Letter from My 48th Year (Feb 2)
Proverbs 27:17 reads, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” The phrase “iron sharpens iron” has been hanging around my brain this week. First, there was a Wednesday morning coffee chat with my theater friend Hannah, who not only inspired me by telling me what and how she was thinking about the project she’s working on—one that’s really throwing her out of her comfort zone—but also challenged me to work on something for her that is so far out of my comfort zone, it’s pretty much floating on the other side of the Atlantic. Then there was a visit to the Phillips Collection today with my essayist friend Randon where we talked about defining success, being “late bloomers” (a phrase I’m slowly coming to despise by the way), writing what you feel pulled to write and trusting you’ll find an audience, etc.
I’m thinking about the ways in which conversations with certain people can give you clarity around your own goals and desires and insecurities. Together you sharpen each other’s instincts and willingness to make your way even if that way doesn’t have quite as many signposts as you might like. I’m wondering what life would be like if I let go of all of those people with whom I don’t share an iron sharpens iron type of relationship. Does that get too exhausting to be surrounded by people who just by being themselves urge you forward? Perhaps what’s truly exhausting is trying to hang on to those people whose investment is truly in maintaining status quo you.
I’ve also been thinking about why Hercule Poirot matters to me so much, and I think the answer is because he’s so utterly himself. (I think I wrote this yesterday, but allons’y anyway.) He doesn’t apologize for himself—his persnicketiness, his OCD, his intolerance for deceit. He wholeheartedly embraces it.
Something I’ve only recently embraced about myself is how quickly I fall into an obsession. For instance, I went to see Call Me By Your Name (because I adore the work of Luca Guadagnino), ordered the novel as soon as I got home, tried to borrow the audio book from overdrive once I’d read the novel so I could listen to Armie Hammer’s voice, and I’m listening to the soundtrack as I type this, probably the twelfth or thirteenth time I’ve listened to it, which is a lot considering what a Spotify gadfly I am. Sometimes these obsessions last years; sometimes I’m intensely in love for a month or two and then they fizzle out. I had always looked at that part of myself as a character flaw, proof that I couldn’t stick to anything, couldn’t finish anything. Lately I’ve started to embrace it because falling down that rabbit hole of whatever brings me such joy. And at some point it usually to a piece of work that’s significant to me. Like how falling down the Christian Kane rabbit hole when I discovered his band led to this poem, which is still one of my favorite things I’ve ever written (and probably one of the truest in the way things can be true if not accurate.)
Another quirk is that sometimes when I visit museum exhibits, I start hearing voices in my head, as if I’m eavesdropping on a conversation. They’re always love affairs, and they don’t necessarily emotionally correlate with the show I’m seeing. (I was in raptures of joy seeing Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Series at the Corcoran, but the conversation I wrote was a sad one.) These “conversations” usually turn into poems. I can’t quite understand what triggers them; I thought it was only abstract work, but today at the Phillips, after writing eight pages in my notebook as I walked through the Ten Americans After Paul Klee show, I stopped to visit the Van Goghs, and I felt a conversation wanting to start up. (I was approaching visual saturation so I declined; sorry new possible poem!) At some point, Randon asked me what I was writing and then shared what she wrote, and we had a good conversation about our responses to artwork and where those responses might lead. And so it was iron sharpening iron and also encouragement to be more Poirot about my weirdness.
[Editor’s Note: My friend Stephanie showed up for an impromptu visit and now I’ve totally lost the thread, but I think you get the point and since I’m not going to write any more right now even if you didn’t get the point…]