Last night the Gallery had an opening. Among other artists, they featured Lily Stockman. Those are her flowers, above.
I would have loved to have attended. I own one of her paintings, Her Favorite Time Of Day, and I love it. But as it turned out, I have been struggling with fatigue, and couldn’t get myself out of the house last night. Why fatigue? The easy, fun answer is jet lag from the UK. The harder reason is that after I returned from overseas, I set off alone to Santa Barbara to see my mother.
Mom’s losing her memory. I drove there. Stayed 4 nights and then drove back, this time with Mom in the car. She stayed with my aunt for several days, and that same beloved aunt has now driven Mom back home, where my stepfather awaits.
Not my story to tell, all that, the details, but the resultant exhaustion has been nothing to scoff at.
So I couldn’t make it to the art exhibit. I felt bad, because I should have supported Lily, and like I’d missed something that would have fed my spirit, if I’d only had enough spirit to get out.
I also wanted to say that recently some of my younger friends have thanked me for my help, and I’ve been surprised. Two of them told me I’d mattered in the early days of their new babies, that somehow my presence or my words had made a difference. You know how it is, when you are simply telling your true story, and it feels confessional, and heartening, to say it all, and then absolutely unpredictably it turns out to be helpful to someone else?
And then there was the thank you that put me in a magazine. A teeny me. If you read Redbook, open the September edition and look for the section where magazine staffers recognize their friends for style. Lauren Oster, the Senior Research Editor, included this photo, as a thumbnail, and thanked me for teaching her that being fabulous is a process. I am still surprised. That someone as brilliant as Lauren, and as creative, for she is both to the nth degree, felt I had anything to teach her.
Because I’ve never been teaching her, only relating.
So I suppose I wanted to say today, help someone. Even though you can’t always know when you’re helping. I have been the most useful when I am both truthful and focused on the person to whom I’m talking. And in those times when I have done that simple hard thing, like a long drive, physical or emotional. That which just needed doing.
Listen, tell the truth, amuse someone with stories of your own failings. Bring food, make the spreadsheet, drive.
But then you’re also going to have to make peace with the times when you can’t help. You’re not going to make it to the art opening, you won’t make dessert from scratch. You’ll get used up. So then you have to prioritize. Only one thing can come first. It was right that my daughter and my mother tired me out, albeit disappointing for paintings.
It’s just so hard to know. So hard to know when to push yourself and when to surrender, when to say yes and when to say no, when your reward will be your own pleasure and when it will be the also real and more flinty joy of doing something for another. How in all this we become and remain good people, I don’t know, but I am absolutely sure that we should all keep trying.
Have a wonderful weekend. See some art for me. Or for yourself. Or someone else.