Saturday, January 5, 2019

Today Will be Different

The Gallery Cafe, Colombo 
'Make it a year of possibilities' was a caption that popped up on my screen. I deleted the mail too quickly, one of those mail that encourage you to spend more. After being away from my laptop for eleven days, there are tons of mail to go through and discard.
I texted sister “ Back to Reality”. She responded, “Look forward to another holiday.”
Another year has just begun, we hope to do better and get nearer to where we want to be. To begin with, I resolve to write more extensively and daily. I will start reading Margaret Atwood’s book 'Writing with Intent’ a book that I had ordered through Book Depository and when it was delivered by the postman, it sat through rain and shine as none at home noticed it being left at our gate. I could try pressing it with cool iron, but I recall how I had tried pressing a dress only to end up ruining it. Don’t fuss.

2ndly  More reading, ho ho ho. I feel absolutely comforted when I see the books that I have acquired over the years, I have read most of them but not all of them, too many good reads. I had tried giving away some books and could manage to part with only a handful of them. Maybe I will do better this year.
Kandy Lake,Sri Lanka
During my vacation, I read Today will be Different by Maria Semple. The title can’t be more appropriate for a new day. In Today Will Be Different, Eleanor Flood knows she is a mess. But today will be different, this is what Eleanor tells herself :
Today will be different. Today I will be present. Today anyone I speak to, I will look them in the eye and listen deeply. Today I’ll play a board game with Timby. I’ll initiate sex with Joe. Today I will take pride in my appearance. I’ll shower, get dressed in proper clothes, and change into yoga clothes only for yoga, which today I will actually attend. Today I won’t swear. I won’t talk about money. Today there will be an ease about me. My face will be relaxed, its resting place a smile. Today I will radiate calm. Kindness and self-control will abound. Today I will buy local. Today I will be my best self, the person I’m capable of being. Today will different.’

Eleanor Flood is a graphic artist and was a star animator for a hit TV show Looper Wash. She is married to Joe, a renowned hand surgeon and they made a decision to move from New York to Seattle as they could not see raising kids in Manhattan. Eleanor becomes a stay home mother to Timby. The very day that she resolves to turn up for her yoga class, her son’s school calls to say that Timby is sick. Eleanor takes Timby out of school and they drop by Joe’s clinic only to find that he is on leave. Joe has told his staff that he is on vacation with his family.

The very day she resolves to do better, a relic appears from the past – a graphic memoir with pages telling of an estranged sister. Her mother, Tess Tyler, an actress died of cancer when she was nine and her sister, Ivy was only five.  She became the adult to her sister as their dad, Matthew Flood was clueless about caring for them and he was a drunk and a bookie who would leave them alone for weeks at a time to fend for themselves. When their dad died of liver failure at the age of sixty-six, Eleanor felt nothing at her dad’s funeral.

 It was the early death of her mother that had taught Eleanor to shut herself off. Deep down Eleanor knew she must have been born a warmer soul. She wasn’t meant to be so self-reliant. One day, Matty had forgotten to pick up the girls at day camp and they’d had to walk the five miles from the T-Lazy-7 Ranch. Matty came home after the bars closed and realized what he’d done. He crawled into Eleanor’s twin bed and cried. “ I’m weak,” he said.” You’re so much better than I can ever be.” The snow from Matty’s hiking boots melted dirt on Eleanor’s Life Savers sheets.’

Ivy married Barnaby Fanning aka Bucky, the insufferable lone child from a rich and prominent family in New Orleans.  Eleanor and Bucky do not get along. Bucky told Eleanor, “ It’s true , Eleanor, you and I possess different styles. Last time I checked, the world allowed for such things. There’s a Buddhist proverb : ‘Just because a raft helps you across the river, you need not carry that raft on your back for the rest of your life.’ In other words, Eleanor, you’re the raft, and Ivy has decided to put you down.”

The writing style is relatively more conventionally structured compared to Semple’s earlier novel, Where’d you go Bernadette click, nonetheless  at times I find myself having to re-read the passages to understand the characters. The story happens in a day and the setting is  suburban life in Seattle  and its narrative is interjected with funny wisecracks. Like Bernadette Fox who suffers from agoraphobia and has a teenage daughter who is wise beyond her age,  Eleanor Flood finds herself a misfit in Seattle and she is lucky to have 8 year-old Timby who seems to be delivering simple and sweet responses when his mother is feeling overwhelmed by events that are unfolding in a day. Maria Semple is great in creating quirky heroines whose efforts to get a handle on a life spinning out of control is something some of us can relate to in a status-conscious materialistic world driven by fast-moving technology that is infiltrating the human world.  Interesting read.

Incidentally ...
I'm still trying to be my best self to a rescue dog that we have decided to keep.

When you have a dog, you need to pay attention to it.  I tell our dog that  I will take her for a run every morning but I have been inconsistent. If she keeps a score, I will be in a lot of trouble. I am inclined to sit before my desk the moment I get up in the morning. Too many good reads and I feel compelled to do some writing as well. To kickstart my morning, I need to make my cup of coffee simply to be awakened by the act of grinding the coffee beans and lightly pressing it with a tamper that costs a quarter of the price of my home use coffee machine. On mornings that I do take Holly for a brisk walk around the neighbourhood, it makes both of us happy and contented. As a walk usually takes up at least a good  thirty minutes of my morning routine, I need to ration it. If only I could stop the time.... Incidentally I have just started reading How to Stop Time by Matt Haig. Hooray, it is the weekend.  Today will be different is definitely a good mantra to start with every day. 

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