• Day 99: The Sweetness of the Swing Set

    Date: 2010.06.06 | Category: Uncategorized | Tags:

    I almost titled this post GRATITUDE except that word’s been so Oprah-ized that I decided against it.   But if you can get past the earnest New-Age jargon, you’ll find that being grateful packs quite a pragmatic punch. It’s like a trick in life that works.

    Even though I’m almost at 100 days of no sweets, I haven’t spent much time being grateful for eliminating sugar from my life.  I wrote yesterday that I’m going back to basics which today means taking some pride in that.

    I can easily go the other way and look at what’s lacking in my life or what I missed.  My cousin Kathleen reminded me of this in a small way when she emailed me yesterday that she reads my blog once a week, really fast, to avoid the “tantalizing” pictures of candy.  ”You see I NEVER had such a sensual relationship with candy,” she wrote. ” Your blog just makes me feel as if I missed out!”

    Right now I’m reading two books at the same time, Girls Like Us, my friend Sheila Weller’s amazing story of the lives of Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon, and  The Place at the End of the World, a memoir by Janine Di Giovanni, one of the pre-eminent war correspondents of our time, with whom I worked years ago at the AP in Boston.

    Frankly, it’s a little hard to read about the incredible careers and storied love affairs of Carole, Carly and Joni – set against backdrops like the 1960s-era hitmaking Brill Building in New York, the Summer of Love in Laurel Canyon and Martha’s Vineyard with James Taylor.

    I think: Why wasn’t I born a wildly talented, iconic singer-songwriter who came of age in the 1960s? For one thing, I have hair a lot like Carole King’s – think of the time I’d have saved over the years had I skipped the blow-drying.

    When reading Janine’s book about her ultra-courageous adventures reporting everywhere from Baghdad and Afghanistan to East Timor, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Bosnia, I think, oh no, I forgot to be a war correspondent!

    But I also know envy is a trap – and I’m never impressed with people who are envious of me.  Invariably it seems like the most jealous people are the least successful. It’s like a bad version of The Circle Game.

    I met my friend, Broadway actress Karyn Quackenbush when I was writing an article about Broadway understudies for The New York Times. Karyn’s now performing in Nora Ephron’s off-Broadway play, Love, Loss and What I Wore, and is opening in a musical called The Bikinis this August.

    Karyn’s had career high and lows but she hews to a cool philosophy to keep her from envy and bitterness when she sees another actress (probably less talented!) getting a part she wanted.  ”It’s her path,” Karyn always says. “There’s no point in being jealous. You just realize you have your path and everyone else has their path. Be glad for your path.”

    I vividly remember the day in the early 90s in New York when I deliberately stopped focusing on where I wasn’t and what I didn’t have and instead focused on what I had.   The very next day, no exaggeration,  my entire career literally took off.

    Which gets me to the swing set.

    My LA-based cousin Michaele is at this very moment vacationing at my father’s old property on Cape Cod where I spent every summer.  She took a picture of my swing set, which was put up even before the Summer of Love and still stands after all these years, and sent it to me on her iPhone yesterday.

    Seeing my old swing set unleashed a flood of childhood memories as if I were Proust dipping madeleines in his tea in Remembrance of Things Past.

    That swing set  helped launch me on my path and it’s the kind of memory that makes me realize I didn’t miss out on much.

    “It is still here and waiting for you,” Michaele wrote. “Wish you were here.”

    Me too.