There are various reasons, and not because of Rick's absence, that I often find my life futile. Lately, an essay I wrote was rejected for publication by a journal in which I have previously published. It is not as easy when you are in your 70s to come back after such a blow, and it made me wonder what I am living for.
I am not a person who is content to pass my life watching TV or reading newspapers, going out to restaurants or the movies, indulging in the kinds of things that newspapers and other other media (including the AARP newsletter) advise if one wants to lead a "meaningful" life. I create my own meaning. It includes a good portion of reading every day -- lately, and very intensely, Goethe -- and plans for new essays as well as trying to find an agent to represent me for a collection of short stories. Basically I hope to be recognized for my efforts in matters that mean a lot to me.
The past few mornings I have woken up plagued by this ache, which of course has much to do with the prospect of years ahead without Rick or indeed without a sympathetic person with whom to share both everyday life and the life of the mind. All around me I hear the chatter of people who get their ideas from newspapers, principally, the New York Times, indeed simply repeat what they read there. Talk to three people who read the NYT, and they all use the same words. What is new? We live in an age when people simply don't think, don't have thoughts of their own, who don't read books, and whose opinions are taken from newspapers or TV and who simply fall in line with what they read or hear. And I am talking about my own generation, men and women who went to the universities in the 1960s and 1970s, when you still were required to read and learned to be curious. Aside from two friends here in New York, it is rare that I have a true discussion of any matter artistic or cultural. Rick was a person who read a lot, and his reflections on life were thought out.
This morning, in connection with this feeling of futility, it struck me that what keeps me going is my daily preparation of food. It has become not quite automatic or mechanical -- there are only a few complicated dishes that I pull off if I have company (after a decade I have accumulated a good number of recipes) -- but in preparing for the day's meals my mind is occupied and I finish what I start.
In between my morning reading of Goethe today I got broccoli soup together, made mostly from broccoli stems: I waste very little among the vegetables I purchase. It was wonderfully tasteful. Such a simple ritual. By the time I was done, I had achieved something. Above is a photo of a recent lunchtime confection.
My desire for achievement is important. I want to be successful in my writing, which Rick was very supportive of. I know what Rick's reaction would be if I gave up, if I failed in my efforts to lead a meaningful life: disappointment. So, I keep going, and it is the rituals that help me.