April 25, 2021

Her true work, which had lingered for so many years in her imagination, emerged fully formed.

Sooki Raphael

By Ann Patchett

Read it and weep. I did.

I have spent the much of my life contemplating the experience of feeling unseen by most and understood by few.

My heart swelled reading this, enthralled by each sentence the whole way through, wondering how it would end. It turned my whole evening around and instilled confidence and a resurfacing desire to be connected.

It inspired and reminded me to be open.

It is a reminder I can live a full life, complete with unconditional love and supportive friendship. That I can receive openness; that I can, am worthy, and should give it too.

"Renée Fleming spent two years in Germany studying voice while she was in her twenties. She told me that over the course of her life, each time she went back to Germany she found her fluency had mysteriously improved, as if the language had continued to work its way into her brain regardless of whether she was speaking it. This was the closest I could come to understanding what happened to Sooki. After her first round of cancer, while she recovered from the Whipple and endured the FOLFIRINOX, she started to paint like someone who had never stopped. Her true work, which had lingered for so many years in her imagination, emerged fully formed, because even if she hadn’t been painting, she saw the world as a painter, not in terms of language and story but of color and shape. She painted as fast as she could get her canvases prepped, berating herself for falling asleep in the afternoons. “My whole life I’ve wanted this time. I can’t sleep through it.” 
The paintings came from a landscape of dreams, pattern on pattern, impossible colors leaning into one another. She painted her granddaughter striding through a field of her own imagination, she painted herself wearing a mask, she painted me walking down our street with such vividness that I realized I had never seen the street before. I would bring her stacks of art books from the closed bookstore and she all but ate them. Sooki didn’t talk about her husband or her children or her friends or her employer; she talked about color. We talked about art. She brought her paintings upstairs to show us: a person who was too shy to say good night most nights was happy for us to see her work. There was no hesitation on the canvases, no timidity. She had transferred her life into brushwork, impossible colors overlapping, the composition precariously and perfectly balanced. The paintings were bold, confident, at ease. When she gave us the painting she had done of Sparky on the back of the couch, I felt as if Matisse had painted our dog."

“Death,” I said. I didn’t say, Your death. I didn’t say, This thing you live with every minute, this heaving horse’s skull, I held it for you today so that you could talk it out with the people who love you. I had set my intention going in: I wanted to help my friend. In making the journey to Oz, she had found the strength and clarity she needed to go home again." 

"As it turned out, Sooki and I needed the same thing: to find someone who could see us as our best and most complete selves. Astonishing to come across such a friendship at this point in life. At any point in life."

Update 💔:

April 18, 2021

This has strengthened my decision to be active forever and use every brain cell and soul spark so there will be nothing left when I go.


The Soul of a Woman: On Impatient Love, Long Life, and Good Witches
By Isabel Allende

"I would like to have Sophia Loren's full breasts and long legs, but if given a choice, I prefer the gifts of several good witches I know: purpose, compassion, and good humor."
(p. 83)
"According to Gerald G. Jampolsky, a famous psychiatrist and the author of many bestsellers about psychology and philosophy, an aptitude for happiness is determined 45 percent by genes and 15 percent by circumstances. That means that the remaining 40 percent is based on our beliefs and attitude about life. Even at ninety-five, Jampolsky is still seeing patients and writings; he goes to the gym five days a week, and every morning when he wakes up he gives thanks for the new day and commits to live it happily, no matter his physical state. Age should not limit our energy or creativity or our willingness to participate in the world. 
Now that we live longer, we have a couple of decades ahead of us to redefine our goals and find meaning in the years to come. Jampolsky recommends letting go of grievances and negativity. More energy is needed to sustain ill feelings than to forgive. The key to contentment is forgiveness of others and of ourselves. Our last years can be the best if we opt for love instead of fear, he says. Love doesn't grow old like a wild plant, it needs a lot of care."
(pp. 85-6) 

"This has strengthened my decision to be active forever and use every brain cell and soul spark so there will be nothing left when I go." 
(p. 87)

"For as long as possible I will crawl up the stairs to the attic where I write and spend my days entertained by telling stories. If I can achieve that, old age is none of my business."
(p. 88) 

"In brief, I am in a splendid moment of my destiny. This is good news for women in general: Life gets easier once we get through menopause and are done with raising kids, but only if we minimize our expectations, give up resentment, and relax in the knowledge that no one, except those closest to us, gives a damn about who we are or what we do. Stop pretending, faking it, lamenting, and flagellating ourselves about silly stuff. We have to love ourselves a lot and love others without calculating how much we are loved in return. This is the stage of kindness."
(p. 97)

April 11, 2021

The good thing about passion is that it pushes us forward and keeps us committed and young.


The Soul of a Woman: On Impatient Love, Long Life, and Good Witches
By Isabel Allende

Could talk endlessly about passions.

"We have talked about sexual passion and romantic passion. But what does it mean simply to be passionate? According to the dictionary, it's a disorderly mood disturbance; it is also described as a powerful and irresistible emotion that can lead to obsessive or dangerous actions.
My own definition is less somber. Passion is unbridled enthusiasm, exuberant energy, and determined devotion to someone or something. The good thing about passion is that it pushes us forward and keeps us committed and young. I have been training for years to be a passionate old woman, just as others train to climb mountains or play chess. I don't want to allow caution, so often prevalent in later years, to destroy my passion for life.
Almost all the female protagonists of my books are passionate because they are the people who interest me. I want characters capable of committing obsessive and dangerous actions, as the dictionary says. A safe and quiet life is not good material for fiction. 
I have sometimes been described as a passionate person because I never sat quietly in my house, as was expected of me. I have to clarify that my risky endeavors were motivated not always by a passionate temperament but because circumstances threw me in unexpected directions. I did the best I could. I have lived in a rough sea where waves would lift me and then drop me to the bottom. This surge has been so strong that before, when things went well, I would prepare for a violent fall, which I considered inevitable, instead of relaxing in the tranquility of the moment. Now it's not like that. Now I drift along day after day, happy to just float for as long as possible." 
(pp. 65-6)

"Carmen was my mentor and my friend. She used to say that we were not friends; I was her client and she was my agent, that we only had a business relationship, but that was not true at all. (Nor was her proclamation that she would have liked to be a kept woman. I can't imagine anybody less gifted for that role than she.) Carmen was at my side during my most significant moments, from Paula's illness to family weddings to my divorces, always supporting me unconditionally, always present. 
This woman, who was able to confront the biggest bully, consulted an astrologer; she believed in psychics, gurus, and magic. She would easily get emotional and cry. She cried so much that Gabriel Garcia Marquez dedicated one of his books to her: To Carmen Balcells, bathed in tears
She was generous to an extreme. For my mother's eightieth birthday, she sent eighty white roses all the way to Chile, and when Uncle Ramon turned ninety-nine she did the same for him. She never forgot his birthday because they were born the same day in August. Once she gave me a complete set of Louis Vuitton luggage because she considered mine cheap and old. It was stolen at the airport in Caracas the first and only time I used it, but I didn't tell her because she would have replaced it immediately. She would send me so many chocolates that I still find some hidden in the most unexpected corners of my house.
After the sudden death of this formidable Catalan lady, I had the feeling for a while that I had lost the life vest that kept me afloat in the stormy literary sea. But the agency she created with her talent and vision continues smoothly under the management of her son, Louis Miguel Palomares.
I have Carmen's photograph on my desk to remind me of her advice: Anybody can write a good first book, but a writer is proved by the second and by those that follow; you are going to be judged harshly because success in women is not easily forgiven; write what you want; don't allow anybody to interfere with your work or in the handling of your money; treat your children like royalty, they deserve it; get married, because a husband, no matter if he is a moron, looks good...
After I had published twenty books, which have been translated into forty-something languages, a Chilean writer whose name I don't remember said that I was not a writer, I was a typist. Carmen Balcells asked him if he had formed his opinion based on having read any of my work. His reply: "Over my dead body." This was when I was nominated for the National Prize for Literature. 
In 2010, with the support of four former presidents, several political parties, and Congress, I received the award. Only then did I finally win some respect from Chilean critics. Carmen sent me ten pounds of orange peels covered in dark chocolate, my favorite." 
(pp. 72-4)

April 04, 2021

What did we want to change? Nothing short of the whole world.


The Soul of a Woman: On Impatient Love, Long Life, and Good Witches
By Isabel Allende

Fondly remembering when my best friend and I started an all girls magazine in fifth grade (It's A Girl's World) and convinced some of our classmates to subscribe for a very minimal fee. I don't think we "published" it for very long, but I'm giving high fives & pats on the back to our former selves for being brave, cute, and feminist, before we even knew what that meant.

"Everything changed for me in 1967 when I started working as a journalist at Paula, a newly launched feminist magazine. (The name has nothing to do with my daughter's; it was one of those names that suddenly became popular and omnipresent.) The editor was Delia Vergara, a young and beautiful journalist who had lived in Europe and had a clear vision of the type of magazine she wanted. With that in mind, she gathered her small team. The magazine saved me from being suffocated by frustration. 
We were four young women in our twenties ready to shake up Chilean prudery. In our country, which was very conservative and had a provincial mentality, social mores had not changed much over the last century. We got inspiration from magazines and books from Europe and North America. We read Sylvia Plath and Betty Friedan, and later Germaine Greer, Kate Miller, and other writers who helped us define ideas and express them eloquently. 
I opted for humor because I soon realized that the most daring ideas can be accepted if they elicit a smile. That's how my column "Civilize Your Troglodyte" came to be. It made fun of machismo, and ironically became very popular among men. "I have a friend who is just like your troglodyte," they would say to me. (Always a friend.) Some female readers, on the other hand, felt threatened because the column shook the very foundation of their domestic world.
I was comfortable in my skin for the first time. I wasn't a lonely lunatic; millions of women shared my concerns. There was a women's liberation movement happening on the other side of the Andes Mountains and our magazine intended to spread it throughout Chile. 
From those foreign intellectuals whose books we read, I learned that anger without purpose is useless and even harmful; I had to act if I wanted change...
My three colleagues and I wrote with a knife between our teeth; we were a scary gang. What did we want to change? Nothing short of the whole world. With the arrogance of youth, we thought that could be done in ten or fifteen years. This was more than half a century ago and look where we still are today. But I have not lost faith that it can be achieved, and my accomplices from that time, who are as old as I, haven't either. And yes, I use the word old, which seems to be pejorative. I do so on purpose because I am proud of my age. Every year I have lived and every wrinkle I have tell my story."

April 03, 2021

Do you truly feel you deserve what you're asking for? Are you worth it? How you answer impacts what comes your way.

More Myself
By Alicia Keys

Good timing: Alicia's memoir was actually nearing its one year anniversary while I listened to it. On Instagram, she read a passage from the book about her shift from a scarcity to abundance mindset. I'm still learning how myself.

"Money, like all life, is an energy exchange. You give yourself over to whatever you're passion about and what comes back to you is energy in the form of monetary compensation. You attract more or less of what you want by how you choose to interact with it, as well as what you believe about yourself. Do you truly feel you deserve what you're asking for? Are you worth it? How you answer impacts what comes your way. What you focus on expands. If you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it and if you live with an open palm, rather than a closed fist, you leave room for immeasurable blessings to flow through your hands. It was one of the strongest lessons ever passed on to me in the classroom my life was becoming."