On All Our Past Selves

I’m writing this from a hotel room in Chicago.  My room service cappuccino (is there’s anything nicer than a room service cappuccino ?) is by my side.  The Do Not Disturb sign hangs on the door.  I have several hours of peace and quiet before my event this afternoon.  Hourglass was published exactly two months ago, and I have been traveling around the country to give readings and talks ever since.  I’m down to the last weeks now — next up, Minneapolis, Denver, Aspen — and as the official tour comes to an end, I’m filled with conflicted feelings.  These last couple of months have been a blast. I’ve met amazing readers, seen dear friends in far-flung cities, learned how to pack an overnight bag as efficiently as George Clooney in Up in the AirThe pace has been intense.  I’ve been a literary road warrior, moving through airport terminals determinedly, but also softly, as a dear yoga teacher friend advised. I’ve had some extraordinary surprises along the way: the biggest of these was my therapist from when I was in my early twenties — during a terribly difficult stretch of years — in line at a book signing in Connecticut.  Let’s have coffee, I said to her.  I’d love to catch up.  What does it even mean to catch up on three decades?  High school friends, college friends, even friends from my childhood neighborhood have made the effort to come see me, and the effect of all of it is not unlike the effect I was hoping to convey in Hourglass itself.

Time. In my book, I quote Grace Paley as saying that from ages fifty to eighty, it’s not minutes, it’s seconds.  I’m near the start of that stretch of years and it already feels true. But time doesn’t only zoom forward. It also loops around. It collapses. It reverses itself, in our minds, our memories, as if the years see-saw back and forth, back and forth.  Our younger selves are always with us.  The ones we think we’ve put to rest — they cannot be put to rest.  Nor should they be.  They remain alive, and, as Didion once wrote, they knock on our mind’s door at the most inconvenient times.  So much of writing Hourglass was my way of exploring this sense that my younger selves are all still within me.  I’d like to tell my twenty-year-old self a thing or two.  I’d like to give her a hug.  But of course I can’t.  All I can do is hope that in some other dimension she can see herself, grown up, a wife, a mother, a writer, a teacher, a friend.  My editor, when she acquired Hourglass, told me she felt it was like a companion to my first memoir, Slow Motion.  The girl reaches out to the woman.  Here I am!  And the woman calls back to the girl. I see you!

I’ve come to believe that we all — each and every one of us — has a certain, central, task of the psyche to perform while we’re here, alive on this earth.  After all, it’s so unlikely to be here at all, born into this human body, on this grid, this place, this moment in time.  Mine, I’ve come to think, is to become whole.  To integrate a lifetime of complexity, challenges, secrets, luck, privilege, the inheritance of pain, of misunderstanding, the recompense of all the gifts I have been given with which to explore.  I am a digger. I gnaw. I hope to come to know my own bone.

And so I sit in my quiet, solitary hotel room high above Chicago.  My room service cappuccino has grown cold.  I need to get dressed now, fix my hair, slap on some makeup, and head over to my event.  As I move (deliberately, softly) through this city I hope I can keep all my past selves and perhaps even my future selves with me, on time’s crazy continuum. I need the whole unruly crowd. 

 

 

  • Gail Siegel

    Waiting for you here at Jones Prep. All of your selves.

    • Danishapiro

      Loved seeing you, Gail!!!

  • Malcolm R. Campbell

    When I was a child, I thought my grandparents had forgotten their childhoods. Now that I’m the age they were then, I see how wrong I was: it’s a room I can always step inside with great clarity, but new wisdom.

    • Danishapiro

      Thanks for this, Malcolm!

  • ayala

    I feel the same way…..I am so happy that I ran out of the house that rainy evening in Boston to see you again. I reminded you of how three years ago we sat one evening side by side at a dinner party in Plantation, Florida. That evening I told you that we would meet again and with your lovely and genuine smile you answered that you had no doubt. So many events and so many people you have met since. The most important thing that I took away from watching you that evening was your sincerity and gentleness. When I immigrated from Israel to the U.S there were challenges and later on struggles. I, as a young woman so different than the woman that I have become. Your story resonates with me. One day we will meet again and perhaps then I will share my story with you. I am so happy for your success with the book. The book took a lot of courage to write and I love giving it as gifts to my friends. I hope you enjoy the journey you are on and how wonderful that your husband gets to be there by your side. xo

    • Danishapiro

      Thanks for this lovely note, Ayala. And for your kindness and support! I look forward to the next time we meet. xo

  • Bam Dev Sharma

    I am a bit afraid to share my thoughts as an intruder. But when I read your thoughts on writing, touring, and meeting audience, it exhilarated me, goading my spirit as a writer. Writing is only paid when we go to the audience who make views on our works and we listen: just like our babies tell about schooling activities of the day! It is a time of relief and reflection, thereby shirking out all pressures that we seem to be having perpetually. Sylvia Plath, in her beautiful poem entitled “Metaphor” compares making a literary product out is something like a delivery of a child.

    I wish you happy time and more creative pursuits.
    Bam Dev Sharma

    University Teacher and Poet

    Tribhuvan University

    Nepal

  • Mary Swan-Bell

    This is so beautiful. My daughter and I read Hourglass simultaneously. We came to this book from such different places.

    Me: long time reader and fan.
    Her: recent discoverer

    Me: 44, married for 22 years
    Her: 23, recovering from the painful break up of an emotionally abusive relationship.

    And yet, throughout the book we sent each other screenshots of different passages, quotes, stories. OMG, This!!

    Your writing is so transcendent…offering encouragement and camaraderie to many…whoever and wherever we are.

    Thank you.

  • This has become my fascinating truth now in my 52nd year on this rock as well
    Fascinating!!

  • This is one of my favorite posts, Dani. Wholeness is a good goal. Keep gnawing…

  • Carla

    Dear Dani,

    thank you
    for your wonderful writing ad for sharing so many deep feelings and memories
    with us.

    I first
    read one of your essay’s…. I think Huffington Post posted it on Facebook… “the
    friends we lose in live” and about a year later I googled it again, because I
    your words kept coming to my mind… and first still writing, than slow
    motion were great companions through a really difficult time in my life,
    both in really distinct ways. I love reading passages of still writing before
    working on my novel – that maybe never gets published, but that is not
    important- maybe as a kind of meditation. And slow motion almost felt like a letter from a friend when I was
    reading it in one day because I think I felt similar in so many ways during
    that time. I know that I don’t know you and you are a lot more than your
    memoirs, but I wanted to let you know your words really felt like balsam every
    time I opened one of your books.

    Currently I
    am enjoying hourglass.

    Thank you
    and take care!