from “Bodily Harm”

from “Bodily Harm”

“Being in love was like running barefoot along a street covered with broken bottles. It was foolhardy, and if you got through it without damage it was only by sheer luck. It was like taking off your clothes at lunchtime in a bank. It let people think they knew something about you that you didn’t know about them, it gave them power over you. It made you visible, soft, penetrable; it made you ludicrous.”

– Margaret Atwood

from “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

from “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe a happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.

– Ursula Le Guin

I think about this …

I think about this …

I think about this sometimes, how much of life is really just comprised of aptly timed accidents. How we work so hard planning and strategizing and everything else when those skills are illusory life tools at best. How we like to believe we’re in total control of our situations, but when things start to happen, really happen, when things suddenly start to pulse and detonate all over the place, what we really need to know how to do is adapt, fall off the ledge and land safely on our feet. I think about this too, how nearly every valuable thing I’ve hit upon in life has been the result of some kind of lucky or horrible accident. And how completely awesome yet unflinchingly absurd that is.

I think about this sometimes, what it would have been like if we had worked out. If I had chosen you instead of not-you. Would you still be saying all those sweet things and making large-scale projections about our idyllic future? Would you still be sending me new songs to listen to every day and notebooks through the mail? Would I still idealize you just as much? I don’t know. Part of me likes to think we could have been happy if given the option but the other part has a feeling we would have cracked right down the middle, your neuroses were what I liked about you but maybe your neuroses plus my neuroses would have been too many. We’ll never know at this point, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about it.

I think about this sometimes, what it would be like to have a second, completely separate life to live alongside this one, just for fun. Just to test out the various potentialities present-day me will never get to realize, like becoming an Olympic gymnast or finishing my neuroscience degree. I wonder if leading parallel lives would eventually get too crazy or whether I’d be able to switch between them, flip cleanly over from one to the other like a light switch. I wonder if parallel me would actually do anything different than what present-day me is doing. I wonder if parallel and present-day me would eventually converge. I wonder if wondering about this means I have too much time on my hands.

I think about this sometimes, what life would have been like if I had never met you. What it would have been like if you never came along when you did, never gave me whiplash, never crawled into my heart, if I hadn’t fallen for you or for anyone at all, just stayed blissfully unaware of love and heartbreak and their sides of horrible and delicious feelings. If I had never met you, I think I would have turned out different. Not better, but maybe more careful. More stable. Or maybe more clueless, relegated to making those high school mistakes in college and beyond instead. What I don’t like to think about is the fact that a part of me will always love you, and it’s nothing that logic or time can starve out. It’s like autumn happening in October or the recurrence of a particular time of day. It just is. And that’s it.

I think about this sometimes, what it would be like to start over, just shut down and reassemble, shed every single layer and do it again, differently. Quit everything, sell everything, pack up and disappear without a trace or a last goodbye. It’s a tempting idea that’s constantly in the back of my head, but I never actually act on it because I have a pretty strong feeling (or strong literary evidence, rather) that that kind of move usually and/or always ends in disillusionment. But that doesn’t mean I’m not tempted. In fact I’m pretty sure the temptation has evolved into a sort of coping mechanism: when things get really awful all I tell myself is “you could leave if you wanted,” and for some reason knowing that, repeating that makes me feel more capable.

– Mila Jaroniec

from “The Winter Vault”

from “The Winter Vault”

…Jean remembered the first time — in the cinema in Morrisburg — that they’d sat together in the dark. Avery had touched her nowhere but her wrist, where the small veins gather. She felt the pressure move along her arm, his fingertip still touching only an inch of her, and she decided. Later, in the bright foyer she was exposed, an invisible disarray; he had crawled a slow fuse under her clothes. And she knew for the first time that someone can wire your skin in a single evening, and that love arrives not by accumulating to a moment, like a drop of water focused on the tip of a branch — it is not the moment of bringing your whole life to another — but rather, it is everything you leave behind. At that moment.

It was as if, long ago, a part of him had broken off inside, and now finally, he recognized the dangerous fragment that had been floating in his system, causing him intermittent pain over the years. As if he could now say of that ache: “Ah. It was you.”

– Anne Michaels

Compensation

Compensation

Our strength grows out of our weakness. Not until we are pricked and stung and sorely shot at, awakens the indignation which arms itself with secret forces. A great man is always willing to be little. Whilst he sits on the cushion of advantages, he goes to sleep. When he is pushed, tormented, defeated, he has a chance to learn something; he has been put on his wits, on his manhood; he has gained facts; learns his ignorance; is cured of the insanity of conceit; has got moderation and real skill. The wise man always throws himself on the side of his assailants. It is more his interest than it is theirs to find his weak point. The wound cicatrizes and falls off from him like a dead skin and when they would triumph, lo! he has passed on invulnerable. Blame is safer than praise. I hate to be defended in a newspaper. As long as all that is said is said against me, I feel a certain assurance of success. But as soon as honied words of praise are spoken for me I feel as one that lies unprotected before his enemies. In general, every evil to which we do not succumb is a benefactor. As the Sandwich Islander believes that the strength and valor of the enemy he kills passes into himself, so we gain the strength of the temptation we resist.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

another for the dating profile – “what i’m looking for.” but not many emersons abound.

from “Design Flaws of the Human Condition”

from “Design Flaws of the Human Condition”

And then one student said that happiness is what happens when you go to bed on the hottest night of the summer, a night so hot you can’t even wear a tee-shirt and you sleep on top of the sheets instead of under them, although try to sleep is probably more accurate. And then at some point late, late, late at night, say just a bit before dawn, the heat finally breaks and the night turns into cool and when you briefly wake up, you notice that you’re almost chilly, and in your groggy, half-consciousness, you reach over and pull the sheet around you and just that flimsy sheet makes it warm enough and you drift back off into a deep sleep. And it’s that reaching, that gesture, that reflex we have to pull what’s warm – whether it’s something or someone – toward us, that feeling we get when we do that, that feeling of being sad in the world and ready for sleep, that’s happiness.

– Paul Schmidtberger

from “Written on the Body”

from “Written on the Body”

Who taught you to write in blood on my back? Who taught you to use your hands as branding irons? You have scored your name into my shoulders, referenced me with your mark. The pads of your fingers have become printing blocks, you tap a message on to my skin, tap meaning into my body. Your Morse code interferes with my heart beat. I had a steady heart before I met you, I relied upon it, it had seen active service and grown strong. Now you alter its pace with your own rhythm, you play upon me, drumming me taut.

— Jeanette Winterson