by my side. And to have a feeling? An emotion? No one in my family will show one. Love, yes. Oh, we’re Jews, after all. There’s tons of loving and complimenting, tons of kissing and hugging. But I mean any of us, any of my blood, to sit and face reality, to sit alone on a couch without a partner and to think the truth and feel the ruth, it cannot be done. I sure can’t do it. And she knew I couldn’t do it. And that’s why it ended.

—“Everything I Know About My Family on My Mother’s Side,” p. 133

53. And I still love her. I love you, Bean. (And even now, I don’t say it straight. Let me try one more time: I love you, Bean. I say it.) And I place this in the middle of a short story in the midst of our modern YouTube, iTunes, plugged-in lives. I might as well tell her right here. No one’s looking; no one’s listening. There can’t be any place better to hide in plain sight.

—“Everything I Know About My Family on My Mother’s Side,” p. 135

62. Here is me, fictionalized, sitting on the couch with a letter, written in my grandfather’s hand. I am weeping. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen his handwriting before. I think to call my mother, to tell her what I’m holding. I think to call my brother or maybe Cousin Jack. But really, more than anyone, I think to call that missing love—that missing lover. Because it’s her I wish were with me; it is her I want to share it with right now. And more so, to find myself weeping from a real sadness—not anxious, not disappointed, not frustrated or confused—just weeping from the truth of it, and the heartbreak of it, and recognizing it as the purest emotion I’ve ever had. It’s this I want to tell her, that I’m feeling a pure feeling, maybe my first true feeling, and for this—I admit it—I am proud.

—“Everything I Know About My Family on My Mother’s Side,” p. 138-9