John and I are pleased to announce the birth of our son David. He was born last Sunday, measuring 22 inches long and weighing 7 pounds, 12 ounces. We are tired, but very much in love with our little guy. Thank you for all your kind wishes and support.
I’m reading a fabulous book right now called THE MAGICIANS, which is about a young man who’s recruited to attend a college for magicians. Not magicians as we know them—sleight of hand, illusionists, and all that—but real, honest-to-God, spellcasting magicians.
When our young hero graduates from the magic school, the dean addresses the class and explains why he thinks people become magicians.
As I was reading it, it struck me that it’s very similar to why a lot of people become writers or painters or singers. Changing the word “magician” to “artist,” here’s the dean’s monologue:
I have a little theory I’d like to air here, if I may. What is it that makes you artists? Is it because you are intelligent? Is it because you are brave and good? Is it because you’re special?
Maybe. Who know. But I’ll tell you something: I think you’re artists because you’re unhappy. An artist is strong because he feels pain. He feels the difference between what the world is and what he would make of it. Or what did you think that stuff in chest was? An artist is strong because he hurts more than others. His wound is his strength.
Most people carry that pain around inside them their whole lives, until they kill the pain by other means, or until it kills them. But you, my friends, you found another way: a way to use the pain. To burn it as fuel, for light and warmth. You have learned to break the world that has tried to break you.
I’ve always fancied myself to be a creative person. A reader from a young age, I wrote my first “novel” in the fifth grade. I won prizes for my short stories in high school. I went to graduate school for creative writing, and I write for a living today.
For a long time, though, writing was something I had to do—as Maya Angelou once said, “There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.”—but it wasn’t necessarily something I enjoyed.
You see, I bought into the myth of the suffering artist. I thought great art could only come from a place of pain. I identified heavily with Hemingway when he said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
I conveniently forgot that Hemingway killed himself, which is the most destructive act anyone can ever achieve.
No, this isn’t a post about S&M, women in leather cracking whips, or anything like that. It’s about an interesting post I read on a blog called Project M that discusses the link between monogamy and prosperity.
As the United States struggles to emerge from the depths of what many have deemed the “Great Recession,” regaining economic prosperity is an issue that’s top of mind for many. Unfortunately, many of us also have some serious doubts about this country’s ability to recapture its past glory as an unmitigated financial success.
After all, with an education system that places our students far behind those in Asia, it won’t be long before the best and the brightest begin relocating to areas like Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, and Japan. In fact, this “brain drain” has already begun.
My parents have lived in Hong Kong for three years now, and another one of my friends just joined their ranks. Hong Kong’s economy—like the city itself—is vibrant, fast-paced, and exciting. It was far less affected by the downturn than the U.S., and it has recovered much faster.
I won’t be surprised if—just as the U.S. took the superpower mantle from the British after WWII—China, led by Hong Kong, takes it from us now, in the wake of the Great Recession.
But I digress. Back to sex.
My sweet husband is going to make an awesome dad!
*We play cards a lot. Lately I’ve been losing. I blame it on baby brain.
A few years ago, I had the great privilege of hearing Clay Christensen speak at a conference. A renowned author, consultant, and Harvard Business School professor, Christensen radiated intelligence and humility, and I later learned that he is a man who is extremely committed to his faith.
I was impressed. In my experience, a lot of professional people are agnostic or occasional churchgoers, looking down, just a little, at people who rely deeply on their faith. It was inspiring to see an example of someone living according to spiritual principles who still had a very successful professional life.
It was with great interest, then, that I read his latest essay in Harvard Business Review, HOW WILL YOU MEASURE YOUR LIFE? The article addresses the tendency of achievement-oriented people to “underinvest in their families and overinvest in their careers—even though intimate and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness.”
On July 13, my grandmother passed away. My sister called me on the 10th to let me know the end was approaching, and I flew home the next day. My grandmother smiled when I came into the room–it was the last time any of us saw her smile–and she inquired about John. I told her that I was pregnant, but I don’t know if she heard me or understood what I’d said. I hope she did, but at least I know that the news of the pregnancy served to cheer my grandfather up a bit in the days following her death.
About 15 months before my grandmother died, my mother-in-law passed away. Being home for Grandma’s funeral was a very different experience than accompanying my husband to Mary Ann’s.
Mary Ann was an alcoholic. She drank herself to death.
Which is not to say that her family didn’t love her. They did, but it was a difficult kind of love. It was a love for the woman she had been, and not for the woman she’d become. You see, addiction cuts you off from acknowledging the effect of your actions on other people. If you must drink, then you must drink, and you can’t afford to see what your drinking is doing to the people you love. For many years, it was hard for Mary’s family–her three children, her spouse–to be around her, and her death, although sudden, came as (I’ll say it) a relief. Relief that they wouldn’t have to deal with her anymore. Relief that a problem had been removed.
When Grandma died, we were relieved that she was no longer in pain (her lung had collapsed, her back was broken), but we were not relieved that she was gone. Grandma lived for her family; she gave us all so much.
And that, I think, is what I took away from the contrast between the two experiences: I do not want to be a burden on my family. I don’t want to be so self-centered that I can’t see that I’m hurting the people I love.
Here is the short speech I gave at my grandmother’s funeral:
My name is Heather, and I’m the oldest of the grandchildren. One of my very first memories is of the lengths I would go to to spend time with Grandma and Grandpa. I was about two years old, and my parents put me to bed. I knew, however, that Grandma and Grandpa were sleeping on the pullout couch in the basement, so after my parents left, I crept out of bed, snuck down two flights of stairs, and asked my grandparents to read me a story. A few minutes later, my mother appeared at the top of the stairs, frantic because she was unable to find me. I, of course, was happy as a clam, laying in bed between Grandma and Grandpa. Wherever they were, that’s where I wanted to be.
A few years later, Grandma and Grandpa took me and my sister to their Sunday school class. We were a few years younger than the other kids, which is usually a recipe for being teased or ignored. Well, let me tell you, not that day! Those kids loved Grandma and Grandpa almost as much as we did, and they wanted to know everything there was to know about what my grandparents were like outside of class. My sister and I were the most popular kids there that day.
So that is what I will remember most about my grandma–her unfailing love and kindness. Growing up, Grandma was always there with a hug, a smile, and a chocolate bar for us in her purse. Even when she was calling us by the wrong names–Misty, the name of our dog, was her favorite one for me–we knew that Grandma loved us dearly, and we loved her dearly in return.