We remember things but forget the minutiae, and sometimes even the most traumatic of experiences. Humans are adept in the art of self preservation hence we have colonized the earth (or so we think until a virus comes along and makes us question everything we knew). We move on with our lives for better or worse but try not to forget the things that really matter. Making sense of things is more important than moving on. Honestly, I have never really understood what moving on meant and with life passing me by and time galloping away, I’m not even going to try.
I lost a friend recently. Many people lost their loved ones this year, (it’s the season of loss) and we have our own ways of coping. But what do you do in case of an online friend? I talked to other online friends who knew her but I still felt bereft. This person was someone whose strength and innate goodness I had admired, so it hit me particularly hard even though we had never met in person. I haven’t seen her handwriting or heard her voice but I knew her. In unguarded moments we shared the story of our lives as it really was, in all its ugliness. We had a connection, and battled some of the same issues. Now I’m here and she’s not. Life isn’t fair. I know that by now, but it still doesn’t feel any less painful or make its acceptance easy.
We wander around life thinking we have forever but our days are numbered and the countdown begins the moment we are born. But how many of us how truly understand the nature of time? Now a person is there, now gone. Some things we understand only in hindsight; when we can’t do anything about it but lament. The things we don’t do for others keeps on playing into the regrets of our life stories. Whenever someone dies I am filled with regrets about the things I could have done but didn’t do. But I have realised to live and feel deeply, is to live with regrets.
This year has been hard for so many of us for a multitude of reasons. It made me realize you can’t just hope to exist and live this life coasting by doing the bare minimum, not if you want to live. Survive. Live. Thrive. One step at a time. Survival is something one has to want, and give one’s whole self to (heart and brain working in tandem), and that means dwelling in the past is out of question. We know that bringing our A game is something we need to do but it doesn’t mean we always do. Gentle reminder to self going forth into the new year to look at things differently, in a solution oriented manner, and focusing on the positive however bleak the circumstances might be. Broken I might be in places, but I’m still alive.
First off how good is the minimalist cover of Olive Kitteridge? I really thought I got lucky with this edition not just because I love lighthouses.
I have been delaying talking about Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge because I read it within a month of my grandfather’s death. Saying we were very close would be an understatement. At first the book hurt terribly. I thought I knew heartbreak and then life decides to say ha let me show you how you wrong you are! Initially, you want to escape the pain not experience it more deeply. But then the latter is more cathartic in the long run, and you start to heal when you realize this is the way of the world. We are all connected by loss, love and longing.
I was astounded by Elizabeth Strout’s writing. There’s a kind of gentleness about the everyday life she writes about. It is never banal. I never thought everyday life could be written about so poignantly and have such an immediacy to it. Ordinary people, everyday entanglements and normal lives in the hands of a gifted writer makes for a compelling narrative.
Henry Kitteridge, the husband of Olive Kitteridge, reminded me of my grandfather – kind and affable, never wanting to make a fuss and trying his best to be in harmony with what is.
Possible spoilers ahead.
Olive Kitteridge is the portrait of a long marriage and of an only child’s failed relationship with his parents. It is learning that marriage cannot alleviate your loneliness completely even though you are bound together for life. It is about the deterioration and fatigue that sets in old age. It is about finding companionship when you least expect it. It is about tender unexpected love that has no name but which gushes forth without caring if it’s appropriate. It is a deep yearning to be connected yet unable to bridge the gap.
It is about the truth and being straightforward being the kinder way in some cases. It is about the meek and submissive becoming vile when it is they who wield the power.
It is about small things, things of no apparent consequence and almost invisible to others, having the capacity to cause such tremendous heartbreak that it takes you by surprise.
It is about compassion lurking under battle hardened hearts and letting go of judgement, living with everything as is. It is being true to yourself above all because in the end when Death is coming for you, that’s all that matters.
Olive Kitteridge showed me all that and more. I could identify with many things. Things I didn’t know I felt, things I suppressed because they weren’t important in the scheme of day to day living. And there were things I could foresee myself identifying with in the future. When a book does that you know it’s a keeper.