Monthly Archives: August 2014

Bird by bird

“E. L. Doctorow once said that “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard.”


Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim

This is best thing I’ve read in a long time, and exactly what I needed right now.

…What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don’t be frightened: you can always change your mind. I know: I’ve had four careers and three husbands. And this is something else I want to tell you, one of the hundreds of things I didn’t know when I was sitting here so many years ago: you are not going to be you, fixed and immutable you, forever. We have a game we play when we’re waiting for tables in restaurants, where you have to write the five things that describe yourself on a piece of paper. When I was your age, I would have put: ambitious, Wellesley graduate, daughter, Democrat, single. Ten years later not one of those five things turned up on my list. I was: journalist, feminist, New Yorker, divorced, funny. Today not one of those five things turns up in my list: writer, director, mother, sister, happy. Whatever those five things are for you today, they won’t make the list in ten years — not that you still won’t be some of those things, but they won’t be the five most important things about you. Which is one of the most delicious things available to women, and more particularly to women than to men. I think. It’s slightly easier for us to shift, to change our minds, to take another path. Yogi Berra, the former New York Yankee who made a specialty of saying things that were famously maladroit, quoted himself at a recent commencement speech he gave. “When you see a fork in the road,” he said, “take it.” Yes, it’s supposed to be a joke, but as someone said in a movie I made, don’t laugh this is my life, this is the life many women lead: two paths diverge in a wood, and we get to take them both. It’s another of the nicest things about being women; we can do that. Did I say it was hard? Yes, but let me say it again so that none of you can ever say the words, nobody said it was so hard. But it’s also incredibly interesting. You are so lucky to have that life as an option.


Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women. Thank you. Good luck. The first act of your life is over. Welcome to the best years of your lives.


My feet are torn apart from standing up all day in shoes that were supposed to be comfortable, I can feel a tinge of hoarseness in my throat from talking too much and too loudly, my dress pants are still half a size too tight, I didn’t use the bathroom for six hours straight on Wednesday, and my happiest moment this week was when I climbed into bed at 9:30pm to give myself just over eight hours of sleep.

Now that I’m finally living it again, I’m less sure than ever that this is what I was to do with my life.

My weakness is in momentary regrets, as I question myself before allowing the proper distance from these events.

I tell myself that I will keep teaching. That I will let me job consume my life again and allow myself to believe that it will get better. Quitting is not a consideration. It is only—not even—one year.

But if this were a relationship, I’d end it immediately—like I did with the English boy two weeks ago when things got tough yet again—and as I still find myself aching for him, I wonder if my strategy is all wrong.

Is working at an imperfect job for a year just as silly as staying in an imperfect relationship for the same amount of time?


With very little agenda beside escaping loneliness, I coerce the English boy into talking to me today and then regret it as my heart wrenches in my chest for the rest of the day. He is happy in the simplicity of singledom as I feel my resolve continue to weaken. There is so much of us that I don’t want back, but right now, all I want is that uncertainty back. Because at least then, there was hope.