resolutions, and free books!
December 30th, 2009
Part of my cultural heritage as a Jew demands that I spend at least part of the Christmas season going to the movies. Having young children gets in the way of this mandate, but I did manage to sneak out for one movie so far—two if you count seeing Up In The Air with my husband on a date during Hanukkah a few weeks ago, which I don’t. On Monday, I saw Invictus, the Clint Eastwood-directed, Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon-starring movie about Nelson Mandela and the South African rugby team. That might sound like an odd choice for the one film I get to see, but I’ll see anything about Nelson Mandela. The man is my personal hero and this particular story, about how Mandela embraced the losing Sprinboks—a mostly white team, which had been the symbol of apartheid—and got the entire country to rally around them is truly amazing. Here’s the trailer:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9Ovkye6lac
Early on in the film, Mandela, who, after being imprisoned for 30 years by the apartheid regime, becomes free South Africa’s first president, makes a point of including white Afriakaner men on his security detail who may well have been the same men who tortured, imprisoned and even killed liberation fighters only a few years before. When his longtime comrades object, Mandela basically says something along the lines that forgiveness is the most powerful tool you have over your enemy. I’m not sure whether Mandela actually said this, or whether it’s just a screenwriter flourish but he said, espoused and believed many such things and you can read all about it in his incredible autobiography Long Walk To Freedom. Anyhow, I cannot count how many times I cried during this rugby movie. Like I said, me, Mandela, it’s a pretty easy mark.
The title of the film refers to a poem that Mandela drew inspiration from by William Ernest Henley. You can read the whole thing here but it’s basically about how even in the darkest of times, you are the driver of your life. (The last lines of the poem are: “I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul.) I don’t find this poem all that inspiring except that Mandela drew such inspiration from it, hearing him talk about needing to be a better person in the face of difficulty. I mean, he truly is the most inspirational person in the world. I’m a Jew, so I’m sort of treading on foreign soil here, but talk about Christian values incarnate.
Anyhow, the point of all this—and I’ll get to the free books part in a second—is that I’ve been thinking about Mandela and about the movie and about how you become a better person. And at some point, at the base of it, the deal is, you become a better person by deciding to be one. By committing to be a better person. And how you’re a better person means different things at different times in your life. Sometimes it might mean being more active in your community. Or being a better friend. Or, in my case right now, being a better parent.
Cause I’ve been kind of preoccupied lately. With books. With the Internet. With keeping up on Facebook and blogs and email. And it makes me a bit of a divided person and sort of a bitch. My head is constantly in two places and part of me understands this. There are baby people and then there aren’t. I am not. I would rather be having meandering conversations with my five-year-old or working or reading Elizabeth Scott’s fantastic blog than playing Play-Doh with my two-year-old (which really means playing with Play-Doh for 10 minutes and cleaning it up for 25 minutes) or singing the Bananas song for the 287th or refereeing the screaming matches between the two-year-old and the five-year-old. The truth of it is, two-year-olds kinda suck. It’s not called the Terrific Twos. Or the Tremendous Twos. It’s the Terrible Twos. But in a weird way, when you’re only half committed to your little terrorists, it’s even worse. You’ve to to embrace the tedium. Being one foot in, one foot out, it’s like tippy-toeing into a cold lake. Painful. You have to dive in. Then it’s actually kind of exhilarating.
It’s sort of the same thing with writing. When your head is only half in the game, writing, I find, can be like pulling teeth. Very painful. Difficult. Torturous even. But when you commit to planting your ass in that chair every day (or every Monday-Thursday in my case), it becomes something else. Something mostly thrilling. At least for me.
So, a conundrum. I cannot cut the writing out of my life, though the preoccupation phase should abate because, people, I TURNED IN MY NEW NOVEL TO MY EDITOR!!!!! (And once she says something vaguely reassuring, I will tell you what the dang thing is). But I’ll have to live with balancing my inner life with my family and my characters, who become my other family when they inhabit my brain because writing is what I do. It’s my job. And sometimes I have to jump up from the dinner table or out of the shower to write a scene because inspiration comes when it comes and when it does, sometimes it’s like having to pee really bad. You just can’t hold it.
But my dependence on the Interwebs is something else altogether. That’s not about inspiration. It’s about boredom and loneliness but also ego and narcissism. I can cut the incessant checking in online. Because I’ve become one of those people, one of those addicts. I partially blame my apartment, with its open layout and computers in the living room; I want an office, but as I tell Willa when she requests something unrealistic, I want a pony, too. Ain’t gonna happen. Or not yet.
So though I’m not one for New Years Resolutions, I resolve, first with my husband and now with the bloggy world, Internet off hours, daily from after school until bedtime for the kids (which, let’s face it, is often bedtime for me). I will not keep up on Facebook. I may lapse even further on the blog. Email response time will slow. Whatever. I know this will make me a better parent, more attentive, head more in the game. I suspect this will make me a happier, less bifurcated person. I know that when I go on vacation and don’t check the Interwebs or email for a week, I feel a slowness and a calm from the disconnect. I need some more of that in my life. It’s just a little thing, but I think it can help me become the better person I need to be right now. And it’s fully in my power. I am the master of my fate. The captain of my web connection.
So, that’s my resolution. Now, free books. It’s a new year. And I figure, while I’m clearing some mental shelf space, why not clear some literal shelf space by giving away some of the YA books that I have read and loved. I’ve got quite a stack. Not all of these are 2009 books. But the following books are up for grabs, and there may be more as I continue the purge. In no particular order:
Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr
Paper Towns by John Green (and Advanced Reading Copy, no less, now that I have a signed hardcover)
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (also an ARC)
Taken By Storm by Angela Morrison
Impossible by Nancy Werlin
Peace, Love and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle
Flash, Burnout by LK Madigan (which I just finished and LOVED and will be blogging about soon)
The Everafter by Amy Huntley
The contest—you need to tell us your New Years resolutions and why. I’m not sure if I’m going to pick the best one or just have Willa pick names out of a hat. TBD. They needn’t be resolutions perse. Inspirations count as well. That’s what the movie Invictus was all about. Indeed, for me, that’s what Nelson Mandela is all about.
Happy 2010, everyone.