Write of Way

Friday, February 23, 2024 10:41 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

Every So Often

In our living room—that is also our den, dining room, and my office—there is a sweeping view of the surrounding rooftops. When I look south, I can see the sky over Elliott Bay shift from a hovering grey to open gaps of blue. Without hesitating—without thinking, really—I say aloud: thank you.

Sometimes you just have to say the words.    

Sometimes you just have to stop what you are doing, look around, and be moved.

Then, after I’ve found my words for the day, I long to leave my writing behind and be moved by anything, everything, else. I want to see people. Embrace people. Even the stock clerk at Trader Joe’s who searched the back for another bag of olive oil potato chips because I asked him to. Well, that’s not exactly true. I begged him to. The thought of those chips was all that got me through my pages that day. I didn’t hug him. But I wanted to.

Contact makes a huge difference in our lives. The world is just too lonely without it. During the pandemic, we mourned its absence on a magnified level. Email, a text, Zoom (especially Zoom) is not the definition of contact. Contact is the state or condition of physical touching. Even in 2021, I refused to interpret the word in any less meaningful way. 

Of course, getting to say this is one reason I write. Though someone will likely disagree and email to say, in anger more often than not, how mistaken I am. And I will wonder again: When did we grow so impatient with each other’s opinions? Has it always been like this? My mother used to say, “The division today is nothing compared to the war years.” I stopped reminding her that we’ve been in—and too briefly out of—“war years” my entire life.

But most of my readers are far more appreciative. Perhaps, like me, post-pandemic, they relish life on this whole new meaningful level. In so many ways, we have come to know ourselves better. As well as our limits. Which we have reached. Over and over. And over again.

But still, we hang in there.

And if my thoughts about contact had not intervened just now, I might have started this piece by saying how, as a child, I favored being alone to playing with other kids.

Every so often I like to remember that child.

Especially the way she loved books. How she’d hide behind the sectional to read the encyclopedias her parents so proudly bought and then never used, I love that memory.

Later, I overheard our priest tell my mother not to let me read too much because books would “fill my head with ideas.” And you know what? They did.

Books helped me to cope in their The-World-Is-So-Much-Bigger-Than-You way. They still do. I read about other people and what concerns them, and I think, let’s cut all this “divided” talk. We are more alike than they want us to believe. 

It’s just impossible to not be curious if you read books where we are allowed to enter the mind of another and discover so many different ways to see the world, and ourselves within it.

And I came to see that this was exactly what my parents and priest were most afraid of: that in the silence of all my reading, so much was being said.

Mary Lou Sanelli

Mary Lou Sanelli is the author of Every Little Thing, a collection of essays that was nominated for a Washington State Book Award and a Pacific Northwest Book Award. Her newest title, In So Many Words, is forthcoming in September 2024. She also works as a speaker and a master dance teacher. For more information about her and her work, visit www.marylousanelli.com.

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