The Israeli elections??? WTF…?
No, no, can’t…even begin…
So, here’s a more manageable question—what do Taylor Swift, Ross Gay and Marie Howe have in common?
About a week ago, my husband and I were sitting in our a-miracle-we-even-got-it appointment at The Ministry of Absorption, which—I know, sounds a bit Harry Potter-ish. This was an important meeting, where we would learn about all the benefits and support we would receive as new immigrants to Israel, things like—skip-the-line doctor appointments, discounts on taxes and customs duties, and rental assistance.
After going through a list of benefits, our advisor, whose English was flawless, who sported a goatee, and had a look that crossed Biblical prophet with the 1970s disco-scene with his unbuttoned shirt, hairy chest and gold chains. This man turned to Bob and asked, so what is your job? He nodded and took notes as Bob explained his background as a lawyer and academic. Then he turned to me, and you?
With one publication under my belt, I shakily answered, I am a poet. He looked up, stroked his beard. A poet? I don’t know many poets, but my favorite poet is Taylor Swift, he said. She is amazing. Have you heard her new album?
I told him that no, I hadn’t but I loved the previous album, and had dissected nearly every song with my daughters. I told him I appreciated her honesty and vulnerability. I think this is why so many people connect to her songs.
Yes, he nodded his head, and told me Anti-Hero was his favorite song on the new album and that I should listen to it as soon as I got home. And he teared up.
We finished up the meeting and I took his advice and played Anti-Hero as I walked home. She had me with the opening line, I have this thing where I get older but just never wiser…
I think I thought that it would get easier, at some point—life. Like maybe, as ridiculous as it sounds, I’d arrive at some sort of plateau, with Marcus Aurelius Meditations-like equanimity. A place—internal and external—devoid of storms.
Where I’d just wake up—wise. But—that isn’t life. And that place—doesn’t exist, except in dreams and really bad Hallmark Christmas movies.
And the gorgeous famous talented Taylor Swift reminded me—we’re figuring it out as we go along. She reminded me That some days are hard. She reminded me that we are not so different from one another. Or, as poet Marie Howe has written, We’re all writing the same poem.
So Marie, what is that poem we all are writing?
This is where we arrive at Ross Gay—poet, essayist extraordinaire. Whose voice is like velvet. And sunshine. And joy—which is what he explores in his recent book, Inciting Joy. He writes, What if joy, instead of refuge or relief from heartbreak, is what effloresces from us as we help each other carry our heartbreaks?
Joy, it would seem to me, is what emerges from the collective recognition of each other’s humanity, each other’s sorrows, each other’s unique and necessary for the balance-of-the planet personalities. Joy is what emerges when, ok stay with me here, we honor each other’s poem we are all writing.
Maybe we’re all a bit like Taylor Swift’s anti-hero—trying our best and tired of all the judgment, from ourselves and others. So maybe we can stop pretending to be ok, when we’re not. Maybe we can give ourselves a break for being human. Maybe we can find meaning in speaking truth, in sharing (in our own particular way) the poem we are all writing, and in finding kindred spirits, as we help each other carry our heartbreaks.