A friend recently sent me the link to the final five minutes of an interview with Marurice Sendak. The two progressed from talking about Sendak’s book to simply talking. In the end their conversation centered around life, loss, and love. It’s a beautifully moving five minutes, full of the contradictions we all embrace in our lives. Sendak speaks of not believing in an afterlife and in the same breath says he fully believes he will see his brother again. He talks about being ready for death–he’s 83–but that he will cry the whole way to the grave. He’s grateful to be old, to have the time to appreciate the leaves on the tress, to read books, and to listen to music. But he also misses all those who have gone before him. In the end, he reminds Terry to “live your life, live your life, live your life.”
I took a poetry seminar with the Nobel Prize winning poet Joseph Brodsky for a semester in college. This was before he won the prize, after which I imagine his classes were held in an auditorium instead of an old classroom with fifteen desks. Brodsky drilled much into my head that I haven’t forgotten. One thing was that excessive repetition–contrary to what we all believe, that it emphasizes something–makes things meaningless. If a poet repeats a word or phrase again and again, it’s because she/he wants us to have heard it so often that it becomes nonsense. But my guess is that Brodsky had never heard someone like Sendak repeat a phrase. In Sendak’s voice, you hear only increasing sincerity and urgency. By the time Sendak finished his third repetition, I was re-evaluating everything I’d planned to do for this new year and beyond. “Am I truly living my life? What are my priorities? How am I making a difference?”
This seemed like a good thing to pass on at the beginning of January, when we’re all prone to making resolutions. The one I’d made already was to cherish those dearest to me more. To that I now add, “live my life, live my life, live my life.” In practical terms, that means making time for more writing, for it is through writing I find connection with others and peace for myself. What does “live your life” mean to you?