Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Like the Parts You Don't Like

One of my favorite lines of fictional dialogue (see column at right) is from one of Margaret Atwood's cynical little "True Romances." The main character laments that her bad boyfriend has left her, and now she has "nothing to live for." Her level - headed friend asks, "Were you living for him when he was here?" And the distressed one says, "No . . . I was living in spite of him, I was living against him." The wise friend concludes, "Then you should say, I have nothing to live against."

I do recall applying this lesson during my early Philadelphia years, back when I was trying to improve my urban attitude. Thinking of Atwood's story, I told myself, "You need to give up living against the city! You have nothing to live against." But it's such a bad habit with me, it seems that I will try to live against almost anything! The weather, the grocery store, the holiday season, organized religion, centuries of misogynism -- you name it; unless I consciously stop myself, I will try to live against it. And how does one little person live against an entire city or an entire cosmos or an entire family? Not only is it impossible, it is just not necessary to do so, even if it does feel so at times.

Nothing to live against. Brian Andreas makes a similar suggestion in one of his stories: "It's much easier, he told me, if you like the parts you like & you like the parts you don't like. Is that some Eastern thing? I said & he said not really since he was from Idaho & it worked there just fine" (from StoryPeople).

Still I wonder, how do you really learn to "like the parts you don't like"? How do you learn to say, "Oh well," if that's what the occasion calls for, to be dismissive, remain impassive, impersonal, detached? For a Doubting Thomasina, a Daughter of Descartes, a Western Girl With Glasses, it's not always easy.

These ramblings are drawn from MY FORTNIGHTLY BLOG, NOVEMBER 28; "Letting Go" :



  1. Oh, my. It is something I, too, struggle with, wondering to what point should we "let it go" and when we should stand up and fight against whatever it is -- for ourselves or for others in need. I often find myself worked up over things and attitudes that I know will never change. But, I also know there are some parts (of life, of other people) that I don't like and I'll never like, no matter how much more peaceful my own life would be if I could just not care.