This morning I’m still dreamy-eyed about the Buddha Bowl I ate recently at “All Day Darling” in Asheville on Montford Street. Oh, and the Miel Latte, too. (Espresso, honey, allspice, salt and steamed milk.) Goodness — way dreamy.
If I lived next door to All Day Darling, I might be tempted to give up cooking altogether. OK, probably not, but the food is delicious and not what I would readily prepare myself.
While my friend, Janet, and I talked about all things life-affirming, challenging, and just plain funny, the sun poured on our little corner of the restaurant, turning the conversation especially warm and golden. We appreciated the bright day, given so many gray skies lately, and thoroughly enjoyed the chance to catch up in both a deep, and delicious way.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about the food, yes, but also the name of the restaurant. I’ve noticed that saying “All Day Darling” to myself causes an inner smile and produces happy energy. I daresay the very name itself encourages lighthearted thinking.
By the way, the “all day” part of the name refers to serving every item on the menu all day. But the “darling” part — does it refer to the food, the people who work there — or is it that customers become more darling after they eat? Probably a dash of each.
So, you know me, I pondered …
What if you and I followed the pleasure trend of this wonderful food establishment? What if we became all-day-darling ourselves — what would it mean?
Would we be more darling to ourselves? To others? What menu items would we serve all day?
Yesterday, in favor of experimenting, I served “gentle” all day. Especially in the smallest, most fleeting moments, such as taking the effort out of reaching for a dish on a high shelf or noticing my breath as I drove.
For me personally, the darling idea means generous helpings of kindness. It means letting movement, thought, and feeling unfold in gentler, freer ways. Those are important ingredients in my dish called darling.
I took time to call someone I’ve been thinking about. I wrote a thank you and sent it by mail along with a gift. I took a walk outside, and did absolutely no thinking. I was truly empty-headed, and it felt great.
I also cozied up to my to-do list, which might sound strange when it comes to being more darling, but here’s what happens with me and my list. My tendency is to leave small items undone. These days, I tend to gravitate to chunky projects, such as finishing my second book, and the rest waits — too long.
But yesterday I gave it a go. I chose a couple simple items and took care of them, which felt downright darling! I also took a short nap. Super darling.
Want to play with this all-day-darling idea with me? I’d love to hear your darling stories. Can’t wait!
You’re writing me texts and emails saying the dearest things about 100 WORDS: SMALL SERVINGS OF WHIMSY AND WISDOM TO CALM THE MIND AND NOURISH THE HEART.
What I love about what you’re saying is that the words move you in some way — they speak to you, they matter. Because you took to heart the message from “As Above, So Below” you’re now “spilling shakers of light over stray concerns of the day.”
You mention how the little black sandals on page seventeen make you smile and give you hope for getting through a monumental change. Or that you appreciate the conciseness and brevity of each piece, or how a photograph took you by the hand into a poem.
One person said the last two lines of “On Love” became her mantra one day when she needed it most. “Love breathes you, moves you. It’s what built your heart.”
One person let me know she kept 100 WORDS on her nightstand to read a small sampling each night because, as she put it, “These are poems to be savored.” She appreciated the small bites.
One of my editor’s favorite poems is “How To Realize Your Beauty.” She tucked 100 WORDS into her traveling bag and read it aloud to a couple of groups she belongs to, and the sharing was well-received. The poem even prompted a discussion with her son. My daughter especially loved “Pearls in the Morning,” a poem about creativity.
My mother (who is 92) called me shortly after receiving her copy. She was smiling over the phone and said with a lilt in her voice, “I read your book last night. I noticed there’s a mention of a 92-year-old.”
I said, “Yes, Mom, I wanted to let you know I’m always thinking of you.”
What a sweet moment with my mother!
This week, a woman sent a text from the waiting room of her doctor’s office. She was reading (and crying about) “No Longer Here,” one hundred words about golf and love. The poem reminded her of her father, who passed years ago. He was a golfer, too, and she was missing the aspects of their relationship she loved most.
Another reader sent an evening email and I happened to see it as I was pulling back the heavenly comforter on my (heavenly) bed. She wrote, “I got my books. Read three pages. Found myself breathless. Just sitting here feeling thankful for the gift of you. And my books.”
I doubt if there’s anything more wonderful for a writer to hear than “your writing left me breathless.”
From your responses it appears that the words are swimming into the warmth of your hearts and resting there. I love that. I’m so thankful for that.
Thank you for your ongoing feedback. Thank you for reaching out to tell me what 100 WORDS means to you.
From time to time, I like to share writings from others, especially something that’s timely or something I couldn’t say in the way another might say it. I appreciate when people write with their unmistakably authentic voice, and this writer does.
David Foster Wallace was wildly brilliant, and also suffered from depression. He is known for his rather mind-blowing journalistic pieces, short stories and novels. He was best known for his second novel, Infinite Jest (1996), a sprawling undertaking with almost 1100 pages and 330 footnotes. His life-long battle with depression ended in 2008 when he took his own life.
The following is an excerpt from his Kenyon Commencement Address, which he delivered on May 21, 2005 called “This Is Water.”
As I’m sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.
This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always
shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.
And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let’s get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what “day in day out” really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine, and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I’m talking about.
(He goes on to give detail-driven examples of “day in, day out.” You can read them, of course, using the link to the full speech above.)
“The thing is that, of course, there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stopped and idling in my way, it’s not impossible that some of these people in SUV’s have been in horrible auto accidents in the past, and now find driving so terrifying that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive. Or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he’s trying to get this kid to the hospital, and he’s in a bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am: it is actually I who am in HIS way.
Or I can choose to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermarket’s checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am, and that some of these people probably have harder, more tedious and painful lives than I do.
Again, please don’t think that I’m giving you moral advice, or that I’m saying you are supposed to think this way, or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it. Because it’s hard. It takes will and effort, and if you are like me, some days you won’t be able to do it, or you just flat out won’t want to.
But most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she’s not usually like this. Maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible. It just depends what you want to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.
Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re gonna try to see it. This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship.
Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship– be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.
Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.
They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.
And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has
much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.
That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.
I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech is supposed to sound. What it is, as far as I can see, is the capital -T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. You are, of course, free to think of it whatever you wish. But please don’t just dismiss it as just some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.
The capital -T Truth is about life BEFORE death.
It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:
“This is water.”
“This is water.”
It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime. And it commences: now.
I wish you way more than luck.
Bless you all and may you have an aware and awake week.
Today I’m sharing a poem from my upcoming Poetry Book. As soon as everything is confirmed by Balboa Press, I’ll let you know the title of the book and the publication date. The book will be available in softcover and Kindle, mostly through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. (I’ll have copies, too, of course.) Bookstores will buy it through Ingram.
Needless to say, I’m pretty excited! Here is one of the three poems that will be shared on the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
WHAT’S COOKIN’ IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP KITCHEN?
My daughter strolled to the kitchen to get a snack and returned crestfallen. “There’s nothing to eat,” she reported. “There are only ingredients.”
A love relationship is a kitchen full of sweet, savory, salty and spicy. I have ingredients (beliefs, personality, habits). You have ingredients, too.
But how will they blend? Are we good cooks? With what you’ve got and what I’ve got, will we create a wonderful sauté?
Will our relationship be sweet? Or will the cake fall? Today, I’ve got anchovies and you — rocky road ice cream. This will be interesting.