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An Anti-List of Accomplishments


I am not a big fan of describing what was accomplished in a year. In part because the year is an arbitrary measure -- though the Russian American poet Joseph Brodsky liked Christ's birth as some kind of measure, of an otherwise indifferent universe spinning. And in part because describing *one's own* time as if it were one's own is misleading at best. We live WITH, AMONG, or AGAINST others in a particular time. We are in a web, a maze, or -- my most recent memory -- the small metal lace threading through a plastic angel we inherited from my husband's granddad. So, then, what if, as per a koan (I think), you do not play the lead role in the movie of your life? In 2019, I had the least agency ever in my life, and yet so much happened even as I let go of control. My relationship with my dad, through years of his illness--well, like any Eden, it has evaporated, it seemed, when he passed away. It also didn't. I've felt like a crazy person for that relationship continuing in my head. Checking in with my dad. Hearing him clearly.

I walk through life sort of muttering. But I am making peace with the near craziness of it as I discover more and more people live almost muttering. And more people yet are in various states of illness and the special softness, blurred, altered, or otherwise charged vision that comes with disease, and is a valid perspective on things. I see this. In part that's coming from my dad, his state, and in part I just like it, without romanticizing it. What if you do not play the lead role in your life? In 2019 my friend's house burned down to the ground. Before that, she had been a fan of Lonnergan's Manchester-by-the-Sea. Before THAT, other things happened. My friend and I share the abiding sense that the rug can be taken from under you. Somehow we keep at it, but it doesn't mean that the trauma goes away completely. What if you do not play the star? Other things swelled, also seemingly out of nowhere: my book, its rich company (and I do not mean the big bucks! Which, in po-biz, are anything but big). Rather, little pinpricks of recognition. Having my voice added to the world in a special, bigger way. My editorial business took off; I am so, so proud of my clients. What if you do not play the star? You get to be the star's coach. Or mom. Or daughter AND mom of two stars. My son suddenly became more mature, and touches the piano like one attempts to touch a cat, or a heart. That gives me so much joy, and also so much longing. My own mother continues in him. In 2019, America hurtled along like an animal on fire; we were stripped from one another. Nonetheless, Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach and I did some small things with From Across the Waters: Voices for Immigration. Readings were held, conversations took place that I'm still thinking about. We had a protest. Things were started that I hope to grow. I made some friends who are black, white, Jewish, Filipino-American, and who are activists and artists. I feel very lucky. The warmth, the humor, the (dark) recognition. What if you are not the star of your movie? Then you are, perhaps, a supporting actor. Supporting. I like that. Supporting others, who might support you too, when it's your time. Who and what will you support in the new year?

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© 2019 by Olga Livshin