making light of it.

At the beginning of August, I went to see Cheryl Strayed speak at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. I am a huge fan of the Dear Sugar column, and when she revealed herself as Sugar (it was written anonymously), I quickly put a hold on Wild, which was coming out in another month. (If you’ve never read Dear Sugar, here’s a good introduction to the column.) As luck would have it, Wild came in the library just in time for me to take it on my spring break, so I read it by the pool and on the plane and during Atticus’s naps. I thought it was lovely.

One thing Cheryl Strayed spoke about was understanding your life by seeing the metaphor around you. She gave the example of being in line at a home improvement store, waiting to buy a snow shovel because she needed to dig out from a recent storm. And in her life, she said, she also needed to dig out from some of the choices she had made and some of the situations she’d found herself in.

I thought that was crap. Some things just are. I can’t find meaning in every sidewalk stroll or sink full of dirty dishes. I scan books and I teach students about plagiarism and I drive home on an ugly street. I throw a ball with Atticus and I watch The Daily Show and I miss my dad. I have a good life, but it seems small. There is no metaphorical digging out (I hate yard work). There is no metaphorical mountain to climb (I am indoorsy). There are just Sisyphean tasks: the laundry, the dishwasher, the cart of books that really needs to be shelved.

But here’s what I have been wondering: Isn’t there a difference between seeing the metaphor in your life and squeezing meaning out of certain events? Perhaps that is what Cheryl Strayed was talking about. Looking for patterns and seeking to understand what is around you is a good thing to do, and it is different than doing things in order to make meaning happen.

It is easy for me to dismiss the events of my life–even some of my own choices–as random. It is more challenging to admit that they are connected and that they form a meaningful story. I wonder if I hold my life too loosely, sometimes, hold it away to keep from the pain of examining it closely.

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7 Comments

  1. Cassandra Stafford

    I have gone through that same internal wrangling before. So many times it seems I also, simultaneously, think that I if i DO try to give it that type of serious, reflective thought, that I feel stupid or silly–like I am just trying too hard philosophically. It’s like an internal nagging doubt that maybe everything IS random and I am avoiding facing it. I even have some people in my life tell my “you think too much”. That really helps my self doubt. :p

    Posted 9/12/2012 at | Permalink
  2. ha ha! oh girl i LOVE you! this is so great. “i thought that was crap.“ so classic.

    Posted 9/12/2012 at | Permalink
  3. Perhaps there is a time for everything… a time for metaphors and a time to glory in randomness?

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  4. Mark Allman

    I know we often feel loaded down by the mundane and the minutiae of life but I do think how we go about our daily lives even during those times can have impacts we know not of. One of my all time favorite quotes is by Bruce Barton who said:

    “Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things… I am tempted to think there are no little things.”

    Posted 9/13/2012 at | Permalink
  5. I love the places you walk me to with your words. I am thinking. I am thinking deep. Its all so much to wrap our hearts around, teasing out the large in the small and the everything in the daily. Love your heart here. I am visiting from emily’s and its a wonderful community there, don’t you think. So very nice to meet you.

    Posted 9/13/2012 at | Permalink
  6. I’m a mom/foster mom at home with 5 kiddos, including 3 preschoolers, most of the time. My life is a cycle of mostly insignificant, droll and dry tasks that are part of caretaking. For me, digging the meaning or the metaphor or something beautiful or holy or magical out of the bottom of the dish pile or the laundry bin is saving grace. I need to believe that it all matters in some deeper way or I’ll drown in the bore of it all. I can’t answer whether it’s right or responsible to do it this way, but it keeps me alive to my life, awake to the world, and I get bent up and tangled inside without it. Sometimes, just to remind myself that washing a sour-milk sippy cup can be grace and worship is enough to give me the strength to do it, that soaping up four little bodies, one after another, and kissing foreheads and tucking them tight is all part of a grand love story, too. It’s the oil to keep the gears moving, for me, I guess.

    Posted 9/13/2012 at | Permalink
  7. Sometimes I think the same when reading and it is like this big revelation connected to an every day event-did they make that up or did it just occur to them? Yet there has been times I have read such a connection to every day events and connected with it. Maybe it depends where we are in our lives as you say at the end of your post. Thank you for sharing.

    Posted 9/13/2012 at | Permalink

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