Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lemony Snicket.

This year, I feel like almost everything I've written has started with a melodramatic preface. Looking back on the meager blog entries I've written, they actually don't seem so bad, but that's how I've felt like I've been. This is how I've started everything in my head: "I'm sad but I don't want to talk about why I'm sad so let me write about something else but I have to say I'm sad first because I am." 

The lack of blog entries in general is a big sign in my own head; it's not like I've ever written REALLY prolifically, but I normally have a wealth of ideas, just a lack of time. Okay, so I still don't have a lot of time, but the time I could carve out, to write silly things, has been typically filled with numbness or womp-womp-ness instead. It takes a surprising amount of mental stability to write. A lot of sad people write, but I've always felt like it's hard to write anything when you are really sad. Crafting thoughts into words requires clarity and motivation, and when all you want to do is listen to your favorite sad music and sleep, who has the time for clarity and motivation?

What is so confounding about this is that 2012 was supposed to be the Year of Years. In the past few years leading up to 2012, just thinking about how awesome 2012 would be was almost mind-blowing. First and foremost, it's the year of our wedding. AND my sister's wedding. AND the wedding of two of our very best friends. AND, my brother is having a BABY. AND, TWO of my amazing cousins also just had BABIES. Kathy's graduating and has a good job lined up. I started working in education again in some capacity; and I get paid to write about books I like! Basically it all adds up to awesome. Awesome in an epic, BIG way. 

So now almost four months are gone. And I've spent a large part of those four months in some varying state of mental unease and disarray. The fact that I haven't been able to be as excited about life as I know I should be makes me feel selfish, confused, and angry. The one thing it's made me understand is that, no matter what is happening in your life, you have no control over how your mind or heart may decide to act. Your life could be wonderful and your head could be a muddled, grey, unfamiliar place; your quality of life could be really quite poor and you could be quite deeply happy. 

There are reasons for my mental weirdness, some reasons I understand and some I'm still working through, but they're not as important to discuss, although I realize that talking about being sad in such vague terms is irritating. But then again, I've said it before, it's my blog and I can do what I want. The best word I can think of to describe what I've been feeling is some type of grief, but grief for what is what I can't describe. 

And maybe not being able to shut up about my sadness seems attention-seeking, but in truth it's just my attempt to be honest and figure out what's going on with myself. I've never really been able to hide things I feel, for better or worse for myself and everyone around me. I mean, I can mask things in person quite well. I can go about my work and I can be quite sociable--funny, even. But in words, stupidly honest is all I know. Not being able to hide things is how much of this sadness has come about in the first place, but at the same time, I don't really want to change this about myself. Guarding off your heart in steel seems a lot harder than wearing it on your sleeve, to me. I might get hurt more and appear more mentally unstable, but keeping things inside always seems so much more exhausting, and let's be honest, we are all exhausted enough already. 

I have actually been feeling much better in just the last few days, more like myself living my actual wonderful life, than I have in a long while. In fact, at this very moment, I am feeling really, really good. Which is probably why I've been able to write this entry. But I know I have felt better at moments over the last few months and then Feelings will wash over me again in a weird gut-wrenching cycle, so basically I'm prepared to continue working at Being a Better Person. And you're probably thinking, wait. Didn't she say this entry was about Lemony Snicket?

Okay, so where I'm trying to get to is this: I saw this Lemony Snicket book yesterday and thought, I don't think Lemony Snicket really meant this as a self-help book but maybe I'm to the point where I need a self-help book, and I'll take it, because I love Lemony Snicket, and yeah, maybe I just need someone to tell me about bitter truths so I can just swallow them and move on.

(Even though I know that in the end people are the only things that can really make things better, just as people are often the things that make things bad in the first place; in the end it's always people you need. But books can help, too.)

Lemony Snicket is just so wonderful, everyone. I read and loved all the Series of Unfortunate Events books a few years back, of which many quotes in Horseradish are taken from, along with snippets from other essays and unpublished remarks. He is absolutely and completely absurd in a stark and hilarious way; he writes about disturbingly depressing things and I am always completely happy to read about them. I hardly ever know how he is going to end a sentence, and there is a deep and brilliant wisdom in his ridiculousness.

In a way, a silly little book like Horseradish that simply and irreverently states sometimes silly and sometimes sad facts about life actually is the perfect self-help book for me, because I don't actually want to be told what I should do, or how I should be doing it. Often, we just want someone else to tell us, "Yeah. This happens. And it sucks." All we want is to know we're not crazy. Or that if we are, it's okay, because we all are, a little bit.

I'm normally not one to dog-ear my books, but I bought this for $1.50 and in the thirty minutes or so it took me to go through it, I knew that there were certain bitter truths I'd want to come back to again and again, so I did, even though that ended up meaning I just dog-eared every other page since I liked so many, like so:

Here are just a few of my favorites.
  • There are some who say that you should forgive everyone, even the people who have disappointed you immeasurably. There are others who say you should not forgive anyone, and should stomp off in a huff no matter how many times they apologize. Of these two philosophies, the second one is of course much more fun, but it can also grow exhausting to stomp off in a huff every time someone has disappointed you, as everyone disappoints everyone eventually, and one can't stomp off in a huff every minute of the day.
  •  It is much, much worse to receive bad news through the written word than by somebody simply telling you, and I'm sure you understand why. When somebody simply tells you bad news, you hear it once, and that's the end of it. But when bad news is written down, whether in a letter or a newspaper or on your arm in felt tip pen, each time you read it, you feel as if you are receiving the news again and again.
  •  What happens in a certain place can stain your feelings for that location, just as ink can stain a white sheet. You can wash it, and wash it, and still never forget what has transpired, a word which here means "happened and made everybody sad."
  •  Deciding whether or not to trust a person is like deciding whether or not to climb a tree, because you might get a wonderful view from the highest branch, or you might simply get covered in sap, and for this reason many people choose to spend their time alone and indoors, where it is harder to get a splinter.
  •  The way sadness works is one of the strangest riddles of the world.
  •  Love can change a person the way a parent can change a baby--awkwardly, and often with a great deal of mess. 
  •  Grief, a type of sadness that most often occurs when you have lost someone you love, is a sneaky thing, because it can disappear for a long time, and then pop back up when you least expect it.
  •  It is difficult, when faced with a situation you cannot control, to admit that you can do nothing.
  •  Deciding on the right thing to do in a situation is a bit like deciding on the right thing to wear to a party. It is easy to decide on what is wrong to wear to a party, such as deep-sea diving equipment or a pair of large pillows, but deciding what is right is much trickier. The truth is that you can never be sure if you have decided on the right thing until the party is over, and by then it is too late to go back and change your mind, which is why the world is filled with people doing terrible things and wearing ugly clothing.
  •  One cannot spend forever sitting and solving the mysteries of one's history.
  •  Of all the ridiculous expressions people use--and people use a great many ridiculous expressions--one of the most ridiculous is "No news is good news." "No news is good news" simply means that if you don't hear from someone, everything is probably fine, and you can see at once why this expression makes such little sense, because everything being fine is only one of many, many reasons why someone may not contact you. Perhaps they are tied up. Maybe they are surrounded by fierce weasels, or perhaps they are wedged tightly between two refrigerators and cannot get themselves out. The expression might well be changed to "No news is bad news," except that people may not be able to contact you because they have just been crowned king or are competing in a gymnastics tournament. The point is that there is no way to know why someone has not contacted you, until they contact you and explain themselves. For this reason, the sensible expression would be "No news is no news," except that it is so obvious it is hardly an expression at all.
  • Having a personal philosophy is like having a pet marmoset, because it may be very attractive when you acquire it, but there may be situations when it will not come in handy at all.

For those of you actually interested in Lemony Snicket and wondering why he hasn't really come out with much of substance since A Series of Unfortunate Events, other than that wonderful list he came up with during Occupy Wall Street, and a charming and funny picture book that is particularly charming and funny if you are an orchestra/band nerd, along with Horseradish of course and a few other miscellaneous things I'm probably missing, he IS, in the near future, coming out with an as-of-now still-mysterious (in typical Snicket fashion) series, which you can receive weird emails about by clicking here. Which I recommend. All the emails are delightful and make no sense.

Of course, Snicket's real name is actually Daniel Handler, and he also published a book last year entitled Why We Broke Up to much acclaim, including a Printz honor. I really want to read this, but considering I love Lemony Snicket being snarky about so many depressing things in the best dark-humor of ways, I am not sure I could even handle what seems like a sincerely written novel about very sincere things. I suspect I would cry through most of it. So if I do ever get to this book, I will let you know how it goes.

He also apparently did a brief speaking tour type thing with Rachel Maddow recently, which I am truly perplexed by, but I am still immensely jealous that I did not get to attend, and basically I want him to be my best friend. Rachel can hang out with us sometimes, if she wants to.

I know there are a great many people reading this who will want to tell me not to be sad, and that I am a good person and they love me. To all of you--you have already helped make me feel better, and I am grateful in the sweetest, un-horseradish-y way.

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