Books are my comfort food, so when I got some bad news the other day, my first thought was, "What can I read that will make me feel better?"
I didn't have anything at home that I thought would help (no steamy, trashy distractions or fun, therapeutic reflections), so I headed to a local bookstore and discovered "The Modern Jewish Girl's Guide to Guilt."
As soon as I started the first essay, I knew I was in the right place. It began:
Here is the scene. Something good just happened. I am happy about it. Maybe it was a good writing day, or I am in a good relationship, or I have helped someone, or I feel a sense of self in a true, deep way. I am walking to the market, to buy myself a peach and fizzy water. It's a beautiful day. Or, it's not, but my mood is so high that it doesn't matter. I myself am a beautiful blue day.
Little do I know that the piano shipment in the freight airplane high above me has had a mishap. The baby grand piano, which was right at the bottom of the aircraft, has come loose. Someone didn't lock that airplane door, at the bottom. He was drunk. He was in a bad mood. The piano wasn't tied properly. It has been hanging there, by three legs -- by two legs -- by one leg -- and now it has tumbled out of the airplane. I am still walking to the store. Whistle, whistle. I do a little skip.
Miles above me, whirring through the air, is this giant black piano, gaining speed as it goes. Free-falling. I am thinking about the good thing that has happened today, thinking about it. How nice I feel. How glad I am today. You'd think I would look up at the whirring sound, and maybe the cars honk at me to look up, but I am oblivious, content, and proud. I step right into the path, and the piano flattens me like a pancake.
Better keep my eyes up. Better be vigilant, particularly on those good days. Any good day not marked by worry and vigilance will be met with tragedy.
This is how I live -- always looking for the falling piano. So when it falls, I am prepared. And when there is no sign of one falling (in other words, when I'm content), I worry and wait.
In the book's introduction, the editor says, "Between the ideal of who you should be, and the reality of who you are, lies guilt." I live in that territory.
Life is more or less between ideal and reality. Some days more, some days less.