There must be a lot of people in San Francisco writing in notebooks because around every corner is another high design store selling archival notebooks and pens. My husband keeps eyeing the fancy pencil holders.
That is a pencil holder, right? he asks.
Yes, I tell him.
But the only person I see this week writing in a journal is a woman in the boulangerie in the Hayes Valley across from the David Best temple.
Here, is the possibility of many digressions.
Vegetarians are hard to come by. The names of stores are not apparent. The longest line we see is for the bakery whose name I learn only by studying a city permit taped to the window. Pour-overs have replaced espressos. My husband's favorite bar smells like the inside of a barn.
Even though it doesn't dawn on me until days from now, the reason my brother is driving me crazy is because I am driving him crazy, trying to give him advice about his aching knee.
Stretching will help. And new shoes. And elevating the knee.
He tells me to stop acting like I'm his mom.
There was a brief time when I was ten or eleven that we went to family therapy. Our appointments were at the same time as Cheers, our favorite show, bringing another level of gloom to the occasion. The therapist had bowls of candy that we weren't allowed to eat. While I sat, staring at the candy bowl, my brother told me, at the prompting of the therapist, that he hates it when I act like his mom. I was mortified and swore to myself I'd never do it again.
"You don't know, you're not a doctor!" my bother snaps. And then he goes on and on about how stupid the Grateful Dead is.
I wake before everyone and sneak upstairs with the intention of reading The Book of Disquiet and writing in my journal which I haven't yet written in. Instead I find myself regretting that I did not insist we take the Muni downtown to see the Grateful Dead last night. I can't let it go, so frustrated with my lack of initiative, even though we didn't know about it until our friends texted a couple of hours before the show. They tried but couldn't get a babysitter. We dropped it. But now, the next morning, I feel terrible about missing it. I am close to tears when I finally go back to the basement to wake up my husband.
"I feel terrible that we didn't go to see the Grateful Dead."
"Don't worry about it," he says. "I didn't want to go anyway."
And all my regret dissolves.
And all my regret dissolves.
One by one my friends tell me they are in therapy, spurred no doubt by my husband who has been trying to get me to go to therapy for years. Laura G. likens it to untangling the roots. Liam says he was afraid he'd know more than his therapist. Jonathan, a therapist, advises to think of it like dating, shop around for the right one. Paul tells me to just keep being me. Laura P. says, in such a cute way, that in getting older, she feels like she can't rely on her cuteness the way she once did, even though she still totally can. Laura G. refuses to admit that we are middle aged.
But why? In our middle age, we have lived enough to no longer be young. We understand the long term. We see what decades of practice does. We feel the cycles of life and the value of traditions. We have witnessed growth from infant to youth, from youth to middle age, from middle age to elder. We have lots to regret and realize we have a limited time remaining. We reflect deeply. We laugh, but we also cry.
When my friend who is 27 comments that she loves hanging out with people in their 40's, I tell her it's because we are defeated, yet still healthy.
Oh yes, about The Book of Disquiet. It was on the staff recommendations shelf at Green Apple Books in the Inner Sunset. It contains the work of Fernando Pessoa: A Factless Autobiography and A Disquiet Anthology. From what I gather, these are the writings that Pessoa did as a diary of Bernardo Soares who worked in an office on Rua dos Douradores where he also lived "in a humble rented room, writing in his spare time."
(Richard Zenith in the introduction)
"In Bernardo Soares - a prose writer who poetizes, a dreamer who thinks, a mystic who doesn't believe, a decadent who doesn't indulge - Pessoa invented the best author possible (and who was just a mutilated copy of himself) to provide unity to a book which, by nature, couldn't have one."
Here is something to admire.
In every store is a sense of imminent importance, of supporting a righteous cause. We are all very concerned. Things that were once considered in bad taste - taxidermy, manufacturing, eating meat - are now elevated to new levels of respect and art, the ideas themselves renewed by design and innovative marketing.
In all the stores is a reverence for tradition.
At the perfectly imperfect tile factory store, I buy Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers a book by Leonard Koren.
From the Introduction:
Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
It is a beauty of things modest and humble.
It is a beauty of things unconventional.
Back at home, two different friends tell me they're scared of going back to therapy because just the thought brings up a lot of difficult memories.