It all gets to be too much.
When I left the office tonight, I had to go to CVS to refill a prescription. (And guess what, Paul Ryan? It was birth control! Ha, HA, you dickhead!) Sorry. Paul Ryan being the antichrist isn't the point, here. The point is, I could barely even communicate with the pharmacist. Words suddenly made no sense. I think I might have actually been growling at him rather than speaking English. It’s all a blur. I really don’t know.
Thankfully, I have my walk to the train to help clear my brain, and help me return to being a human. Then, on the train, I started reading Maya Angelou's interview with The Paris Review, and it was like waking up from a good nap.
Maybe you're not also a geek who likes to read about writers discussing writing, but I bet it's safe to venture that all of us feel a little brain dead after a long day at work. And while she's talking about writing here, it's about so much more than that. It's about dealing with the "serious business" that is life, about growing up, and the utter scariness of "the truth about the human being"—and I find it brilliant and refreshing.
I hope you do, too. Here's the excerpt I'm referring to (all emphasis is mine):
Aren’t the extraordinary events of your life very hard for the rest of us to identify with?
Oh my God, I’ve lived a very simple life! You can say, Oh yes, at thirteen this happened to me and at fourteen . . . But those are facts. But the facts can obscure the truth, what it really felt like. Every human being has paid the earth to grow up. Most people don’t grow up. It’s too damn difficult. What happens is most people get older. That’s the truth of it. They honor their credit cards, they find parking spaces, they marry, they have the nerve to have children, but they don’t grow up. Not really. They get older. But to grow up costs the earth, the earth. It means you take responsibility for the time you take up, for the space you occupy. It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed. What it costs, in truth. Not superficial costs—anybody can have that—I mean in truth. That’s what I write. What it really is like. I’m just telling a very simple story.
Aren’t you tempted to lie? Novelists lie, don’t they?
I don’t know about lying for novelists. I look at some of the great novelists, and I think the reason they are great is that they’re telling the truth. The fact is they’re using made-up names, made-up people, made-up places, and made-up times, but they’re telling the truth about the human being—what we are capable of, what makes us lose, laugh, weep, fall down, and gnash our teeth and wring our hands and kill each other and love each other.
James Baldwin, along with a lot of writers in this series, said that “when you’re writing you’re trying to find out something you didn’t know.” When you write do you search for something that you didn’t know about yourself or about us?
Yes. When I’m writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that. But I’m also trying for the language. I’m trying to see how it can really sound. I really love language. I love it for what it does for us, how it allows us to explain the pain and the glory, the nuances and the delicacies of our existence. And then it allows us to laugh, allows us to show wit. Real wit is shown in language. We need language.
Sometimes it's nice to step away from the computer, put the phone away, and just be reminded that, like the brilliant Maya Angelou, all of us share something (or at least I hope). Because aren't all of us, whether we're writers, or pharmacists, or politicians, just trying?
"Trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we're capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up..."
I know I am. And like she says, "It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed. What it costs, in truth. Not superficial costs—anybody can have that—I mean in truth. That’s what I write. What it really is like. I’m just telling a very simple story."
That's exactly the kind of story I want