Maurice Sendak and Jo Knowles: Thoughts

Probably a lot of you have already seen and listened to this “illustrated interview” clip from Terry Gross’ Fresh Air interview with Maurice Sendak. If not, go watch it now. Bring tissues.

And probably as many of you have also read Jo Knowles’ lovely post about Sendak’s “Live your life” quote from the interview. If not,,,you got it. Go read it now. More tissues.

Jo says so many things in this post that struck me when I listened to Sendak talking. I, too, thought how different he sounded in this interview than when I’d listened to him years ago. I felt immense happiness for him, for the love and happiness he seemed to have finally settled into, and I felt huge sadness for it, seemingly, having come so late. Overall, the happiness seemed to take the fore, but still I wept at the loss I was hearing–all the people who had gone from his life.  He told Terri, “Live your life. Live your life. Live your life.”

In her post, Jo talks thoughtfully and beautifully about what this means and how we are supposed to do it. She says, with all the honesty & truth she always shares with us, “And yet…What about the days when you aren’t sure you can do it anymore? The days when everything you read or hear feels like it is shoving you deeper into the darkness.”

What about those days?

Or what about the days that aren’t so bad, but we’re just that littlest bit tired of carpeing each diem? The days when what we really want is to retreat from the world, to curl deep into a fleece sleeping bag, with only our nose out to breathe and our eyes out to scan the pages of the book we’ve brought into our retreat? The days when life is right out there, but getting to it means yet another day climbing in and out of a car, driving down yet another series of streets, meeting people’s eyes and nodding as you pass? What about the days when your goals are standing in front of you, waving penants, shouting, “You said you wanted to achieve us! You said we were important to you! You said you were making us a priority.”?

What about those days?

Obviously, it’s a balance. We can only output so much before we have to take some deep, restful breaths to recharge. Push, push, push, and you’ll push yourself right over the edge and crash at the bottom of the cliff. We know this logically. And, yet…when we do stop for the recharge, isn’t there often that little voice whispering at us to…live our life?

I think part of what Mr. Sendak was talking about that day was love. Love. Making sure you do seize the parts of the day that you can share with those you love, making sure you don’t waste them in bickering or sniping or silent anger. Making sure you look at the light in the sky that particular morning as you make your way to work; making sure you, as Jo says, “Pick up your cat and blow a raspberry on his belly.”

And, I’m guessing, this means extending the same love to ourselves on “those days.” Knowing that they are part of living life, even if most of us would pick a different gift from the Lucky Dip if we had our choice.  Spending time in that bickering or sniping or silent anger with ourselves about it…well, yeah, that just doesn’t help.

Here’s to all the wisdom Mr. Sendak left us with–his beautiful books; his words to Terri; and, yes, his intelligent, incisive, sarcastic crankiness. And here’s to Jo, for once again opening her heart to us, letting us all in, and giving us a way to talk about it.

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