Within the space of two weeks, I’ve gone from “what’s a podcast, and how do they work?” to listening to a podcast everyday. I’m a gorger, have I mentioned that? I started with Serial, the one everyone was talking about, and I’ve now subscribed to several.
Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, a magical pair of personalities for radio, take their old Rumpus advice column “Dear Sugar” and give it their (literal) voices. So far there’s just one full-length, hour-long episode, but I’m hooked. I’ve listened to this episode 3 times now, and the soundbite that sticks with me today is from a 2011 Dear Sugar Column, about life choices. Seek out a new job or stay put? write your book or not? have a baby or remain forever childless? move to a new city or stay where you are? rent forever (remain mobile) or buy (set down roots)? The possibilities for our lives are endless, but we simply can’t live every life we imagine for ourselves; we have to make a choice, choose a path, and let that other life we might have lived go. Here’s an excerpt from Cheryl’s 2011 column “The Ghost Ship That Didn’t Carry Us”.
There’s a poem I love by Tomas Tranströmer called “The Blue House.” I think of it every time I ponder questions such as yours about the irrevocable choices we make. The poem is narrated by a man who is standing in the woods near his house. When he looks at his house from this vantage point, he observes that it’s “as if I had just died and was seeing the house from a new angle.” It’s a wonderful image—that man among the trees—and it’s an instructive one too. There is a transformative power in seeing the familiar from a new, more distant perspective. It’s in this stance that Tranströmer’s narrator is capable of seeing his life for what it is while also acknowledging the lives he might have had. “The sketches,” Tranströmer writes, “all of them, want to become real.” The poem strikes a chord in me because it’s so very sadly and joyfully and devastatingly true. Every life, Tranströmer writes, “has a sister ship,” one that follows “quite another route” than the one we ended up taking. We want it to be otherwise, but it cannot be: the people we might have been live a different, phantom life than the people we are.
And so the question, sweet pea, is who do you intend to be.
Here’s to getting more Sugar.
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