Saturday, March 18, 2017

Gail Caldwell: Gregarious Hermit

“I know now that we never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“What they never tell you about grief is that missing someone is the simple part.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“I know now that we never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures. ...We tell the story to get them back, to capture the traces of footfalls through the snow.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“Hope in the beginning feels like such a violation of the loss, and yet without it we couldn't survive.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“The real hell of this," he told her, "is that you're going to get through it.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“It's and old, old story: I had a friend and we shared everything, and then she died and so we shared that, too.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“Scratch a fantasy and you'll find a nightmare.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“Maybe this is the point: to embrace the core sadness of life without toppling headlong into it, or assuming it will define your days.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“Like a starfish, the heart endures its amputation.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“Grief is what tells you who you are alone.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“The only education in grief that any of us ever gets is a crash course. Until Caroline had died I had belonged to that other world, the place of innocence, and linear expectations, where I thought grief was a simple, wrenching realm of sadness and longing that gradually receded. What that definition left out was the body blow that loss inflicts, as well as the temporary madness, and a range of less straightforward emotions shocking in their intensity.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“It's taken years for me to understand that dying doesn't end the story; it transforms it. Edits, rewrites, the blur, and epiphany of one-way dialogue. Most of us wander in and out of one another's lives until not death, but distance, does us part-- time and space and heart's weariness are the blander executioners or human connection.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“I'd confused need with love and love with sacrifice.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“Near the end I asked him one night in the hospital corridor what he thought was happening, and he said, "Tell her everything you haven't said," and I smiled with relief. "There's nothing," I said. "I've already told her everything.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“The only education in grief that any of us ever gets is a crash course.”

“That she was irreplaceable became a bittersweet loyalty: Her death was what I had now instead of her.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship
9
“The belief that life was hard and often its worst battles were fought in private, that it was possible to walk through fear and come out scorched but still breathing.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“Counting on each other became automatic. When I found a sweater in Texas I wanted, I learned to buy two, which was easier than seeing the look of disappointment on Caroline's face when I returned home with only one. When she went out from the boathouse on a windy day, she gave me her schedule in advance, which assuaged her worst-case scenario of flipping the boat, being hit on the head by an oar, and leaving Lucille stranded at home. I still have my set of keys to her house, to locks and doors that no longer exist, and I keep them in my glove compartment, where they have been moved from one car to another in the past couple of years. Someday I will throw them in the Charles, where I lost the seat to her boat and so much else.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“If writers possess a common temperament, it's that they tend to be shy egomaniacs; publicity is the spotlight they suffer for the recognition they crave.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home

“The rest of the family tree had a root system soggy with alcohol... One aunt had fallen asleep with her face in the mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving dinner; another's fondness for Coors was so unwavering that I can still remember the musky smell of the beer and the coldness of the cans. Most of the men drank the way all Texas men drank, or so I believed, which meant that they were tough guys who could hold their liquor until they couldn't anymore--a capacity that often led to some cloudy version of doom, be it financial ruin or suicide or the lesser betrayal of simple estrangement. Both social drinkers, my parents had eluded these tragic endings; in the postwar Texas of suburbs and cocktails, their drinking was routine but undramatic.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“Most of us wander in and out of one another's lives until not death, but distance, does us part--time and space and the heart's weariness are the blander executioners of human connection.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“Everything about death is a cliché until you're in it.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“We need imperfection in our relationships, else we would die from the thickness of intimacy.”
― Gail Caldwell

“Death is a divorce nobody asked for; to live through it is to find a way to disengage from what you thought you couldn't stand to lose.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“in all the years i had blundered along in search of my own footing, she had never given me an inkling of this wish. unburdened by the demands of history or anyone else's dreams, i had wandered toward and finally reached a world far outside the plains i loved and loathed. my mother had neither begrudged me this journey nor expected it, certain that i had to make my own way. but she packed my toolbox with her great wit and forbearance before i went, and she stashed there, for long safekeeping, her desire.”
― Gail Caldwell, A Strong West Wind

“We found out that day, fairly quickly, how great and complex our fondness was for each other; I also had my first sense of something central about Caroline that would become a pillar of our friendship. When she was confronted with any emotional difficulty, however slight or major, her response as to approach rather than to flee. There she would stay until the matter was resolved, and the emotional aftermath was free of any hangover or recrimination. My instincts toward resolution were similar: I knew that silence and distance were far more pernicious than head-on engagement. This compatibility helped to ensure that there was no unclaimed baggage between us in the years to come.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“Old dogs can be a regal sight. Their exuberance settles over the years into a seasoned nobility, their routines become as locked into yours as the quietest and kindest of marriages.”

“Mostly I couldn't bear... the paltry notion that memory was all that eternal life really meant, and I spent too much time wondering where people got the fortitude or delusion to keep on moving past the static dead.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“From the first winter afternoon in the Harvard ball fields, "Oh no--I need you" had become an admission and a clarion call--the tenet of dependency that forms the weft of friendship. We needed each other so that we could count the endless days of forests and flat water, but the real need was soldered by the sadder, harder moments--discord or helplessness or fear--that we dared to expose to each other. It took me years to grasp that this grit and discomfort in any relationship are an indicator of closeness, not it's opposite.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“All of this seems as though it were yesterday, or forever ago, in that crevasse between space and time that stays fixed in the imagination. I remember it all because I remember it all. In crisis with someone you love, the dialogue is as burnished as a scar on a tree.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“The other thing I know now, is that we survive grief merely and surely by outlasting it. The ongoing fact of the narrative eclipses the heartbreak within. A deal that seems to be the price we pay for getting to hold on to our beloved dead.”
― Gail Caldwell, New Life, No Instructions

“The real trick is to let life, with all it's ordinary missteps and regrets, be consistently more mysterious and alluring then it's end.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“...gregarious hermit. I wanted the warmth of spontaneous connection and the freedom to be left alone.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“It is always hard to leave a home a drama a way of life a life. So I sat there warm and safe that night held by the sea and a good man and my own good fortune victim and witness to all the transitory sweetness like Gatsby's dreams that stood before and behind me.”
― Gail Caldwell

“That sometimes the smartest person in the room is the one who says, "I have no idea.”
― Gail Caldwell

“. . .the world as we see it is only the published version. The subterranean realms, whether churches or hospital rooms or smoke-filled basements, are part of what hold up the rest.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“Most of all I told this story because I wanted to say something about hope and the absence of it, and how we keep going anyway. About second chances, and how they’re sometimes buried amid the dross, even when you’re poised for the downhill grade. The narrative can always turn out to be a different story from what you expected.”
― Gail Caldwell, New Life, No Instructions

“Pain is what yields the solution.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“In crisis, I circled my wagons, more afraid of being disappointed by someone than going it alone.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“This was a hard-won but brilliant education: I had realized, as life is always willing to instruct, that the world as we see it is only the published version. The subterranean realms, whether churches or hospital rooms or smoke-filled basements, are part of what holds up the rest. The realized life versus the external picture of it: the assumption and projections that we all make about other people's lives.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“I think solitude chose me.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“Real change, though, is forgiving enough to take a little failure, strong enough to take despair in small doses.”
― Gail Caldwell, New Life, No Instructions

“The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us, and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone. —GEORGE ELIOT, Scenes of Clerical Life”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“And yet I sensed that I had not just been pummeled by death but reshaped by it, poised now at some crucial junction between darkness and endurance, which is the realist's version of hope.”
― Gail Caldwell

“If we are lucky, we love what we love in part because the object is worth the effort. But sometimes the love itself-the elixir of desire-is enough to bestow the object with the transformative glitter it requires.”
― Gail Caldwell, New Life, No Instructions

“We attach ourselves to our familiar miseries, an easier act than striking out for the territory. This is a sad truth, though not insurmountable: Despair and fear do not disappear overnight when the conditions that wrought them have changed.”
― Gail Caldwell, New Life, No Instructions

“Being I loved, I think, is another matter entirely, a neighboring city on the same train route, connected but by no means destiny. If and when the bond takes both ways, you have a third entity, which is the thing the lover and the loved create together. This is called history, or experience, and the strong it is, the more power it has to muck about with the sense of self.”
― Gail Caldwell, New Life, No Instructions

“We love what we love in spite of ourselves, toward something larger and more generous than the velvet prison of self.”
― Gail Caldwell, New Life, No Instructions

“But walls, whether brick or isolation, don't come down without a corresponding amount of labor.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“A version of this, though, is always going on from the moment two people's time and space collide: Subtle or direct, we are negotiating the private and public spheres. If the wounds are on the inside, we have some choice about what to reveal when, and to whom. If the scar is one the outside-the physical signature that announces itself with the nuance of a trumpet-people tend to think they know a great deal about you, whether they do or not.”
― Gail Caldwell, New Life, No Instructions

“God is love and love is memory, and memory is a bruise or a warmth or a grocery list you cannot bear to throw away.”
― Gail Caldwell, New Life, No Instructions

“But the point is not to spin the narrative; that defeats the purpose, in some way, of story itself. You can't change the tale so that you turned left one day instead of right, or didn't make the mistake that might have saved your life a day later. We don't get those choices. The story is what got you here, and embracing its truth is what makes the outcome bearable.”
― Gail Caldwell, New Life, No Instructions

“On my better days, I could feel free and tough and proud of myself; on the bad ones, I was alone as hell.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

“The holiness of the Heart's affections," Keith wrote, trusting in nothing but that and the imagination, and I think now that Caroline stilled something in each other, letting us go out and engage in the larger world.”
― Gail Caldwell

“As the daughter of liberal intellectuals who had worshiped Freud and art instead of God, she often complained that she'd had little to rebel against.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

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