Sprezzatura

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Ann Nichols

Ann Nichols
Location
East Lansing, Michigan,
Birthday
December 31
Bio
I write, I read, I clean up after people and I worry about things. I have a chronic insufficiency of ironic detachment. My birthday isn't really December 31; it's March 22 but it won't let me change it.

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Salon.com
MARCH 28, 2012 2:10PM

Stabby As Hell

Rate: 30 Flag

I try to be a grownup, a big girl, a person present in every moment and accepting that life is not all puppies and rainbows. Because, truth be told, it’s not. It is, in fact, this complicated freaking rollercoaster which is best handled with calm, no expectations, and appreciation for everything that is good and beautiful instead of suspended breath pending the granting of some cosmic prize.

Sometimes, in the course of a day, in the course of an hour, in a matter of minutes it is possible to be both elated and crushed. It is possible even if one is not a sixteen-year-old in love with an Unattainable Other who sits across the classroom ignoring the silent, agonized pleas to think about me, look at me, love me. The drama swirls, the nail breaks, the unexpected flowers are delivered, the car dies, the  increase shows up in a paycheck. The trick, and I know this because I am old and wise, is to accept all of it, take it in, ride it out and stay the course. It’s not really objectively good or bad, it’s simply what happened next. It just is.

So I’ll tell you, today I had a phone call from the mother of one of my son’s friends, Brendan. She knew that there had been issues at school, and that we were worried about Sam’s future, his character, and whether we had failed him as parents. “I just wanted to tell you,” she said, “that I was talking with Brendan and he said that Sam was the kindest person he knew. I just thought you should know that.” Down the hill I flew, my hair flying behind me, happy, certain and validated. He is kind. Honestly, seriously, if I had a choice between a genuinely kind child who hated school and an unkind child in the NHS? I’d take the kind kid every time.

Within minutes, literally minutes, I checked again on the reasonably famous site where I believed that my piece was soon going to appear. (The piece that was requested recently, and for which I sweated over my Inadequate Bio. I also, for the record, had a fit about the requisite head shot because I hate being photographed, and I made my husband take approximately 500 pictures of me before I found one that, with some photo shopping, did not make me want to commit suicide with a pizza cutter). There it was: the piece I was asked to write, but it wasn’t my piece, it was by somebody else. Dear reader, I cried. Just a little. I wondered if my piece was so terrible that it could not even have been edited into righteousness. I wondered if my headshot was too awful. I wondered, of course, if it was the Inadequate Bio.

In that hot, sad, mental slime of disappointment and defeat my happiness about my good, kind son was lost. I was heading back up the track, gears grinding, oblivious to the forsythia blooming in the sun just outside the window, the dog snoring peacefully at my feet, or the fact that my hair color had turned out just right. Life, only minutes ago a veritable jubilee, was a shit sandwich.

So I texted a friend, a dear, good, loving person who consoled me and opined that I “had every right to feel stabby as hell.” Which led me to consider the fact that not everyone has such a friend. Which led me back to my actual, present situation, which was really not all that terrible. My hair looks pretty good, I enjoyed my lunch, I have more than one really great friend, my dog is adorable (but flatulent), the sun is lovely, and my son is lovely. I’m really okay, just disappointed about the loss of something intangible that I never really had.

I am still a little stabby, a little fragile, but beneath that slimy stuff on the edge of my consciousness is the smooth, bright part, the good stuff that is (also) always and eternally there. Everything is good and beautiful, and everything is not. I am angry about Trayvon Martin, worried about the Supreme Court, and delighted to see crocuses and lilacs. With a little ping of wretchedness about my lost opportunity, I will go look again into the bathroom mirror and fluff my shiny, de-greyed hair. I will think about being a person whose writing is rejected but whose child is accepted. I will think that life is a beautiful, tragic, exhausting, exhilarating ride in which I am not ever going to be the driver. And that’s just how it is.

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Stabby. I have a new word :)
(and I'd take kind any day, too)
Love the roller coaster, as Bill Hicks so eloquently observed: "It's only a ride." Love the flatulent dog and I'd like to see that pic of you in your "fluffy, shiny de-greyed" hair.
Once I told someone that one day I'd like to stop riding the roller coaster and just watch from the bench. I'm still at the park, just not going up and down and up and down and up and down, well, you get my point. :) ~r
Wonderful piece. And oh so true. It's always too easy to get caught up in the disappointments and not recognize or appreciate the gifts. And good hair and a good son are definitely gifts.
I've been reflecting recently on how life can (and does) change in an instant, in ways both good and bad. I'm not a Pollyanna, but when I'm being objective (or getting the good news), I tend to think it balances out. When I'm getting the bad news, on the other hand, I tend to hiss and spit.

As usual, you've written another wonderful post. Love your work. Pffft to the reasonably famous site that rejected your piece. Submit it elsewhere. Onward!
Ah, the whole life thing, what a gig. I go up and I go down. I am sitting finally, in the middle, thankfully on the ground, not in, just on. I watch all the other balls in the air, my children, my husband, our business, I sit and still wonder what is next. Will I have to get up again? Like that word stabby too. It is great to have a child that people care enough to tell you how wonderful you know they are. Motherhood, validated. Check. Good piece.
Very relatable, Ann-- so many times I find myself back on the rollercoaster instead of having a zen moment of observance while family and world dramas pop up and recede...
...and while we all ought to strive for balance, sometimes I must admit it can be more fun, only now and then, but sometimes --it's just more exhilarating to jump on the ride and throw my hands up in the air and squeal --with delight or terror, whichever -- while the ride goes flying down and up again.
Too much zen makes life go flat, I say, while yogis might read this and exhale their horror, or is it passion, while breathing in their incessant detached calm....

Another writing submission will be accepted soon! ...and how cool to have a friend who lets you know how kind your son is...that is huge in the scheme of things, your friend and your son. : )
You are so right, Ann. It's so beautiful and terrible and exhausting all at once.

I know
Whoops. My ham-hand hit the mouse button.

I was going to say, I suspect I'll be okay when it's time to die. But I know I'll be disappointed that I'll never know how the Story of Everything turns out.
Writing success will come and go but kind offspring is forever. Not minimizing your angst, believe me...I can kill a good mood in 2.3 seconds just by stepping on a scale. I just want you to know that you've got plenty of company in this regard, you are better than you think, and we all love and admire you. XOXO
Life is a fickle, stabby bitch, is she not?
From jubilee to shit sandwich -(sigh). In minutes or hours or even a whole life, that's it. The consistently excellent news for you, miss ann, regardless of the piece those dopes didn't publish, is that you write about this and every other subject beautifully. now if only my iPad would stop f**king up ...
Eloquent. When I get to a big girl, I want to write like you. :)
"The drama swirls, the nail breaks, the unexpected flowers are delivered, the car dies, the increase shows up in a paycheck," looks easy, & probably is, for you, but juxtapositions like that are what makes your writing inimitable.
Lovely, & warm, & the forsythia still blooms in the sun outside your window.
This is how it works I think. You think the stabby thought, and it rests there for a fraction of a second, hovering in a wee gap, during which you notice the forsythia, the sleepy dog, the changing light, and you chose to believe those things, not the stabby thought, and poof, it disappears. Is this Buddhism? For me, this is just sucking the juice out of the moment.

BTW, had an 800 word piece published in an art journal recently, the editor cut it to 330 words. Talk about seeing someone else's work in print instead of your own. Bleh. Forsythia forsythia forsythia. Three times, because I don't have a sleepy dog ;-)
Yes. You (and we) are all these things if we are real. Perhaps being a Midwesterner magnifies it too...i.e. If you like things as they are, wait. If you DON'T like things as they are, wait. Stabby is my new favorite word. As for head-shots, I hate all of mine too, though they beat the hell out of my rear-end shots, so I settle. Stabby or not, Ann...no one does it better. Loved this! REAL LIFE RRR.
You have a right to be stabby about being screwed by the website. I would have been beyond stabby.

I had something similar today, though in reverse. I was bitching and moaning to someone in an email about some injustice to which I was being subjected. In the first minute after I hit "send," something happened that gave me a feeling of elation. As you said, life is a rollercoaster and mentally, it's important to stay on level land.
That stabby feeling....how many times do folks with imagination feel it....every week. This is such a great piece. Feel good
Stabby is a good word. And I loved your tag "tormented and mixed metaphors." Isn't that just life.
You have a right to feel quite stabby. But a child well raised, is, I am told, one of life's greatest treasures.
Good Lord I wish we were neighbors - I feel like once we started talking, we'd never stop. Let me just say that the site that failed to use your work has suffered a great loss. They are stupidheads :) And, if anything beats a good hair day, it is getting a compliment on your child. So, Stabby McStaber you come out on top.
You're supposed to be a grownup, yet told to see life through the eyes of a child.
Love this piece - what a beautiful perspective. Thank you for sharing! :)
Best Last Line ever. You should patent it.

Stab happy, definitely been there. That piece may yet turn up when you least expect it and b/c of that patent worthy line, I know you know it.

I put up some beautiful owls on my fav things pin board for you this wk. See? there's happy again.
The word the Joker uses, in Batman: The Ace of Detectives shows, is "stabbity." As in, "I'm disappointed in this place. There's nothing nice and sharp and stabbity here. Ah, wait. Here's a stilleto!"

And the important part about getting something stabbity is not to use it on yourself. Use it on the person who's screwing over your life. That will make more oxygen available to the good people of the world.
"Stabby" is the perfect word. Thanks for that.

"I will think that life is a beautiful, tragic, exhausting, exhilarating ride in which I am not ever going to be the driver." Pretty much. Sure can be difficult to be reminded of it again (and again)--you're right about that!

"I will think about being a person whose writing is rejected but whose child is accepted." He's the good kind. That's the most important thing.
your contributions, here, inspire me to improve.
Oh man, I have been there too. It's heartbreaking being a writer. Glad you have good friends!
Loved...and left wondering if mental slime is as nutritious as pink slime. Good writing, again!
Shall we call it off-spring fever? We were all so shallow and self-involved before we had children. You are so on the right track, Michigan Girl!