I've read some of Mary Karr's work. I've read The Liar's Club and a good part of her book on writing memoir entitled The Art of Memoir, which I think anyone who has any idea about writing a memoir should be required to read.
But that's not the point. I came across this quote from a book of Karr's I've not read: Lit: A Memoir (P.S.). It's a book about Karr's "...descent into the inferno of alcoholism and madness--and to her astonishing resurrection." Though I love Karr's writing and her ability to tell her story in a way that really does make it her story rather than the story of anyone else, I couldn't read Lit because addiction is hard for me to read about, and when I heard it often involves her son, I decided against it. That said, I have no doubt Karr somehow manages it beautifully, even if tragically.
To that end, this quote from Lit struck me, not unlike a swift blow to the head:
I sat with this idea for a long time. On the one hand, it's not earth-shattering. It's kind of obvious, but it's obvious in a way that somehow escapes us on the daily. In some ways, we know it. What we give, in any capacity (emotionally, physically, existentially) is what we get back, whether you call it fate or karma or just-deserts,
I think of this most obviously with my closest relationships: my marriage and my kids.
I'd like, emotionally, love, respect and depth.
I thought for a long time about a better way to describe 'depth.' I couldn't come up with a more appropriate word for it, though, and anyone who also seeks depth as an emotion understands what I mean here. Anyone who doesn't, won't.
If I'm honest with myself, I don't always give that away. I can be disrespectful, cold and aloof - even with my family.
Yet, I bemoan the fact that my kids are disrespectful, that my people aren't always up for a lot of depth and that love is often obscured by disappointment, hurt feelings and selfishness.
I like to think it's them, of course. They're kids. He's a man. We've got a life that breeds busyness and disconnect.
Technology is the anti-Christ.
On and on I go in my head, but somehow I never turn it back on myself and wonder: what am I doing to bring this about? Which emotions am I giving, putting out into the world in general and into my relationships one-on-one, so that what I want emotionally isn't coming right back at me?
I think we wait in life. We wait for retirement before we relax. We wait until we're 10 pounds thinner to buy the dress. We wait until he says I love you first. We wait for proposals, invitations and approval, and all the while we hold all of our emotions below the surface, waiting for just the right time to let them go.
This is true of anger, disappointment, grief and fear. But it's also true of love, compassion, empathy and joy.
My sister believes that the only way to have money is to constantly be giving money away.
Karr seems to be saying the same thing; the only way to feel love is to give it. The only way to feel respected is to be respectful. The only way to mine for depth is to sit with one's children when they want to talk ad nauseam about football teams or Harry Potter or a single blade of grass.
We hold back a lot and wait as a way to protect ourselves. There's this idea that love is finite, that if we give it away, there's less of it somehow. But it's probably exactly the opposite. The more we give, the more it comes back and goes around.
If you think about what you want emotionally, are you giving that away?
Finally, I read some of Karr's poetry this morning. Not surprisingly, she's brilliant.
I particularly liked Disgraceland.
I'm off on a beautiful, sunny Saturday. There is not a thing on the books - no ballet, no soccer, no work, no guests, nothing.
Let's see what I make of it.