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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
JAN
01

For Joan

I'm of course still reeling from yesterday's news of Betty White--it's safe to say it put a damper on the entire country's NYE festivities--but while on my Christmas vacation, I was quite sad to learn about the passing of Joan Didion.

There's just something about her. A coolness, an authenticity. As far as writers go, she was one of the real ones. I don't even really know what I mean by that, except that she was able to make her living that way, and she was able to put so much of herself (and California) in her nonfiction. I heard her described recently as "California Gothic" and it made me smile.

When I moved to New York, I got rid of almost all of the books I owned...along with everything else, of course. New York opened up a new chapter for me, one where I not only had less space, but also less income to do things like buy books. Yet Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking is one of the few books I kept during that time. It is such a unique and dare I say accurate portrayal of grief and how the mind processes it (or doesn't). But here's something else worth mentioning about me and books, because even those that I kept, even those relatively few that remain in my possession (I never really got back into the habit of buying books once my financial situation once again allowed it), I very rarely read a book I own more than once. Not sure why, I just don't find myself going back to books once I've read them. My exception, however, is The Year of Magical Thinking, which I have read many times, including in 2021. To me, that is significant. It makes not only this book significant to me, but Joan Didion as well.

It's hard to read The Year of Magical Thinking and not feel completely tragic about Joan's loss of her husband, though these kinds of losses befall certain of us every day. And that it all happened while their only daughter was in the hospital experiencing serious health complications. And that this daughter would go on to die herself not too long after, leading Joan to write the also-tragic Blue Nights. And so I'm sad for this world's loss, but can't help but feel a tinge of happiness for the reunion now happening in another.

In Joan's own words, goodbye to all that. And onto a new year for us. One that starts with nothing but blank pages for us to fill, should we be fortunate enough to get that chance.

JUN
23

The Wall

I recently went through the experience of painting my first wall. Or, more accurately, I watched someone else paint the wall while I hovered in the background rather uselessly, offering to fetch any number of items—brushes, trays, rollers, snacks. I promise I did eventually do some of the painting myself, a task more satisfying than I would have thought, especially given how much prep work is required before you can even begin.

What amazed me about the wall was how much better it looked after we were done. And from just one measly coat of paint. The whole room was transformed, all the obnoxious nail holes and pencil lines gone, as if they’d never been there. Even though, technically, they were all still there. I don’t know, the whole thing just made me think about our own transformations, some of them superficial and really just band-aids to the problems we face (not necessarily good), and some of them completely genuine opportunities to begin again or try something new (almost certainly good).

The latter is the type of transformation I’m most interested in, the one I hope we’re all striving on some level to achieve. Some of these transformations are initiated by us, by our own actions, passions, and ambitions—or sometimes our desires to flee certain places or people who have ceased to be the assets to our lives that they once were. Other transformations are thrust upon us in ways we may not have chosen or wanted, and these offer their own opportunities to grow, adjust, and re-imagine what color, shade, or pattern might be the next path for us.

The comfort to me is in knowing that we’re still ourselves as we transform, all the layers and flaws and previous iterations still there, a perfect record of our past. It’s equally comforting that we can always revert back to these layers should timing or circumstances line up better for them in the future. So much about our lives is within our control—the things we choose to pursue, the ways we choose to spend our time, the people we align ourselves with. Even the jobs we have and cities we live in. The houses we buy. I fully acknowledge those things we cannot choose, and the heartbreak and frustration that often accompanies them. But in instances where transformation is within our grasp and feels warranted—or even essential—we can slap on a coat of something radiant and bright (or even just your basic swiss coffee white) and move forward, ever hopeful, ever determined, ever grateful.