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my turn

January 6th, 2011

I have been blown away, swept up, filled up, humbled, shocked and awed by the response here over at the blog. When I posted the giveaway for the ARC of WHERE SHE WENT and IF I STAY and asked you all to tell me something you were grateful for or hopeful for, I wasn’t expecting much. A line or two. I’m grateful for Jersey Shore. I’m grateful for books so I don’t have to watch Jersey Shore. I’m hopeful that Snooki won’t land in prison. I’m hopeful that in the future, I won’t have to hear about Snooki.

Instead what I got was an outpouring of honesty. People grappling with depression and grateful the clouds had lifted. People grateful they had family. People missing family. People grateful family members had died after long illnesses or old age. People grateful family members (or they themselves) had come back from illness (and a special high five to you guys who are kicking cancer’s ass. I love it when cancer eats dirt!)

I don’t know what to say. You rock my world. You complete me. You left me speechless. Which doesn’t happen a lot.

I also felt like I should return the kindness. Which is a little easier said than done or I would’ve done it already.

Gratitude is a funny thing. When you’re brimming with it, counting your blessings feels like luxuriating in a bubble bath. But when you’re feeling a wee bit burnt out by the various rigors of parenting two headstrong little girls, a daily juggling act of getting them off to school, getting the errands done, the dinner cooked, the bills paid, the homework done, the lunches packed, and, oh, yeah, somewhere in there finding the time and mental energy to work on your next book, which by the way, is crazy-hard because you’ve set this ginormous challenge for yourself— and publicize your current books—and yes, working moms everywhere, I hear you sing my song of woe—it’s hard to get all gushy with the gratitude.

The thing is, these are exactly the times you need to focus on the grateful thing the most. When you are (okay, who is this you? It’s ME I’m talking about here) slipping on black ice on the way home from dropping the 3-year-old off at school (yes, I’m fine. I’m fine but will someone please remove those ice bunkers on my block now!)

So you’ve all inspired me to think about some things I’m grateful for, not the trite things, like I’m grateful for my children (because yesterday, when I had a migraine, and I had to take both girls to the dentist, and on the way home I asked if maybe we could be quiet in the car so I could just try to stop the evil fairies from chiseling away at my brain, my six-year-old screamed at me to stop talking about my head in that shrill voice that is just so headache-soothing, and trust me, gratitude for my children was not the feeling coursing through me). Instead, I’ll focus on the small things that are making me grateful right now. And some random things I hope for in the coming year.

What I’m grateful for now:

1. Jon Stewart. If you have not watched The Daily Show episode in which he shamed the Senate into passing the bill to give aid to 9/11 First Responders, you should watch it. He is our moral compass. Even the New York Times said so. But how can a compass be funny? My god, he’s like IcyHot. Two incompatible things at once! And so right. Talk about Nuance (see below). I love him. I really do. I would wear this. Though not in the white.

2. Speaking of Jon Stewart, who I never actually see on TV (do I seem like I stay up that late? hahahah), I am also very thankful for all-around excellent TV shows, most of which I watch on Netflix. Just finished In Treatment Season 2. How I wish Paul could be my shrink!! As is, he provides quality downtime for me and the equally burnt-out husband. Which is kind of like couples therapy!

The empathy…it tingles!

3. Acupuncture: Never thought I’d list something that pokes me with needles as something to be grateful for but acupuncture seems to make me feel better and my practitioner is the cutest little nice hipster chick ever.

4. My friends. With whom I can be my sarcastic, insecure, un-censored self. Terribly grateful to have added a few new ones to the stable last year.

5. New York City. New York Magazine runs this yearly Reasons To Love New York Now feature. It’s a little self congratulatory  and a little bit self-helpy (like we really do need the reminding because sometimes living here just sucks SO BAD—did I mention the black ice?) But every time I go away, I start to feel like an addict without a fix. And when I come back, even recently coming back from the Caribbean to post-blizzard chaos, I just felt this sigh of relief (until I had to shovel out the back patio). But I love this place. With all the crazy that goes on everywhere else in the world, this is like an island of sane. No, really.

6. Nuance. It’s good to know that things aren’t black and white. Like you can simultaneously be grateful for your family and completely crazy made by them. You can be utterly grateful for your career, while at the same time bewildered that it happened to you and slightly fearful that it’ll stop happening to you Any Second Now. Things that seem contradictory are often not. It’s all just nuance, the gray area, the space between. I don’t like characters in books that are all one thing or the other. It’s good to remember that in life, stuff isn’t usually that way, either. Learn to love the nuance.

Get it? Shades of gray.

7. Time. For an impatient person, this is a tough thing to savor. But time basically solves most things. Most issues kids have are simply phases they will outgrow. In time. Except for serious health problems, most minor scale stuff (like the reflux Cough That Will Not Quit) will eventually subside or abate. I’m hardly seeing my husband these days but our kids won’t always be three and six and in need of our constant attention. And with books, it might not be where I want it to be now, but with time—oh, and a crapload of hard work, revisions, sleepless nights and did I say revisions?—the sloppy mess of a nightmare I’m working on now, it’ll get there.

8. You. In case that wasn’t made clear. I have a love-hate relationship with the Interwebs (see nuance) but when people pour out some semblance of intimacy and honesty, I am beyond moved. I put a lot of that into my books—and blogs—so it’s nice to get it back. Oh, and thanks for reading my books, too. Y’all keep me employed. You’re like my bosses. (Oh, lordy, I just said y’all. Blame my niece from South Carolina!!!) You also make me happy.

Okay, from one esoteric list to the other. Things I’m hopeful for.

1. To be better at achieving this:

Seriously, I know it’s such a cliche, balance. But I sure, sure, sure would like to figure out how to have more of it. Though sometimes I suspect what I need is not balance so much as another day of the week that nobody knows about but me and nobody exists in but me in which I can get all the stuff done I can’t get done. That or a butler. How do other people do it? I don’t think kicking the trash can is the best strategy because now it’s broken and I have to go get a new one, which is another chore.

2. To spend more time with my friends. That would fall under balance, too. Also, it would also be really great if suddenly the East Village and Park Slope became adjacent neighborhoods. City planners, can you get on that?

3. Economic recovery in the country. Seriously though, can everyone just have jobs again, okay? And then can we get real about stuff like global climate change because I’m okay with some snow but two feet in December is weird and did I mention the giant frozen snow logs outside and also thinking about the world I’m leaving my kids keeps me up at night but when people are scared and jobless they don’t want to deal with stuff like that. So let’s get rolling with this recovery thing. Okaythanks!

4. Less insurance forms in 2011! Given than I spent the morning filling out claims, this would make me so happy. I suppose this is a roundabout way of asking for good health in 2011. Or a single-payer system!

5. For WHERE SHE WENT to be a wild success. Well, I’m allowed to be shallow. It’s coming out in three months and I totally hope for that and panic that you will all hate it. Hopefully I get points for putting solving global warming before my own petty concerns.

6. Movies. Every time I go to a movie, I have all these high expectations and then the movie winds up being so-so (notable exception was Tangled, which I expected to be so-so and was fantastic. Great animation, good songs and a well-structured narrative. It’s my habit in movies to see the flaws in the storyline and say “Julie Strauss-Gabel would never have let this happen.” (Julie is my editor and also a sort of bionic editor in her brilliance). I did not say that once in Tangled but I say it more and more in other films, even well-reviewed ones (Love and Other Drugs? People liked this? Really?) As I get ready to see and be underwhelmed by Oscar-bait films, I hope, again, for more interesting, creative less, self-indulgent fare. For movies to be as good as some of the TV shows I love are.

7. Time. Just as I’m grateful for time I’m also hopeful for more of it. You never know what the future holds. So you can only take advantage of what you’ve got now. Which is something to be both grateful and hopeful for all at once.

  1. All of those are incredible things to be thankful for. I never thought too much about Jon Stewart being our moral compass, but it’s true isn’t it?

    I’d like to add a hope for 2011 to this. A hope for music. Music of the kind that shows we’re fighting against the oppression and hardship of the past decade. A revival of punk or grunge, in a form we haven’t seen before. I want to lose Bieber and all the others who pretend it’s happy and shiny. It’s not.

    I hope artists like Lady Gaga, and more so but less known, Amanda Palmer are the start of this wave.

  2. That’s so funny, Chelsey, because as I finished up the list, I thought about music. The thing is, I have “found” a bunch of bands I love. Avett Brothers. Beach House. But everything is so diffused. I would love it if a band like Nirvana captured the whole country again. Those were exciting times. Then again, I was 23.

  3. I am grateful for you.

    I’m also grateful for Jon Stewart, Mad Men, Kathy Griffin, and The Big C. I’m grateful for Broadway shows. I’m grateful for my family, real and faux. I’m grateful for my friends who feel like family to me (see first sentence of this comment). I’m grateful for cheese and cupcakes and sugary fruit salad (which you’ve tasted! Don’t you agree it’s insanely delicious?). I’m grateful for writing. I’m grateful for the health of loved ones — and that the health challenges a few of them experienced this year didn’t end in tragedy. I’m grateful for the bottle of Coca-cola I have beside me right now, because everywhere I went in PA they were selling Pepsi, and finally – finally! – the pizza place last night had the right kind of soda.

    I could write this list for a few more hours, but I’ll stop for now.
    xoxo

  4. I am grateful for authors like you. Inspiring authors with depth and realness and plain old humbleness. You’ve had such great success but you clearly have not let it go to your head. I will be getting WHERE SHE WENT. Looking forward to it.

  5. I LOVE the Avett Brothers! You should listen to Mumford & Sons, because they are pretty similar, but I think I like them even more. Their music is so moving.

    And I don’t think you have to worry about Where She Went not being successful…just sayin’.
    I’m also with you on the movies. If I see one more thrown together Hollywood film with a meaningless script and even worse acting that counts as a movie because of the 3 big names thrown in it, I am going to scream.

  6. Gayle–

    A new Nirvana would be my ideal. Obviously not a clone, but something similar to take the world, the youth by storm. American Idiot is great, and all, but Green Day, RENT’s been done. It’s not 1994. We need something new.

    I’m 21. I’m ready!

  7. Alternative Nation was quite the movement.

    Good Times, Good Times.

    Comparing Jon Stewart to IcyHot is brilliant. Thanks for sharing this with us. I know Where She Went will be a huge success for you. Looking forward to it.

  8. My husband and I are Jon Stewart fans as well. That episode amazed me and he is terribly funny while being inspiring at the same time. Can’t wait to read Where She Went! :)

  9. I am grateful for life because it gives me the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of living.

  10. I am grateful that God made a person like you. Very inspirational, fun and understanding.
    I also want more balance in my life because being a student is really though and I need to be a good daughter and friend too.
    All in all, I’m just grateful that I’m alive and that I’m living the life I have now.

    I’m really looking forward for Where She Went because I loved the first book. I made a book report in my English class about it. If I Stay made me appreciate my Life to the fullest :D
    Thank you for writing it!

    Take Care!

  11. I am sooo obsessed with the book If I Stay….I’m ready for Where She Went. If I Stay had me crying because my fiance had just literally went through the same thing…the crash, the helicopter ride,then not waking up for at least 5 days. He is pulling through and will soon have cosmetic surgery. His mom was killed in the wreck and I have been sitting by his side just about 24/7. I read where they talked to her and I started to also. I would tell him everyday. If you want to let go it’s ok, but if you stay just know…you still have family here. 2 days later he woke up. Thank you Gayle for all you have done to help. It really makes you take another look at life and learn not to take things for granted. :)

  12. I read an ARC of Where She Went, and I just wanted you to know (because of #5) that I absolutely loved it! I was scared of it at first, because I believe If I Stay to be perfection in 230 pages, but the fear was unfounded, and I thought Where She Went was brilliance. You rock my socks. ;)

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