Sarah R. Callender

Prufrock

In Faith, General, Writing on January 1, 2012 at 11:57 am

Have you ever read T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”? It’s a good one, for lots of reasons. Here’s a link to the complete poem if you care to read it. Or, in the case that poetry gives you hives, let me simply share a few lines that often come to mind right around the New Year.

Poor J. Alfred Prufrock, the balding, indecisive, middle-age narrator of the poem. He ponders:

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all;
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

Prufrock is living his life like an “etherized patient” often wondering, “Do I dare?”  A mousy sort of fellow, he asks, “Should I, after tea and cakes and ices / Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?” Worst of all, Prufrock “measures out [his] life” with something as mundane as coffee spoons.

I suppose, if we, like Prufrock, believe our lives are mundane and dull, why would we measure them with anything other than an ordinary utensil?

But let’s assume for a moment, that our lives are something other than ordinary and mundane. Do I dare to consider such a thing? Do you?

Of course, you may (unless you are Queen Elizabeth or Amelia Earhart or the Dalai Lama) feel ordinary at times. Maybe many times each day. I do. But does that mean we are ordinary people? Does that mean we should look back at 2011, our coffee spoons clutched tight in our hands, measuring the worth of the past year?

No way, José.

Even amid the mundane elements, the chores and routines, our lives are filled with quite a lot that is unordinary. If you know where to look.

I submit this idea to you: each event in our life matters. Sure, some matter more than others, but each action (or inaction) impacts the world in some way.

I’d like to spend just a moment or two sharing some blog-related news and updates, some happy, some sad, some weird, one that made me cry in Safeway, another that made me blush in Safeway, all of which could seem unremarkable to others but matter to ordinary-yet-not-ordinary me.

Let’s start with Abe. You fellow Abraham Lincoln lovers may have heard the thrilling news: December of 2012 will bring a film about Abraham Lincoln where Daniel Day-Lewis plays Abe.

While this particular visual (DDL is on the left, AL is on the right) does not reflect the utter hotness of either man, I trust the movie will include bits of The Young Lincoln. Ha-cha-cha. If you want to go see it together, just let me know.

In other breaking news (and in light of my love of the weirdness of organic produce, second only to my love of dead, depressive presidents) I give you this photo, taken shortly after purchasing this behemoth at PCC, the local organic grocery co-op.

What’s important is not that I have posted such a mad-looking, unshowered photo of myself. What is important is the size of that big, hairy carrot. It is, as you can see, almost as wide as my face. And I needed to share it with you.

As for my well-voiced Safeway checker, the romance continues.  Just before the holidays, I went to Safeway and was wandering the wine aisle, wondering how many bottles of Riesling I should purchase, when I heard The Voice.

I immediately felt my whole face get hot, and I turned to see that my well-voiced checker had, in fact, gotten a promotion. He’s now the wine steward!

I had to fight every instinct not to ask my well-voiced wine steward to just stroll down the aisle and read the names of wine. Read the ingredients of each bottle. Read the Don’t Drink This if You’re Pregnant warnings. Anything. Just talk to me in that voice, and I am yours.

But I didn’t say that. I just stood there feeling a little sweaty and happy for him. He, apparently, is the opposite of Mr. Prufrock. Which I always suspected.

Of course, when one is trying to live an un-Prufrock life, there’s bound to be some sadness too. And here it is: my lovely agent is leaving agenting. I received this news just two weeks ago.

Well. As a result of the out-of-the-blueness of this news, I have been a bit sad and sideways. I have cried (twice) in the dairy section of Safeway and (just once) at an otherwise fabulous Christmas Eve party with dear friends.

After the Safeway and Christmas crying, the terror arrived on the scene. Loud terror, arriving on the loudest of jet skis on an otherwise-quiet lake, launching itself off the wake left by the shock and sadness.

It was mean terror, too, terror that hollered stuff about how my fab, now-former agent was the only agent in the world who would ever like my book. Stuff about how, back in 2010, I had somehow managed to find the only agent in the universe who 1) was insane enough to represent me, and 2) apparently took on one charity case book each year, just out of the goodness of her kindhearted heart.

But after a few days, thank goodness, those jet skiing hot dogs of terror ran out of gas. That’s the thing about terror: it doesn’t know how to pump its own gas.

Unfortunately, when the terror faded, in slunk a small, well-knotted rope of depression, mostly due to this realization: I would now have to do another agent search.

In case you haven’t experienced an agent search, I’ll share this: searching for an agent is roughly as fun as getting a dental check-up while completely naked. Roughly as fun. It depends on the dentist, of course, and the sensitivity of your teeth. And how you feel about public nudity.

So let’s just say I was both thrilled and surprised when, strangely, I woke up on Wednesday, to a total absence of depression and terror and sadness. No sign of their henchmen, either. In their place, stood only good and helpful things. Excitement, certainty and hope. Peace. Courage.  Whew . . . thanks, God.

It reminded me of a little spider I once knew, very briefly, one whose beautiful web I decimated. That plucky arachnid would have told me this: When some clod walks through your web, get back up there on that branch or garbage can or that corner of the living room and start spinning your heart out.

Getting a novel published requires talent, sure. But it also requires tenacity, the ability to nurse the bruises, apply some Arnica gel, and get back into the game.

So I have. I have reached out to many of my writer and author friends, all of whom have been more generous than Santa with their empathy and wisdom, all of whom have offered to help me in every way possible. It gets me a little weepy, that’s how grateful I am to them, to you, writer pals.

I have a good list of agents to query.

I have a manuscript that’s even more polished than the last time I went searching for an agent.

All of this makes my brain take a huge sigh of relief.

Of course, there have been many other highlights, but that’s enough for now. But tit for tat. Will you take a moment to share some of your highlights? Some of your anti-Prufrock moments? How do you hope to make 2012 something that’s the opposite of ordinary? How has 2011 offered you sparks of magic or joy or pain? In what ways have you grown or changed in unique, totally unordinary ways?

I’d love to hear. Those of us who get out of bed each day and live life as the very cool gift that it is, deserve some recognition for such an anti-Prufrockian feat. So share, please.

And if you’re more of a Reader than a Sharer, thank you for reading. I am grateful to have such an unordinary group of readers in my life.

In fact, allow me to make a toast: Here’s to 2012, a year during which, when we ask, Do I dare? some part of our selves will yell, “Yes!” in a very big, very loud voice.

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  1. I was sitting at the computer when your email came in. Your blog is always so entertaining! I’m with you on Abe Lincoln!! Wish his clone would show up about now and help us get through this election year.

    As for your writing and searching for an agent, please check out http://www.querytracker.net because it is the most comprehensive and up to date place on the internet to find agents. As an aspiring writer myself, the tools provided are invaluable.

    Keep writing!

    Happy New Year! Susan

    • Oh, thank you, Susan, for this note. I always love to meet another Abe-lover. Happy writing to you, too, and have a great start to 2012. Thanks for the querytracker reminder!

  2. Great post! And I am available whenever the premiere is so it’s a date. I couldn’t believe that my weirdo acting crush DDL was playing my weirdo President crush. It MUST mean something. You are the best! I read your stuff to everyone and they love it! I’ll be your agent!

  3. Dear Sarah,

    I’m curious. How does one prepare such a hairy behemoth? Sliced, steamed, smothered in brown sugar, perhaps? Made into chips and laid out on a pretty side plate with Ranch dressing? Served up with Key Lime Pie? I suspect, after posing for this impromptu pic, that you simply sunk your teeth into the sweet, crisp flesh there on the spot, surprising no one (since you seem to be the kinda girl who might do such a thing, if provoked).

    Yes, I am an Abe fan, as well. Kentuckian Here, born and raised! My family comes from his neck of the woods and lives just miles from his boyhood home in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. His face is one of the most gentle, kind, wise beyond his years and wistfully saddened, that I have ever seen. How can one *not* like Abe Lincoln?

    “Do I dare disturb the universe?”

    WOW. Now THERE is my quote for the year 2012! I LOVE IT!

    I dare ~ I will look my Fear straight in its big, hairy eye and spit at its feet for good measure!

    I dare ~ I will embrace whatever measuring device, coffee spoon, eye of my needle, or tightly cupped hands, that I have at the ready to move mountains!

    I dare. I dare!

    What changed me in 2011? Well, certainly nothing out of the ordinary. For any parent of a high school student. Though preparing our first born for his last year in high school has felt, sometimes, like the end of my world. Pictures, proms, graduation announcements, caps and gowns, college testing, year-end parties and celebrations, college applications, more college applications, scholarship searches, many more scholarship searches, money worries, too many money worries, 18 year old birthdays, 18 year old girlfriends, lots and lots of discussion on school, work, cars, girls and condoms. Ouch.

    *Takes long, cleansing breath to ward off panic attack*

    I dare. I dare.

    As always, you have a most unique way of posing the big questions, Sarah! YOU are One Spark of Magic, which has brought Joy into my life in 2011! I have faith. You will be published. There is no doubt in my mind. “Because, doggone it, you’re good enough, you’re smart enough and people like you!”

    Love! And Happiest New Year to You!
    Scarlett

    • Oh, JEEZ! This is one amazing comment. Thank you, Scarlett, for sharing . . . and for wowing me with your writing once again. Let’s both do some universe-disturbing this year. And, I’ll pray that your high school senior only disturbs the universe in gentle, safe, appropriate ways. You’re right about Abe Lincoln too . . . how could anyone not love him? I knew you were a good egg. A hug for you! XO!

  4. A very heartening post! I particularly like that you compare the agent search to a dental checkup while naked.

    2011 has been anything but ordinary. I don’t think I’ve ever had an ordinary day. Oh, wait, there was that Tuesday in 1978….

  5. I wonder if I ought to measure more of my life at a Safeway….?

    I will tell you that I have always loved the idea of measuring my life in coffee spoons, having stirred so many coffees in so many sweet and wonderful and terrible and awful and ordinary and extraordinary moments. I will cling to my (mis)interpretation but you did give me pause.

    Regardless, 2011 was the year of Two Moms, the year of finding out that Hard is Required and Possible, the year that I’ve most often thought of quitting several important commitments, the year I’ve realized that those small people changed me and made me better at several important things while simutaneously revealing terrifyingly deep fissures in my character.

    Peace. Imagine getting to peace. It’s almost enough to make a person believe that God was paying attention.

    You know, peace is my favourite thing about that Jesus guy. I will look forward to being thankful for it in the midst of the Hard that is Required and Possible in 2012.

    XOX.

    • Thinking of you, Alison! Here’s to sticking to several important commitments. And here’s to peace. I love this comment. Love it. If I could marry your comment I would. And yes . . do you have Safeways in BC? If not, you might consider opening a franchise. Here’s a big hug for you, one of the best people I have never met!
      xo.

  6. Count me in for an “un-Prufrocked” life in 2012 . I think we should start with our new coats and hit the DDL as Abe fest! As always you make me giggle and apprieciate your view of life. Happy New Year- it is going to be a good one!

  7. You will find an even better agent in 2012, Sarah. Your writer friends want to help you because you’re an amazing writer – and person too. Your book will be published. I have no doubt. None.

    As for me, I plan to be more meditative, creative and happy. How’re those for big, general, goals? 🙂

    Thanks for writing, Sarah.

  8. “Do I dare to eat a peach?” — this is the only line I remember from that poem, which I believe I read in your class. I love how silly it is. That eating a peach could be such a scary and challenging thing that it needs to be considered.

    Some of my Anti-Prufrock moments from 2011: Choosing to face our infertility head which resulted in 3 IUIs and 1 miscarriage.

    My Anti-Prufrock moment of 2012: first try at IVF in February. Both scared shitless and freaking pumped to finally do this and get it done already. I started blogging about it, if you’d like to follow: http://heyjbn.blogspot.com.

    Happy new year, Sarah!!!

  9. That should have read “…infertility head ON”. What the hell is infertility head?! LOL!

  10. Oh Sarah, I am (and have been) in the agent search, and I’d just like to add that the naked dentist metaphor takes place in an office with no heat and a leaky ceiling.

    I love this post. As always, I am in awe of your courage and so grateful for your writing and your humor. You’re a gem and I cannot wait to read your book. So go find an agent, because it’s all about me, right?

    My 2011 — I learned that a total onslaught of rejection letters — nice, helpful rejection letters — can veer wildly into humor after a certain point. That my skin can get remarkably tough. That homeschooling two kids and writing everyday is exhausting and sometimes I just need to quit for a weekend or a week. Which does not, in fact, end in disaster. I learned that I could blog (who knew?) and commit to reading a book a week (and love it). That puppies eat socks and books and stuffed animals. Mostly, I think I learned that I do, in fact, dare. And I’m grateful for that.

    Cheers to you. I have all faith that your book will be shiny on a shelf very soon.

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