Measured Extravagance

10 June 2002 - 1:35 p.m.

There are times when I admire Martha Stewart, and then there are times when her "letters" makes my teeth hurt. In her introduction to the June issue of MSL:

In Maine, I am not "allowed" to shell peas -- that's one of those traditional things Torie and Peggy do on the back kitchen porch at lunchtime while they are enjoying their break from housekeeping. Maybe this year I'll get to the pea patch before they do and have the peas all shelled and ready for a soup or risotto before they realize it.

Were I feeling more generous of spirit, I might have found this as charmingly craving-hands-on-ness as I suspect Martha intended it to be - God knows I have a damn good life myself, and I try not to begrudge those even more favored by fortune (and/or ambition). But honestly, paragraphs like these bring home to me why she inspires fear, loathing and Buffy jokes. Honey, you are not allowed to shell peas because you would be so in the way.

Yesterday, a friend and I were talking about our very different expectations of people: she starts out thinking the world of them and is invariably crushed when they turn out to be as petty and human as everyone else she knows; in contrast, I have a tendency to anticipate being let down - people go away, people don't show up, people don't listen, people don't care enough to bother - and as a result, I am constantly surprised and gratified when my pessimism proves to be unwarranted.

I'm overdramatizing, of course - I don't really think so little of my friends, and I have some of the most generous acquaintances in the world - but it is true that I am cautious, and that I feel true reciprocity of wit and feeling to be a rare and precious thing. Not that this is what I require from every relationship, mind you - not even most, truth be told - but I have the sense that several of my friendships are evolving into lesser things. Objectively speaking, this isn't a terrible thing - people change, needs and desires change, friendships change accordingly. There are several people who have shown signs of wanting to entwine more of their lives with mine, so it's not like there will even be a net loss (if I even believed friendship to be a zero-sum deal - which I don't). Still, I'd be lying if I claimed I'm not currently wrestling with a small but nonetheless stinging, tangible sense of disappointment - that there can't be more, that affection and attention have their limits, that I can be so discontent in spite of receiving so much.

It is also true that I am more than a little tired right now, and probably need more of a break from people than I have been able to give myself. I enjoyed lunch with my friend yesterday - but I could also tell she wasn't really listening to me on an issue we were debating. To be absolutely fair, I was explaining the other positions badly, but I also felt (and she admitted as much) that she couldn't set aside her stance long enough to consider (much less accept) the validity of other opinions on the matter.

At which point, it wasn't much of a stretch for me to comprehend why some people eventually give up and turn to explosives - if someone who thinks she's open-minded and trying to listen to me can't manage it, then how much more desperate must it be for people trying to convey their imperatives to people who don't even want to listen?

I must get back to work, so I'll have to write about the ordination later. For now, suffice it to say that I have never wanted to become a minister - if I have a calling, it is in the making of things, not the ministering to them - but yesterday, for a brief moment, watching the black and white and red and blue robes fill the pews set aside for clergy, I was caught up within an odd blend of admiration, envy, longing, what-have-you. (There was a bit of that this morning, too, when I read about a younger dorm-mate's appointment to U-M as an assistant professor. I know there should be no shame in the fact that it has taken me longer to find my path and choose my tools, but still, there are pangs.)

That said, the ordination service was both thought-provoking and celebratory. More later.

One year ago:

' I was pouring the hot water into my mug, my guardian devil whispered, "Wouldn't you like a slice of cake to go with that tea?"'

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