• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Any Day Now, Any Day How


I’ve never talked about this, but I always think about it. How can we worry about our own stories or poems when hurricanes are destroying homes, when missiles are being launched, when the arctic is melting, when children are starving and dying when cancers are ravaging bodies, dementia destroying minds. How do you feel your work matters in the face of so much pain and suffering in the world.

How do you find meaning?

61 Responses

  1. Once upon a time I went through hell and was I glad that others had written stuff while I was there because it all made me feel connected after I got through and read, say, a wee essay about rotten first dates.

  2. You….just….do. You have to.

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. This post has a lot of meaning for me. I’m going through a deep bout of not seeing meaning in my work. Pages and pages of nothing meaningful when just a while ago I just had to get it done. It’s supposed to be enlightening to be a drop in the ocean but I don’t like it. Thanks, Betsy. Once again it does wonders knowing I’m not the only one. Which is a little paradoxical. There’s got to be a way. I know it.

  4. I keep stumbling over a link between doing and meaning, and find meaning when I’m not looking for it. If that doesn’t make enough sense, I sure as hell understand.

    My suspicious heart suggests that we don’t find meaning as much as we make it. Day before yesterday, three of us took a break from hurricane preps and went sailing, had gear failures, couldn’t claw back in, so two swam back to get another boat, while, after a no-kidding-take your-breath-away sunset, I sailed alone in the dark in a rising wind, Yesterday I slipped on some moss at a boat ramp, busted my ass, skull, and wrist, which I was told are of equal value.

    I don’t know the meaning of this yet, but friendship is involved,and damn, it was fun, even the pain.

    To those in harms way, the best to you, and the best to us all.

  5. I’ve been very clear about why I write. I write to give pleasure, meaning, call-it-what-you-will, to another soul who is in trouble, needs solace or a good laugh. Here’s to writing that heals. I am absolutely thrilled when I begin reading a new book, and it lifts me, changes me, fucking HELPS me. So, no worries about writing while others suffer. I’m here to make an offering, a gift, a way to see better.

    • Double good on you, jodycarr. There’s plenty of strife and pain, and we don’t need to add to it. Fair winds to you, jody.

  6. “How do you find meaning?”

    First, by believing it is made, not found. Or found after it is made, or found in the making of it.

    It seems one of the burdens of human existence is that we must have meaning in and to our lives, and by extension in and to the world as we know it. We search around us, to those we are with, and to those who have gone before, for clues and answers to the central question we call the meaning of life.

    For my part, the answer is that life is the meaning.

    Sometimes I look around myself at the horrible things that people do, and have been doing since Cain slew Abel, and it opens in my heart and mind pools of sadness, despair, and darkness too deep for me to plumb. But most of the time, being a man like any other man, I turn away and carry on. I know I am one of the most fortunate persons who has lived.

    I believe that the meaning to my life — the meaning I have been fortunate enough to discover and apply myself, rather than having my meaning forced upon me by others or by blind circumstance, is to bear witness. And so, as best I can, I do.

    In the month after September 11, 2001, I could not write. A couple poems came out, but other than that, it all seemed so pointless.

    But it’s not pointless. That’s my point. We writers and artists, we make meaning. That’s our point.

    We carry the fire.

  7. Good question, and like you, I think about the same things. A “what does this really mean to anyone who’s going through hell on earth?” Coincidentally, my latest (release date 12/26) deals with flooding and survival in its aftermath in the Appalachian wilderness. I worry everyone will be so sick of weather related events, no one will care to read.

    And…as the recent recipient of a cancer diagnosis, I have found that reading the wonderful works of other authors helps me forget I’ve got that monster within. So writers, do keep writing. Oh, and I plan to keep doing that too.

  8. The best to you, donna.

  9. Being an artist is incredibly self indulgent.

    I have thought about this and talked about this my entire adult life.

    Pushing back against the urge or compulsion, what some would describe as a “calling” to create from my inner self while the greater world needs tangible help in all areas.

    Does the world really need to hear what I’m thinking about, feeling about? Will describing my own experiences in life do any “good”?

    Regardless, I still make stuff. I don’t seek publicity for my stuff, but I still create.

    Sometimes I think about what we value as a species. Especially Americans. Why are Hollywood actors/producers paid so much?

    Its because humans, while maybe many don’t really enjoy intellectual thought, we all do seem to love a good story.

    Hollywood people are involved in story telling to the great masses.

    Why do we love a good story?

    When we’re young, we’re not really sure we understand the world around us, when we’re older, we’re not really sure we understand ourselves. Story sharing helps on the path to understand. Sharing our experiences, sharing our feelings and thoughts.

    No matter how long we live amongst each other, Humans have a hard time feeling deeply connected. Maybe there’s a little bit of Aspergers in all.

    Uncertainty is part of the life long human condition.

    Art soothes this. Art is a sharing. Art is proof that we have skill, heart, energy and that we are trying.

    Keep writing. Keep making stuff. Keep showing proof of your glorious existence. Keep sharing.

    • When I taught in China, I would ask my students who they thought were the highest paid government officials were in my home state of Iowa. Their first guess was always the governor, and then stumbled around until I took pity and told them it was the football coach at a state university. They were shocked!

  10. I have found a great solace in writing: after the devastation H. Katrina wrought upon my world; after cancer and dementia stole the lives of beloved friends and family members and as a means to accept the soul-sucking challenges which seem to lurk around each corner, every day. Similarly, as a reader, I seek the abandonment of my reality to consider other plots, other conclusions crafted by other writers. Yet, within that abandonment, is the firm knowledge that at any point I have the luxury of setting down the book and returning to my own flawed universe. The written word carries that sort of magic.

  11. I don’t know. There’s a mental state I go to when I write that I like. I wish I knew if it meant anything. I’m feeling like the profound truths are out there, but it’s more about the simpler truths; that we know what we know and there’s no changing that, only coming to acceptance and working hard to do the best that we can. Like it or not, we’re all in this together.

  12. Great question, Betsy. My work is influenced by life’s challenges and the lessons culled from them. Yours is too–and I’ve learned a great deal about me from reading your work (and many others, obviously). Otherwise, what’s the point in writing? I also believe that reading is just about one of the most soothing things one can do during tough times. Writing offers a similar balm, especially because we can control every single word in a world that appears so out of control.

  13. I find meaning in every story, in the nuance of the story and in the white space which wraps the lines in the unsaid. We writers create that which allows the spirit of good to transcend the egregious. Words which entertain, sooth or lift are precious and to be held to the heart.
    The ones which do the opposite have their place too, it’s called hell.
    There may be meaning in the mud but I do not choose to peel meaning from the bottom of my shoe.

  14. Just got home after a long, yet fruitful, day. Thus I’m a late comer to this discussion, much of which has been already expressed so poignantly. But look at what we’ve all said as a word-loving, mind-plying group of similarly intentioned individuals. There is such validation here of creativity and creation. That’s the beauty of our species, that which defines and elevates us, and ultimately, what sustains us.

  15. I think you found the meaning the moment you took the time to write down your feelings and thoughts for others to either disagree or agree with your opinions. It’s brave to put on a straight face when others are dealing with adversity because it shows your still human. The “better then than me” is ok to feel in a crisis situation, because heaven help us if 7 billion humans all cried out that they need 100% help from a god, you’d hope someone isn’t using their prayers on fickle matters such as traffic patterns or rain delays.

    I don’t know, that was a tangent, but I imagine you catch my drift. Patience in adversity ❤

  16. For me, it’s hope. I have hope that what I do in life matters to someone. I have hope that what I write will matter to someone. I have hope that someone somewhere will read what I write exactly when they need it. The interesting thing about the word hope is it was never meant as an empty word. It wasn’t even a word that described anticipation. The original meaning of hope was to believe fully. When I say that I hope what I do matters, it means that I believe fully that my work means something to someone somewhere.

  17. The world is a big beautiful lier
    The flesh is so wicked but yet kind
    The people of this world or so strong but yet weak
    I can go on and on….
    We all just want to live love and be happy and at the end of it all Be eternal. With our higher power.

  18. I think that through all these hard times it is down to us a person to have a purpose and with short term goals we can use to achieve our purposes we find our meaning. Everyone will have their own independent meaning but I find this helps to digest and move through hard times.

  19. I think about this as well. The work feels trivial compared to what’s going on in the world. But then I remember all the folks I admire who also wrote and made art in their own troubling periods and have a gut feeling that what we do matters. It is our contribution and is also our instrument for coping; it doesn’t mean we’re indifferent to the external chaos.

  20. I’ve had similar thoughts to your post and some of the comments so far.

    There is almost a guilty feeling for having joy in my life when others are suffering so horribly. Whether it’s the joy of creating, hugging my kids or spending time with family and friends, the list goes on and on.

    In a way, it seems a form of grief, kin to survivor’s guilt.

    Somehow, I think it’s about grieving the loss of the idea of “fairness” in the world. So much of the pain and suffering is not “fair”.

    Sadly, suffering is part of our human experience. Paradoxically, it seems, it has been the impetus for incredible art in all forms. And it’s been the impetus for revealing the magnificence of the human spirit. I am thinking of true heros and heroines, champions of peace, etc.

    I do not think my own creative endeavors make any difference in the larger world. But, it is how I process my grief. I am not experiencing disaster or war but I am walking beside a loved one who is suffering. The “monster within”, as donnaeve is coping with, will take my loved one soon.

    If what I create during this lifetime touches just one other spirit in a loving, kind or healing manner than I will feel as if there was meaning in what I did. I may never even know the impact. But, I keep going.

    I hope it was ok to join this thread. I am a “new comer” to the blogging world 😉


  21. Nice blog

  22. I write because if I didn’t my brain would clog up and choke on the ideas. I wish I’d started earlier.

  23. Betsy do u believe in God

  24. If u do
    Just keep viewing or wrtting
    Solution z on d way
    Nice blog though
    It inspiring

  25. I honestly cannot get through life without writing, and sharing that writing.
    I know there is more to life than writing, there are natural disasters and little disasters and issues and annoyances and just the actual living of life out in the world. Picking others up and making their lives better, trying to make our own better.
    But there are the times when we don’t feel connected to anyone, when we can’t find something in ourselves or in the world around us, to make us feel like we’re a part of it.
    But books do that. Writing does that. If even one person can feel like they belong while reading something, can find solace in a story, or inspiration for their own life, then it’s worth it. Every painstaking word.
    And there are words waiting to be heard, stories literally waiting on me, on you, to be shared.
    I can’t take the staring, the pleas, the myriad of characters just waiting for their stories to be told.
    Not all of them want to share, necessarily. Not all of them want to be in the spotlight. But they don’t deserve to sit out in the cold, either.

    Sometimes I don’t think I’m good enough to keep writing, or smart enough to get it all down right. Or even bright enough to get the stories out to the people who might want or need them.
    But I don’t really question that I need to be doing this, that it’s a part of me.

    If I don’t write their stories, then who will?

  26. I’m new to all this. I’m trying to create a way to make sense of the turmoil in my mind. Not sure I’m looking for meaning, not sure I would know how to find it, but I’m plotting a course. I’m taking aim. I hope it leads to something worthwhile. I like all the comments and insights. All of you are truly inspiring! Thank you!

  27. I hear you… plz read my blog and comment and i do write poetry

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