REFRIGERATOR MAGNET REVISITED

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Last January 10, I posted a TGOB piece called “Magnetized” about two magnets affixed to the front door of our fridge,  (The front is my side. Bill’s is on the right. The left side is against a grocery cabinet and therefore useless for magnet purposes.  After nearly fourteen years of togetherness, I’m still territorial. But it’s probably too late to work on that for 2015.)

It wasn’t a great post.  My blogging skills have improved since then.  But with editorial tweaking here and there, and some new stuff at the end, it may still be apt on this first day of 2015 — not only to my own situation but perhaps also to whatever some of you are thinking about doing as we all take a step into the next year of our lives.

****

MAGNETIZED 

[With many deletions, additions and editorial pencil marks all over it.]

I’m usually too snobbish and cheap to spend  time in front of those displays of refrigerator magnets sometimes found in big supermarkets. The kind of magnet that exhorts you to PLAN AHEA…with the D tilting downward because there was no more room for it after the A — the designer of the magnet not having planned ahead, hahaha. Or the magnet that exhorts you when opening the freezer to “Enjoy Today. Tomorrow Never Comes.”   ( I.e., Eat up the ice cream now.)

However, I do confess to having once purchased two such magnets — on the same weak day about fifteen years ago. At that time they must have both passed the “Are you out of your mind?” test.  And by now I’m so used to them being affixed to the refrigerator that I don’t really see them when I open the door unless I make a point of looking, and therefore usually feel no shame.

One of them may strike some of you as seriously frivolous. Approach my refrigerator and it will remind you that “Good Clothes Open All Doors.”  (Also, by implication, that you had better remain able to fit into the ones you own.) Out of consideration for the feelings of those who couldn’t care less what they put on, I will hurry past that magnet today, although I still believe that for women setting foot in the business world or otherwise swimming in uncharted waters, its message has merit: You’d better look as good as you can when you step out of your front door.  It would be nice if we lived in a perfect world where such relatively superficial concerns didn’t matter.  But give me a break on that one.  You know it’s not going to happen.

The second magnet was a design mistake.  White lettering on a black background is — in one-syllable words — hard to read. So let me read it for you: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

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I’m pretty sure this doesn’t mean I should set myself on fire or run in front of a speeding car, although contemplating either of those self-destructive acts scares me plenty. However, I hope I’ve by now made transparently clear in this blog that I vote life, not death. So let’s proceed past dying without a backward glance.

What could possibly still scare me? You’d be surprised. Even allegedly sophisticated lawyer types like me have our trepidations. I once worked with a powerful woman partner in a large corporate law firm who in a moment of confidence after some professional triumph told me she used to be terrified of making telephone calls. At the beginning of her career, whenever she had to initiate a  phone call, she would write out in longhand on a lined yellow pad everything she was going to say after she dialed, beginning with, “Hello there, Mr. Cummings. This is …”

By the time I knew her, she had “Hello there,” down pat without writing it out. But she was still scared of being nice. When word got back to her, not from me, that the junior associates called her “The Ice Queen,” she was hurt. But she remained unable to smile at anyone or offer a kind word, unless the other person smiled or spoke first. Maybe she would have benefited from my magnet.

So what do I need my magnet for when I make a point of looking at it? Well, I need it for this blog. You maybe thought these long posts rolled out as if on casters? Let me tell you: It’s an ongoing crisis. What am I going to write about next? When I began, and was posting every day, I tried to stay two or three posts ahead, at least in draft form. But that was hard. I was spending my whole life on the next post — staving off the dread morning when I’d have nothing worth publishing. So then I fell back to an every-other-day schedule.  And now — as some of the posts get longer,  that too sometimes seems too pressured.

Improvise? You’re kidding. I envy those bloggers who just dash something off before work. Or after the kiddies are in bed. Or  when sitting on the toilet with an iPhone behind a locked bathroom door.  Me, I revise, move paragraphs around, rewrite — to make it read more smoothly. And then go over every single word. Again and again. And sometimes again, even after it’s been “published.” If I see a noun, verb, adverb or adjective used twice in a single paragraph, I find a synonym or rephrase one of the offending sentences. Each post takes at least three hours. Sometimes four. Not counting the fiddling with commas, semi-colons, italics, brackets.

Maniacal, I know. And yes, I do remember that “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”  I also know no employer is looking over my work with a magnifying glass, searching for errors or infelicities of expression. (I’m the one who’s looking.) I know I won’t lose a job or income if three or four days go by with the same post in place. But what I will lose is momentum, and the near-daily pleasure of making something out of nothing, and the sense that I can still do something fairly well (if not perfectly), something that entertains or moves or otherwise interests some people somewhere in the world who I never knew before.

But it’s hard. That’s why it’s scary. Finding subject matter that interests me enough to write about is hard. [I hate that blog-word “content.”] Taming the subject matter into blog-speak is also hard. My blog voice may have some resemblance to my speaking voice, some resemblance to my memoir-writing voice. [No resemblance at all to my legal writing voice.] It is nevertheless a created and crafted voice. That’s why the magnet’s still on the fridge. It keeps me going even though I’m scared.

At the moment I’m trying to write a piece about someone I knew before I went to college, about my feelings for him then when I was very young, and my feelings now, when I look back and know he’s dead and I can’t do it again so that it comes out some other way. At least, that’s what I think it’s going to be about, although I never know until I see what I say.  And the not knowing is also always scary.

But because it’s January 1 and I did look at my magnet this morning, I’m going to do what for me is the scariest thing of all:  give you its title and tell you to look for it when it’s only about a third written (I think), and what’s written is still a draft.  I don’t know exactly when it’s coming. Certainly not in two days. But by nailing myself to the stake here, I’m committing myself to making it happen.  Reasonably soon. I might fall on my face.  But if I don’t try, you won’t get.

“The Practice Boyfriend.” I’m working on it. Stay tuned.

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24 thoughts on “REFRIGERATOR MAGNET REVISITED

  1. Judith

    Nina, from a 61-year-old follower of yours who watches her 93- and 95-year-old parents growing decrepit and insensate, thank you for your openness and your acceptance of fearful things. I’d like to point you to an essay by Rebecca Solnit in a recent New Yorker, in case you didn’t catch it. I’m a perfectionist almost in recovery (moving closer to being in recovery?), so I think you and I have that in common. And I think you’d appreciate her take on the matter.
    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/12/22/coyote-2 “So many of us believe in perfection, which ruins everything else, because the perfect is not only the enemy of the good; it’s also the enemy of the realistic, the possible, and the fun.”

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    • Judith, thank you so much for your appreciation of at least certain aspects of TGOB. (Although I suspect I lack the acceptance of “fearful things” you so gracefully attribute to me. I may be more open on the screen than some, but I’m really an ostrich, who tries very hard to live in the present and not anticipate what may be coming.) I’m also truly sorry for your pain in watching your parents having to live on into decrepitude.

      Thank you also for referring me to the Solnit piece, which I just looked at. Unfortunately, I’ve never responded well to myth, especially the myths of cultures alien to me. (At Sarah Lawrence College, I was one who did not register for Joe Campbell’s “Folklore and Myth” class; my feet were firmly planted on the side of the historians of ideas and the writers.) But I do think you misread my post if you’ve concluded that I’m a would-be perfectionist about anything but writing. My life has been one long story of imperfection — dysfunctional family, poor romantic choices, lack of courage and guts, disorder in later personal and family relationships — much of which I choose not to blog about. (Why do you suppose I’ve paid for twenty four years of therapy?) I also live quite happily with a somewhat messy man, and cats, and hairs on my black sweaters, and clots of dust under the bed. But writing is something else. I have a visceral negative reaction to slovenly thinking and writing in others and lose interest in reading further wherever I find it. And I try very hard to eradicate as much of it as possible from what I myself offer to the world. I know what’s realistic, and what’s possible at 83. But it’s no fun — at least for me — putting out dreck (if you’ll excuse the ethnic vernacular). And doing the best I can with words doesn’t ruin everything else; on the contrary, it gives me extraordinary pleasure. It also gave me pleasure to hear from you at last. I know many of my non-WP email followers personally, but you I didn’t know. I’m so glad you commented; do feel free to come back and do it again. 🙂

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  2. Ok, I confess…your writing intimidates me. I have always found your quality high both technically and in the “content.” Your stories are interesting and you are one of the blogs I always read first. It also has inspired me. My topics are different and a lot less serious (almost insipid by comparison). You encourage me to work on my skills. At the beginning, I was terrified of hitting the publish button. Suppose there was a typo? Or that dreaded word that spellcheck doesn’t pick up. I would read after I published and correct anything I found the next day. Now in addition to intimidation and encouragement, you also make me feel normal (whatever that is). Thank you for that!

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    • Ok, Kate — how’s this for tit-for-tat? Yours is one of the blogs *I* always read first. (I’ve got you right up there with “Life in the Boomer Lane” — which also runs in the Huff Post!) The quality of your writing is smooth and professional, even to picky-picky me, and I enjoy the peeks into your life. I’ve even been looking around for a nearby Starbucks; it might get me out of bed earlier. (So far, no such luck.) And I almost posted a competitive photo of our cat tree, but couldn’t figure out how to do it in a “Reply.” I don’t think we’re normal, though. (See comment from “Judith,” just before yours, and my valiant defense of the aberrational.) It’s just that now we each know there’s more than one of us — an additional benefit of “flying with WordPress.” 🙂

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  3. Martin Pooley

    First time reading your blog and I enjoy it; but blogging every day?! Yikes! It’s as much as I can do to find enough material for twice a month! Maybe I need fridge magnets. The only one we have is of a JMW Turner painting. No motivational motto there! 🙂

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    • Glad you’re enjoying the blog. But did you read the whole post? I gave up daily posting about ten months ago! (And hopefully the posts got better.) I was doing it at the beginning because WP suggests that the more frequent and regular the posting, the more likely readers will become followers. I suspect I must be a special taste for blog followers, though — because I haven’t noticed any difference in response frequency since I fell back to three times a week. I will say though — in paraphrase of the comment from “Almost Iowa” on my previous post that energy begets energy — posting begets posting. Meaning one thing leads to another. Your own fridge magnet, for instance. (And I say any man with Turner on his refrigerator is admirable from the get go.) There’s a new movie out about Turner (called, appropriately enough, “Turner”) which is garnering first-rate reviews. Why not go see it and tell us all about it? In a blog post! 🙂

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  4. Weinstein, Jerome N.

    Happy New Year Nina,
    Just a note to say how much I enjoy your blog (though frankly can’t reconcile myself to the title…”The Getting On Blog,” maybe?). Anyway you inspired me to take a class in memoir writing at Harvard Extension this past semester (long time since I ever had to deal in semesters for myself) and will do another course this term. Keep on writing—and inspiring! All best, Jerry

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Jerry,
      How wonderful to “hear” a voice from my old life, and how pleased I am that you’re really reading TGOB! A very very Happy New Year to you, Joan and offspring too. (However many generations of offspring there may be by now!) I’m so glad you decided to take the memoir-writing class. Homework again is a bitch, isn’t it? (Think of it as a filing deadline.) You must be enjoying it, though, if you’re doing another course. Would you like to do a guest post? (Or run a draft of a guest post by me, if you’re a bit nervous about dipping a toe in the water?) Be very well. All best, Nina

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  5. Your description of your blog writing style describes mine also – I agonize way too long, then sweat bullets as I hit “publish.” I do enjoy your results and I’m looking forward to The Practice Boyfriend (my husband sometimes refers to his first wife as his “practice wife”).

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    • I don’t know about the “too long” part. Maybe the time you spend before hitting “publish” is “just right?” Thank you for the “enjoy the results” though.

      Re: The Practice Boyfriend. As I commented above to someone else, you must be patient. It’s inching along very slowly. It also seems to be growing into something larger than just its nominal subject — although what kind of something I couldn’t yet say. Well, we shall see what we shall see. There will probably be a couple of shorter posts first. 🙂

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  6. helena sorensen

    Nina darling…
    Hilarious commentary on fridge magnets!
    I shall henceforth forever view them with you in mind… 😉

    Re… ‘Good Clothes Open All Doors’
    I have come to appreciate the beauty of an ‘abaya’…
    the black robe that covers one from head-to-toe…
    for such has enabled me to Open My Front Door,
    on going walkabout my ‘blessed’ compound… 😉

    from saudi with love…
    Helena

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would have thought an abaya unnecessary within the Western privacy of your compound. On the other hand, head-to-toe covering — not necessarily black — would have frequently been welcome to me here in the West when it was necessary to “go to the beach!” 🙂

      P.S. Now we can get it from the horse’s mouth: What is the difference between an “abaya” and a “burqa?”

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