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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.

JUL
11

Thinking Woman

I love this little sculpture, that it's of a female and that she appears to be in thought. I've also enjoyed decorating my house with stacks of my favorite books--books being such a big part of what I myself think about. Whether writing them or reading them, one might argue the best thing about books is that they make you think, and usually about things outside your comfort zone, things you know nothing about, or things you never had a reason to even contemplate prior to reading about them. So I really couldn't think of a better spot for this little sculpture.

I confess I'm behind on my 2021 reading goal. This tends to happen when I'm more focused on writing a book, but even though I haven't been writing one in 2021 (the one I wrote in 2020 is being typeset as we speak!!), it still seems like reading hasn't been getting the time it deserves. And I feel badly whenever this is the case. It's so important--and enjoyable--that it's hard to accept that any excuse could really be good enough.

To prove that at least some reading has been happening, I'm currently reading Ethan Kross' Chatter and really enjoying it. Because as long as we're talking about thinking, I am a chronic overthinker. It keeps me up at night, the various stressful or unpleasant things I think and worry about, and while some people are better than others at internal self-talk and diffusing negative chatter, I'm not one of those people. If I feel overwhelmed, I'm going to think about being overwhelmed until I am even more overwhelmed. If I'm worried about how a co-worker is going to interpret an email I'm worried may come across with a tone I didn't intend, I'm going to think about all the ways it could blow up in my face. I try to think of myself as just interested in playing out all the scenarios, just wanting to be prepared for any number of outcomes, but there's really no sugar-coating the fact that I spend more time than I should worrying about insignificant things that usually blow over anyway. So, bottom line: it's a great book with actual suggestions for managing self-talk.

I also recently picked up (as in actually took it on a plane with me instead of my Kindle) an oldie but goodie, one of my absolute favorites, The Year of Magical Thinking. It's been years since I read it, but it's such an honest and refreshing look at grief. I love Didion's mentions of the memory vortices we get sucked into and the way irrational thoughts (such as being prepared in case a departed loved one comes back) can actually seem quite rational. It's hard to fathom the back to back losses she endured, but the rest of us are forever bettered by the books she wrote from those experiences.

So, I'm still reading, (however slowly), still anticipating the release of my new book in the fall, and newly experimenting with a topic that may become my next book. In short, I'm thinking more than ever. My little sculpture is in good company.