So Be It

An invocation at the Greek society where I belonged in college (is that mysterious enough?) includes the phrase, “So be it,” purportedly in the Jean-Luc Picard sense of “Make it so.” As I’ve never been able to take simple phrases at face value (c.f. my double-reading of Jenny Holzer) nor, I suspect, was this one intended as a single-entendre, I always interpreted it as, “Go and be what you mean to be.”

I keep thinking about how remarkably simple an idea it is, to respond to desire with action, and yet that seems to be one of the biggest challenges many people face. I’m fond of overusing a saying that my friend Kevin had as his senior yearbook quote, “A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.” (I only just learned the source is Charles Kettering when I checked to make sure that Kevin was accurate and that I haven’t been vicariously quoting David Duke or Hitler or something all these years.) This idea is beautifully straightforward, in that most of the time when we express desires they contain intents, or at least the kernel of the solution in the initial expression.

Here is a fun (maybe?) game – see if you can state the immediate and obvious solution to the following wishes:

I wish I were better at communicating with my friends and family.
I wish I exercised more often.
I wish I spent more time in nature.
I wish I could speak French.
I wish I made time to meditate more regularly.
I wish I took more photos of my neighborhood.

Easy, right? It’s just, “So go…[blank].” Aren’t other people’s wishes simple?

Over time, and with the help of several art and chemistry professors who taught me to ask better questions, I’ve gotten pretty good at phrasing my problems so I can jump straight to the, “So go…” phase of taking action. Instead of making lists of wishes, I now have the habit of making prescriptive to-do lists. And as long as my wishes are reasonable, it’s just a question of focusing time and energy on the changes I want to make or the new habits I want to develop.

Where it is slightly more complex are those amorphous wishes like, “I wish I supported myself fully as an artist” (in progress, more on that soon) or the particularly troubling, “I wish I could meet my soulmate and start a family.”

The HR consultant at my last job was a big proponent of “Strategic Attraction,” sometimes phrased as “The Science of Positive Attraction,” and which I think is related to Law of Attraction meditation. The idea is that by focusing your energy and visualizing the specifics of who or what you’d like to attract, the Universe draws you toward it. I’m paraphrasing, but the example she gave me was when I was looking for a new apartment. She suggested I write out all the specifics of what I wanted in terms of location, size, light, noise level, neighborhood, and so on, and then move beyond the basics and non-negotiables to how I wanted my life to be in this new apartment, “I am looking for a home where I sleep peacefully,” or “I’d like a home where I enjoy being creative in my free time.” The more detailed my description, the better prepared I would be in apartment-hunting and the more clearly I could find exactly the right apartment to match what I’d envisioned. Not surprisingly, she was totally right, and I found the absolutely ideal home in the Bronx, which only continues to get better now that I’m making my life closer to how I want it.

When I think about the soulmate thing, it’s not as easy as making a list of “must enjoy hiking,” “preferably likes Italian food,” or “ideally willing to go sailing and loves it.” I may be muddling the sentiment with too many drinks, but at dinner with my beloved cousin, she shared her husband’s belief that love is about three factors coming together just so: the right person, the right place, and the right time. You can compromise on it a little, but there is a sweet spot of those three for both people that makes for a lifetime of happiness together.

At times I think I may have found the right person at the wrong time, or been in the right place with the wrong person, but if only through tautology, it can’t have been the love of my life if we didn’t, in fact, fall in love for life. Another double reading, which may be part of the “time” factor, is that you have to be the right person yourself, in a place in your life when you are open and ready for your love as you are. I don’t know how many genuinely good-hearted, awesome people I’ve met over the years when I was so across-the-board miserable that I didn’t truly consider happiness an option. I wouldn’t even want my soulmate to have been attracted to the person I’ve been, and in some ways I’m relieved I didn’t have someone to cheer me up most of the time because it allowed me to be honest about the big things in my life I needed to change. So I am focusing on becoming the person I mean to be, making my life the way I want it, and I’ll leave it to the Universe to blindside me with the right person when I’m ready, if that’s in the cards. Of course if someone kind and outdoorsy with soulful eyes wants to fall in love with me now, I suppose that’s okay too.

The biggest of the things I’ve been focused on is switching from working for other people to working for myself. I promise I will have a lot more to say about all that soon, but I had been treating it as a mysterious, secret process, like the Underpants Gnomes from South Park:

(By the way, I think I have sung the Underpants Gnomes song in my head pretty much every day I’ve ever left my home to go to work, and I sing it out loud now whenever I walk into my studio. This is but one of my many attractive qualities.)

So the project is:

  1. Be an artist. Make art and make it available for sale.
  2. ???
  3. Profit / happy life

I suspect the secret is that there is no secret. You state the thing you want to do, and then you keep doing it. You treat yourself kindly, with a generosity of spirit and gratitude, but also with perseverance. You don’t give up or stop trying until you’ve achieved the first thing you mean to, but you don’t beat yourself up if it takes a long time or makes you stretch beyond what you thought you were capable of doing. You take Anaïs Nin’s line to heart, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom,” and you unfurl your petals.

Or more succinctly, you know what you want to be, “so be it.”

When you’re ready to change your life, it can happen anywhere

Two weeks ago I accepted a spontaneous invitation to meet a friend for a long weekend in Chicago. Whether intentionally or not (I don’t want to accuse him of anything) the invitation as communicated was quite different from the situation I found when I arrived. On the first night I was texting a friend back home about the weirdness, and I felt myself falling into the same negative thought traps I usually do.

This is all my fault – I am so stupid and naïve for believing a guy would just want to spend time with me as a friend.
– I always do this kind of thing, where I only see the best in people and then end up in super awkward and potentially dangerous situations.
– Way to go, Bridget, you’ve gotten yourself into an after-school special at age 34, have you honestly learned nothing about life?!

And so on. My friend back home talked me off the ledge (thank God for true friends), and we reviewed some of the discussions and precautions I’d taken before leaving. I was incredibly relieved that in what little last-minute planning I did the night I was packing to leave, I connected with a few friends on Facebook, whom I’d forgotten or never knew lived in Chicago. Everyone gave great suggestions for things to see and do, and a few friends said they’d be in town. It immediately became clear that I would need to plan another trip soon, and I was intent to salvage this one.

I met up with a very dear friend whom I’ve known since I was in high school (who happens to have dated my brother for several years when they were kids). We had lunch and drinks, and she very generously showed me around downtown Chicago. I joked with her, as she repeated the offer of a safe place to stay if things kept getting weirder with my host, that I was genuinely glad I made such a foolish and impulsive trip because it gave me the chance to catch up with her. There aren’t many people in the world who have known both my grandmothers and my aunt Elise, who knows the goofy guys I sometimes ate lunch with in high school (when my boyfriend and I were on-again) on a first-name basis, or who has been a friend to me and my brother for so long. She’s also just an all-around awesome, good-hearted person and great company, so it was a real treat.

I was incredibly grateful to get to know such a wonderful new city because it turns out, I seriously love Chicago. The architecture and art is amazing, the way the city is laid out is extraordinarily pedestrian-friendly with loads of things to see and do, I finally experienced true Midwestern manners and kindness, the food was delightful, I fell head over heels in love with Lake Michigan (seriously, I am certain the color will haunt my dreams all my life), and I discovered a lot about myself on this trip (more on that in a moment). I met up with a friend from college whom I haven’t seen in 15 years and his spectacularly lovely fiancée for deep dish pizza and sundaes on my last night, and I admitted that I felt like I was babbling about a new crush with how much I loved Chicago and my time with them. From what I understand, it’s pretty common to fall in love with Chicago, even – or especially – if you’re a New Yorker.

One of the most profound things that happened for me was at the Art Institute of Chicago, which is one of the loveliest museums I’ve ever visited and the place I most wanted to see besides Lake Michigan. I have a sometimes embarrassing tendency to burst into tears when I see works of art that are particularly meaningful to me (Michelangelo’s David, the Monets at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, van Gogh’s Wheat Field with Cypresses etc.). Sometimes I’m able to keep it together in an academic sense, as in the Sistine Chapel, when I was able to take a step back and really look at the imagery that I’d written about for a semester in a Michelangelo seminar, but as an artist who has been in love with painting as long as I can remember, my heart usually takes over.

This little painting by Georgia O’Keeffe called Blue and Green Music has been one of my favorites my whole life. It is one of the pivotal works that opened my eyes to abstraction as a child thumbing through books, and it has remained a touchstone in my mind for the power of what simple painting can do emotionally. Seeing it in person was more intense than I even would have predicted (a real tear-sprayer, honestly) and it was deeply significant to me because I saw, yet again, there was not any particular wizardry going on, even in what I consider one of the most magical paintings in the world. O’Keeffe is one of my all-time favorite artists because she captures the elegance and simplicity of nature in her painting without gimmickry, pretense, or affectation. It is her own style, but it is faithful to nature’s style, and it may be the most perfect organic abstraction yet achieved. I also saw this painting was not made through any esoteric inaccessible technical skill or method beyond my grasp – it was her clarity of thought and vision made tangible, and that’s exactly why it was so beautiful and powerful.

Later that afternoon, walking along the lakefront in intermittent rain, I realized that all my life, whether I wanted it or not, I’ve been an artist and I can’t stop being one. I can paint with the same clarity and emotions as O’Keeffe, and maybe if I handle my career the right way, my work can have the same genuine, emotional impact on other people that this painting made on me. I also had this rush of exhilaration that finally, I am pursuing art for real, setting up my business full-time instead of wishing that someday I could get it going, and I am putting my whole heart into it. I truly believe it is the right time, and my experience in Chicago showed me that repeatedly.

A few years ago, I would have succumbed to the part of myself that apologizes too much, allows myself to be mistreated and literally shoved around for my lack of assertiveness, lets my time get wasted, watches people try to manipulate me and stays silent, and generally, acts as my own worst enemy. On this trip, I found myself able to speak up, assert myself while remaining pleasant and keeping things friendly, change plans when they were not okay, and make sure that I got to have the experience I wanted out of Chicago. I saw so many incredible things, spent so much time walking around the city and being outside in alternating sunshine and sideways snow, proved Frank Sinatra correct that the El is a piece of cake after NYC subways, saw species of birds I’ve never seen in person before, and reconnected with beautiful, kind people in wonderful ways. In the past, I probably would have been too shy to accept their invitations or felt obliged to stay with my host when he kept turning his nose up at plans. I’m so happy I’m not that person anymore, and that I trusted myself enough to be myself instead.

By the time my early-morning flight home got cancelled and I accidentally bought a ticket out of Milwaukee, I wasn’t even flustered. The gate agent assured me that I had time to take a bus and check in for my flight, and I trusted her, even though it meant running at a full-sprint through the Chicago airport because I misheard the departure time as 6:25 instead of 6:45 (whoops). The Milwaukee airport was unbelievably pleasant (it’s a toss-up for most charming details: the sign after security for the Recombobulation Area or the dishes of candy at the gates), I had the incomparable pleasure of hearing a TSA agent say in a thick Midwestern accent, “Hey look, there’s a piece of pizza in this bag!” about my Lou Malnati’s leftovers, and I took the sign from the universe that I was supposed to use the opportunity to buy a wheel of Wisconsin Cheddar as a souvenir.

I was intent on getting back in time to meet with my beloved cousin Desireé for dinner and drinks on her last night in New York, and we stayed out talking and laughing late enough to shut down a speakeasy on a Monday night. I kept thinking how much more accurately this version of my life fit with what I truly care about and value than previous times when I had to cut things short to get home to fret about work, or when I’d say I loved my job (because I thought I did) and friends knew I was just putting a good face on a situation that was making me deeply unhappy. I am done with regrets now, I am spending my time with kind people who have beautiful hearts, and I am already planning my next trip(s).

The wonderful thing about travel is that beyond experiencing a new place, it lets us see our daily lives through a fresh lens. I stepped out of my patterns and tendencies and acted spontaneously and flexibly instead. I stopped making decisions out of fear or insecurity and just did what I wanted to do. I remembered the joy of living life the way I mean to, instead of the way I think I’m supposed to, and I came back to New York refreshed, empowered, and excited for all the big things coming up this spring. I didn’t need to go all the way back to India for another life-changing experience, just a few hours away in my own country. For a long weekend, that’s quite a lot to be thankful for.


My photos are in my Chicago album on Flickr and art pics are in My Museum Habit.

Love is understanding

The other day (two weeks ago now) my father was picking me up at the train station the night before our family’s annual St. Patrick’s Day party. As we were chatting and catching up, he excitedly said, “Oh! I was thinking of you yesterday morning!”

(I will always be my daddy’s little girl)

He started to describe what he saw looking off a small bridge as he was driving to work just before sunrise in a light fog. A silver light glowed behind a single cloud perfectly reflected in the river, which was as still and smooth as a mirror. The horizon disappeared into a shining, seamless vision of twin clouds framed by the faint shape of the shores.

His description was so beautiful and vivid that I could see exactly what he saw, and I told him how touched I was that such a lovely little moment made him think of me.

“I think of you every time I see something like that,” he said warmly, “because I know that’s what you love most.”

I felt so profoundly understood, and in turn, truly loved.

When I shared that story with a friend at the party the next day, he laughed and said the same incredulous thing I’d been thinking, “How come guys your age don’t know how to say that kind of thing to you?” We agreed that guys just don’t seem to be made like my dad anymore (but I’ll keep looking).

I’ve been taking photographs of the sky and little moments in nature since I first got my hands on a Fisher-Price 120 film camera as a little girl, and Tumblr informs me I’ve been posting some of them to The Sky Where I Am for three years now. My dad isn’t big into blogs or social media, so usually when I visit I show him all the photos I’ve taken since the last time I saw him, and he tells me about all the things he’s seen. I cherish his descriptions full of wonder at a kestrel landing in his lap or the prompt reappearance of ospreys on March 15th (“Fish Hawk Day”) like nothing else.

I owe so much of my love of nature and the outdoors to my dad and the generosity with which he’s shared his passion for life with me. I am delighted that I got to visit my family two weekends in a row, which included hiking, neighborhood walks, and two long bicycle rides. We checked up on the birds, ducks, geese, and deer around town on a route very similar to the one we used to take on rides together my whole childhood, and we both giggled when we saw dabbling ducks on the Navesink.

I got all mushy and thanked him yet again for always including me on those afternoons. He smiled that understanding dad smile as he said, “I’m so glad it means as much to you as it does to me.”

An arbitrary ranking of accents I find most appealing in men

One of my favorite things about living in New York is that it seems just about everyone has an accent of some kind. I am particularly attuned to accents and inflections, maybe as an extension of music sensitivity, or as another layer of generally loving language. I find I try to prolong conversations when I particularly enjoy someone’s accent, and I am guilty of sometimes tossing in a non sequitur to sneakily lure people into saying words I’d like to hear in their accents without embarrassing them by asking for a performance.

Plenty of people have said they like my voice, but because I am from New Jersey, there have only been a handful who go so far as to claim they like my accent. I also have a tendency to speak way too quickly, which distorts vowel sounds so I sometimes sound like a frenzied Canadian, and I think I picked up more New England at school in Connecticut than I meant to.

In one of my sillier idiosyncrasies, I can’t find a man attractive if I don’t like the tone of his voice or the way he speaks. I know I’m not alone in this quirk, but I don’t think people spend as much time obsessing about sound and inflection as I do, so they would just chalk it up to a vague “not feeling it” and move on without over-analysis.

But obviously that’s not how I roll, so…

An Arbitrary Ranking of Accents I Find Most Appealing in Men

(And occasionally the sexiest examples of them)

  1. British-Inflected Indian or Middle Eastern

    This is most frequently a guy from India or the Middle East who has learned English in the UK or been taught by a pedantic Britisher, and it is by far the loveliest, most beautiful accent I’ve ever heard. It is also one of the most subtly varied, as it combines thousands of regional accents or dialects with several levels of British accent (usually aiming for upper crust) so each person has their own iteration.

  2. Scottish

    Ex.: Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit, Sam Hueghan as Jamie Fraser in Outlander

    There is something rugged but sensual in a Scottish accent that makes me swoon. It sometimes also comes as a delightful surprise when a guy opens his mouth and the Highlands topple out.

  3. Irish brogue

    Ex.: Chris O’Dowd

    I may be showing my cultural bias a bit too much here, but I do believe I am hard-wired to find an Irish accent attractive, and it seems I am not alone, as a random 2009 survey found the Irish accent to be sexiest in the world. In addition to the Ireland-Irish brogue, I also adore the Jersey City inflection that some of my best-loved and most-missed family members had. That one seems to be a specific historical immigration moment, so it’s unlikely I will ever find a guy my age with it, sadly.

  4. Classic British / Queen’s English

    Ex.: Colin Firth all day, Henry Cavill especially in The Tudors

    It is completely colonial, but I will do just about anything a guy with a British accent suggests, including melt into a puddle. It is the hopelessly elegant, gentlemanly accent of Jane Austen and my dreams, and I find it plainly irresistible.

    Let’s just really look at Henry Cavill for a moment.

    What a gorgeous man.

  5. Richly Textured NYC Area

    Ex.: Steve Buscemi

    Like I said, I grew up in New Jersey, and I’ve lived in one of the five boroughs for the better part of the last 13 years, so a disproportionate amount of the jabronies I’ve adored have had this type of accent. Thickly Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and even Staten Island accents are like catnip for me. People who claim the NYC accent is just an Italian-American accent aren’t listening closely enough. If someone grew up in NYC, Long Island, or north-central New Jersey, you can not only pinpoint their borough, but usually their neighborhood too. There are few treats better than listening to a NYC guy go on a rant about something small that annoys him.

  6. Lyrical Northern Italian, especially Venetian and Milanese

    Ex.: Ignazio Oliva as Osvaldo Donati in Stealing Beauty

    Also acceptable are some Florentine and Roman accents, basically most Italian accents except Napoli and Sicilian. I was surprised to learn when working in Italy that their regional accents are as distinct as Americans find our Northeastern and Deep Southern accents. I learned to speak Italian in Venice, which has its own peculiarities, and as I moved further south in the country I had a harder time understanding people and being understood. It wasn’t just me, though – other researchers on our team from Florence and the Pisa area couldn’t understand the Sicilians at all either. Needless to say, I still have dreams about some of the sweet nothings I heard in northern Italian accents.

  7. Central and South American Hispanic

    Ex.: Gael García Bernal

    There is a reason I learned to speak Spanish in grade school. So far the only Hispanic accents I don’t like are the ones that are inflected with California / Southwestern American because the cadence annoys me to distraction. It’s been 50/50 on guys from Spain, but it’s case by case as long as they don’t do that Castilian lisp. But quickly lilting, forcefully spoken Hispanic-accented English is enchanting.

  8. Unaware Corn-Fed Midwestern

    This one is hard to explain, but people from certain parts of the Midwest say specific words with no idea that they have an accent, and it is adorable. There is something about the vowel sounds and the way the mouth seems to wrap around words that, along with the cadence, is deeply comforting and can be genuinely charming.

  9. French who has lived in New York for a while or speaks to Americans often

    I find British-inflected French totally unappealing, but a French guy who has lived in New York has an accent that becomes delectable with time. The first time I was in Paris a guy at a crepe place wanted to speak with me at length to practice his English, and his accent was also something I could listen to all day.

  10. Regular Indian

    Ex.: Irrfan Khan

    So far it hasn’t mattered what region an Indian guy is from, the non-British-inflected Indian speaking English is always a beautiful accent to me. I think it’s a combination of the softness of some sounds, the elongation of others, and the clipped boyish pitch of “dee” and “tee” sounds. Indian English is kind of its own form, both in pronunciation and grammar, and I am entranced listening to it. Indian guys also tend to speak English with a distinct personal rhythm, which is thoroughly hypnotic to me. You can imagine how much I enjoy an Indian guy saying “Vicki” or “Victoria,” and I even like when they do it in repetition from exasperation.

  11. Soft-Spoken Japanese

    Ex.: Hiro Mizushima as Yoshi on Girls

    Some Japanese guys have a gentle yet assertive way of speaking English that is inexplicably so attractive specifically because it’s slow, even though I’m usually incredibly impatient with slow-talking. The combination of English with Japanese vowel sounds and rhythm comes off as careful and controlled in an amazingly alluring way.

  12. South African

    Ex.: Trevor Noah on The Daily Show

    My love of the South African accent actually comes from a few friends, but I am pleased to have Trevor Noah on television regularly reminding me of why I love speaking with them so much.

  13. Christoph Waltz

    Whatever he says, I love hearing it. I don’t think I would enjoy literally anyone else speaking in his accent, but he’s great.

So that’s my top 13. For now. Based on completely arbitrary memories and experiences and people I’ve known and the way they’ve informed my preferences.

I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed Google image searching so much, hee.

Life itself

Writing has always been therapeutic for me, if only through the way that wrangling thoughts and experiences into grammatical and linguistic logic forces it to adhere to some kind of sense. Wrapping words around swirling emotions tethers them however loosely to reality, gives them names, and makes them known. I have been writing profusely since I was a child and could barely form letters with Crayola markers in journals printed with teddy bears and locked with tiny gold keys, as if five-year-olds have meaningful secrets. Blogging has let me connect with people by metaphorically writing out loud, sharing snippets of what I’ve been thinking about once a week or so, and occasionally I am delighted when what I’ve written resonates enough with someone else that we discuss it and it becomes a conversation beyond me talking to myself.

I’ve been merrily writing along about essentially abstract things lately, politics and American society and my place in things, and I’ve thought I was writing about life. In some ways I was because life is lived day by day, but I wasn’t really writing about life itself, the big mortal living part, and that difference was thrown into stark contrast last week.

A friend from college was killed in a completely random accident on Tuesday. I won’t insult his memory with a half-assed eulogy, but he was one of the most genuinely good-hearted, funniest, nicest guys I knew at school. We played intramural softball together one season, he came to all the parties at our house, and he was the best friend of one of my dearest friends – I thought of them as brothers to each other. Greg was the kind of guy that you immediately liked, and his charm and charisma made it clear that whatever he tried in life, he would be great at it. I hadn’t seen him or talked with him in years – we weren’t even Facebook friends – but because he was so close with my friend, I figured I’d always hear what fun things he was up to and see him again.

I learned about his death on Thursday, ironically or not because I was taking a break from feeling devastated by a character dying in the book I was reading (I’ll come back to that). I clicked around on Facebook and saw a post saying a friend of the house had died, then pieced together with increasing dread and terror from which friends were posting and what they were saying who it was. I worked up the nerve to Google and read the awful story, cried my face off for a bit, then checked in with my friend, who was naturally in utter shock.

What do you say to someone who has lost his best friend in the world so suddenly and tragically? Words completely failed me. I know I told him I was thinking of him and I loved him, but I couldn’t think of anything meaningful or comforting because I realized there weren’t words for what had happened. It’s not like Greg was old or suffering from a disease – he was 32 and in the prime of his life. There wasn’t the comfort from heroism in war or even the cold comfort of being angry at someone or something because by all accounts and speculation the accident seems to have been caused by a medical issue the driver had. The intersection had guard posts, just a few feet to the side of where the car went through. And even if I can get angry or think about how different things should be, nothing can bring him back. It is just shit ass bad luck, and it feels brutally, needlessly, cruelly unfair.

My friend said they’d taken their toddlers out for burgers on Sunday. He and Greg had kids six weeks apart, and Greg leaves behind a 15-month-old daughter. My friend’s wife was with Greg’s wife when she got the news. The only thing I could say that felt true was that I thought Greg would be glad to know that my friend and his wife were there to take care of his family.

It is still a surreality, and my mind is reeling against the idea that this handsome, sweet guy I knew as a teenager is no longer among us here. I don’t know how to help my friend, except to check in with him sometimes and remind him I love him and am here for him. I don’t have words to wrap around what’s happened because it’s not supposed to make sense right now. Everything I think or start to say feels hopelessly trite and pointless, as does the stuff I’m painting and working on. I don’t know when you restart time, or how.

At first after I talked with my friend I thought I should put my book aside, that it was morbid to go back to reading about someone dying when a real-life friend just had, but I was going stir-crazy and unable to concentrate on anything, so I started reading it again. It turned out to be exactly what I needed. The author, Kristopher Jansma, is a friend of mine from high school, someone whom I’ve generally regarded as one of my favorite people in the world however much we may drift in and out of each others’ lives, and without being biased in the slightest, an objectively brilliant and extraordinarily talented writer. He lost his sister to cancer eight years ago, and in this beautiful essay, he wrote about how he didn’t want to write about her death:

“For a long time I resisted any urge to write about what had happened. Fiction makes sense of things, gives events purpose. I didn’t want any sense or purpose assigned to my sister’s death.”

I feel weird tangling these things together, but Kris’s book was the therapy I needed, helping me through grieving for Greg and putting words around the way I felt about how unfair and random it was for someone to die young when everyone else goes on living. Kris was brave enough to find the words for these feelings, and he made something incredible out of them. His book is art in the truest sense, written from the heart and with a startling honesty. Even if you aren’t trying to get through a tragedy, this book is very much about life itself and being human, and it’s a truly wonderful experience to read. (I’m trying and failing not to warp my expression of how beautiful this book is with how much it specifically helped me.)

Some combination of everything from this week made me feel that fundamentally, life isn’t fair, but it can be beautiful. I am grateful that Greg had friends as wonderful as the ones I know and a wife who adored him. I am grateful he got to travel and go to law school and become a lawyer and have a daughter, and I hope his life was good and he knew happiness in his heart of hearts. I’ve been praying for his family and friends and his soul, without knowing where exactly he stood on spirituality, because it’s all I know how to do.

I’m probably paraphrasing something Kris wrote much more artfully, but I think at the end of it, whenever it may be, all we can really ask for is to love and be loved and know some beauty on earth. Maybe that’s it, life itself, or maybe there is more and I haven’t figured it out yet. In the meantime, we can read great books, feel our feelings, tell the people we love what they mean to us, see the world, and be grateful and kind. That’s the only real stuff I know.