Tarrador is a remarkable and amazing person. Every entry and comment sparkles with depth and intelligence and compassion.
I want to be one of the people who will one day turn up at his table.
Thanks for being you, Tarrador. 3 weeks ago
10 years after introducing 43 Things to the world, we have decided we have met our last goal: completing the incredible experience that has been 43 Things. Please join us in giving one last cheer to all the folks who have shared their goals with the world, as well as all the people who have worked at The Robot Co-op to build this incredible website. We won a Webby Award, published a book, and brought happiness to a lot of people.
Starting today, 43 Things users can export their goals and entries from the site. Starting August 15, we will make the site “read only”. 43 Things users will still be able to view the site and export their content, but we won’t be taking any new content from users. We hope to leave the site up for folks to see and download their content until the end of the year. Ending on New Year’s Eve takes us full circle.
It has been a long ride (one of our original goals was to "build a company that lasts at least 2 years” - we beat that one!) While we wish the site could live on, it has suffered from a number of challenges - changes in how people use the site, the advertising industry, and how search engines view the site. We wish the outcome was different – but we’ve always been realistic about when our goals are met and when they aren't.
As of today, you will be able to download your goals and entries. See more about that on the FAQ page. Thanks for 10 great years of goal-setting and achieving.
- The Robots.
Tarrador is a remarkable and amazing person. Every entry and comment sparkles with depth and intelligence and compassion.
I want to be one of the people who will one day turn up at his table.
Thanks for being you, Tarrador. 3 weeks ago
I don’t want to join PopClogs and think I will go over to Wordpress, popping into PopClogs every now and then to socialise (the name is pretty morbid, too).
I haven’t been using 43Things much since I heard it might close precisely because it means a lot to me and I don’t want to lose it. I’m planning on becoming more active though and hoping it stays, but I am mostly resigned to it sinking. I’ll go down with the ship! 3 weeks ago
How I did it: When I first added this goal a few years ago, I imagined the book would be about me and my life or maybe something about nature or whatever. It turned out to be about something else entirely.
I thought I would have loads to say about this, but actually it is pretty simple: this is one of the best things I have ever done, and I really want to do something like it again. The project wasn't about me but about other people; about helping other people do stuff for another person. About 46 from up and down the country joined in. It was incredibly satisfying (if frustrating at times) and it is exactly what I want more of in my life.
The wave energy created from the scrapbook is exactly what I want to take with me when I move out, to catch the spark for other adventures and ideas.
This is the letter I sent with the notebook:
My deepest apologies for being so sneaky.
When I read your status about your cancer diagnosis I immediately made a secret status of my own, asking if anyone wanted to get together to write some messages in a travelling notebook for you. “I don’t want to just leave comments on Facebook, we definitely can go one better.” Half a dozen people replied and said YES.
I thought, great! I have a few light notebooks already with swirly decorative covers that will be perfect for the job. One of those will do.
Not wanting anyone to miss out, I made a secret Facebook group and added our mutual friends and asked those friends to add any of their mutual friends that they share with you too. A few AYMErs popped up luck (AYMErs always pop up, they are like dandelions). I expected that lots of people would join but that maybe only ten or so people would actually get involved. Just enough to send the notebook round the country through the post. Just enough fill up some pages of a small floppy notebook, but probably not all of them.
I also messaged everyone I could find you tagged in a picture with (unfortunately most of these messages were doomed to the “Other” folder where nobody, save a few rare souls, ever look).
As the evening went on it became clear that many, many more people wanted to join in. There were too many people to possibly circulate a small notebook between us all, so we planned for people sent things to me instead. I bought a bigger book – a proper scrapbook – and waited for the post to come… and at first not much did. I thought maybe I had got overexcited, that it would just be ten people after all. A few more things came (every delivery was a thrill). Then, one day, a huge wave of post came, more post than I had ever got on any Christmas or birthday flooded through the door. In the end (as you will see) it was a challenge to fit everything into the book!
You hold in your hands the result of months of secret creativity and work, and at least five sticks of glue. Doing this has been one of my favourite and happiest projects to be part of.
I hope you are absolutely and completely happily surprised. I hope your mouth drops open and then breaks into a wide grin, and that you run to Facebook immediately to tell us all it has arrived.
With love and friendship and more love from,
(Then here was a list of names.) Read how I did it… 3 weeks ago
Yesterday I was going to make a jokey Facebook status about how I woke up that morning with the immediate thought of, “Oh god I’m not 22 anymore.” I am glad I didn’t make a joke out of it, because it isn’t. What ran through my head (and I don’t know why it did) was that when I was 22 it felt like a turning point. I was looking forward with my 20s in front of me having let go of my teens and coming through a depression. Things were looking good. I made some local friends and then… then I relapsed. And the friends disappeared without a second glance, and I now am coming to the end of my twenties before I can begin to think I might be beginning to consider that I have almost reclaimed that level of health again (i.e. not being able to leave the house hardly ever but daily in-house life is considerably easier). But that feeling of optimism has gone. I am constructive and moving forward, but the sense of aging and letting go of another decade and what I hoped it would be takes its toll.
For some reason as I walked down the hall to brush my teeth tonight, it came to me that being ill hasn’t been so much about symptoms and phyical limitations but about how it changes you in the eyes of other people and how you have to fight to be yourself. That is an important kind of recovery. The recovery of self, if not the recovery of health. It came to me in a sentence that shot through me like an arrow of truth, but that I can’t quite reconstruct now.
It contained friends drifting away, the disbelief of the ones who stay, how that disbelief turns to judgement (and judgement into advice and advice into judgement again). One friend I met when was 22 thought that now I had met him I’d get better within a few months for sure, because he couldn’t imagine illness could go on for as long as it can and that he had lots of advice to sort me out. Another said if I took just a fraction of his advice then I’d be able to turn my life around completely. The second person extended pity, “It isn’t your fault you’re ignorant,” he said. A third, “Being negative makes you ill so even if you say you are positive I know that you can’t be because you are ill.”
And then – poof! – you ge worse for them and they are gone so fast.
You can forgive these people but this defines much of your experience and runs like a thread through your story, and you struggle to find the you underneath it, the you behind what they think they see and to rescue that self from their seeing and their words and how they try to sculpt you out of their ignorance and into this thing that you are not. Your family does a version of this too.
That’s the main core of my experience of being ill. The symptoms and so on orbit that experience, but they aren’t what it means to be ill. The meaning is human rather than biological.
A year after the relapse, one of my school friends started messaging me on Facebook asking but what do you do? What do you actually do? I’m working on a PhD, what are you working towards? And one day she turned up at my house, and when I heard my mum let her in I felt the room spin. My mum told her to wait downstairs and went to tell me she was there. I couldn’t get out of bed and I was sobbing. I couldn’t cope with the idea that she could just stroll in without asking, with her fucking PhD and nudges about how my life wasn’t ambitious enough for her. My mum sent her away, and I felt bad for feeling bad. Today though, after the arrow, I realised feeling bad made complete and utter sense. Was the only thing that could have made sense. More than made sense: it was the right reaction and came from the soul.
And what would she have done if she had come up the stairs and saw me in bed anyway? I had told her of the situation, but she clearly didn’t know all the same. She didn’t believe. It’s not real to her. Never had been. That’s why you get all this advice and the leaflets about Jesus and accupuncture because the reality isn’t real to the person who is advising you. Health comes so naturally to them, it isn’t hard to understand their confusion or even assumption that you must be fucking up on some level.
There aren’t many things considered a sin in this society but not being healthy (especially if you look “normal”) often seems to be one of them.
When I got ill, the friend (who had been my closest friend) told me that I was making myself ill, told me I should join her church then God would heal me, told me I was lucky for being ill and she had it hard because she had to choose between going to university straight after school or travelling around Europe or the world for a year. Years later she gets in touch, asks me what I am doing with my life and what I am working toward, says that what I say couldn’t be the real thing – make it bigger! – then walks in my house and walks out again tralalalala.
This isn’t even about her or them. This is about a feeling. This is about trying to find myself in all of this. Because the symptoms are huge and how people react is dizzying and you forget who you are, and you feel one way and get told you should feel another, and you feel one way and you learn to tell yourself you should feel another – should be another – should react another – should just be different. You get told that what you think you are you are not and you should try to be something else (preferably something less disappointing) and you do want to be different too (who wants to be ill?) and you get contradicted so much in so many explicit and implicit ways that you can’t make sense of yourself anymore.
And somewhre along the line you realise you don’t want to be different, you want to just be you. And you have reacted and felt the only ways you could react and feel all this time, and you have been you and you have been not you at the same time. You need space. To figure things out and find out who you are and remember who you were before and to get these two versions of you to meet.
And you know that as soon as you can learn to realise your truth faster and speak more honestly and openly more quickly, then you will start to recover yourself from your illness. Even if you can’t eat or brush your hair without a rest and all that shit.
I think I can go to sleep now. 1 month ago
I was the one who started that goal and I notice that the first post I made on it now isn’t there. It seems as though Pop Clogs has a comments system rather than a blogging one, and as more people comment the previous ones vanish. 1 month ago
It’s very disappointing, but you are right. After how distant and uninterested the Robots have been we can’t expect them to start now. 1 month ago
It’s amazing how much this website means to us. I don’t think I’ll be joining Pop Clogs though. I might drop in there once in a while but it’s not… bloggy enough, if you know what I mean. Plus, I pettily resent it! 2 months ago
Where exactly was the news announced that 43Things is packing up? I can’t find a statement anywhere. The Twitter account and Robot Co-op blog hasn’t been used in years, and I can’t find anything on the website. 2 months ago
Is the site really closing down? I have utter scorn for Pop Clogs. I’ve just saved all my entries but, really, this site and all of you have given me so much. 2 months ago
How I did it: "Always learn poems by heart. They have to become the marrow in your bones. Like fluoride in the water, they'll make your soul impervious to the world's soft decay." - Janet Fitch
Reading poetry has become something of a spiritual practice. You have to be in the moment when you read poems. You can't rush or skip through. They crack you open. A good poem is like a good joke: they have surprising twists, showing you sometimes dull things in new ways.
Like art, poetry coaxes "us away from the mechanical and towards the miraculous.” (Jeanette Winterson).
This is why the process of memorising poems has turned out to be such a good and unexpected anxiety reducing activity. I want to ingrain it as a habit. When I feel restless I can go into my mind and recite verses, and when I feel stressed I choose a new one to memorise. It's really effective, and it feels good to have these words inside of you. Read how I did it… 2 months ago
This is one of my favourite poems. It taps into some fundamental tension in me. It is long and I thoroughly enjoyed memorising it (something I wanted to do since I first heard Bob Dylan read it on an MP3 my best friend sent me years ago). You can listen to it here (ignore the dumb pictures).
Written from memory…
Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie by Bob Dylan
When your head gets twisted and your mind grows numb
When you think you’re too old, too young, too smart or too dumb
When you’re lagging behind and losing your pace
In a slow-motion crawl of life’s busy race
No matter what you’re doing, if you start giving up
If the wine don’t come to the top of your cup
And the wind’s got you sideways with one hand holding on
And the other starts slipping and the feeling is gone
And your train engine fire needs a new spark to catch it
And the woods easy finding but you’re lazy to fetch it
And your sidewalk starts curling and your street gets too long
And you start walking backwards though you know its wrong
And lonesome comes up as down goes the day
And tomorrow’s morning seems so far away
And you feel the reins from your pony are slipping
And the rope is sliding ‘cause your hands are dripping
And your sun decked deserts and evergreen valleys
Turn to broken down slums and trashcan alleys
And your sky cries water and your drainpipe’s a-pouring
And the lightening’s a-flashing and the thunder’s a-crashing
And the window’s a-rattling and breaking and the rooftop’s shaking
And your whole world is slamming and banging
And your minutes of sun turn to hours of storm
And to yourself you sometimes say
I never knew it was going to be this way,
why didn’t they tell me the day I was born?
And you start getting chills and you’re jumping from sweat
And you’re looking for something you ain’t quite found yet
And you’re knee deep in dark water with your hands in the air
And the whole world’s watching with a window peep stare
And your good gal leaves and she’s long gone a-flying
And your heart feels sick like fish when they’re flying
And your jackhammer falls from your hands to your feet
But you need it badly but it lays on the street
And your bell’s banging loudly but you can’t eat its beat
And you think your ears might’ve been hurt
Or your eyes turned filthy from the sight blinding dirt
And you figured you’ve failed in yesterday’s rush
When you were faked out and fool while facing a four flush
And all the time you were holding three queens
And it’s making you mad, it’s making you mean
Like in the middle of Life Magazine
Bouncing around a pinball machine.
And there’s something on your mind that you wanna be saying
That someone, somewhere ought to be hearing
But its trapped on your tongue and its sealed in your head
And it bothers you badly when you’re laying in bed
But no matter how hard you try you just can’t say it
And you’re scared to your soul that you just might forget it
And your eyes get swimming from the tears in your head
And your pillows of feathers turn to blankets of lead
And the lion’s mouth opens and you’re staring at his teeth
And his jaws start closing with you underneath
And you’re flat on your belly with your hands tied behind
And you wish you’d never taken that last detour sign
And you say to yourself
Just what am I doing
On this road I’m walking, on this trail I’m turning
On this curb I’m hanging, on this pathway I’m strolling
In this space I’m taking, in this air I’m inhaling.
Am I mixed up too much? Am I mixed up too hard?
Why am I walking? Where am I running?
What am I saying? What am I knowing
On this guitar I’m playing
On this banjo I’m frailing
On this mandolin I’m strumming
In this song I’m singing
In this tune I’m humming
In these words I’m thinking
In these words I’m writing.
In this ocean of hours I’m all the time drinking
Who am I helping? What am I breaking?
What am I giving? What am I taking?
But you try with your whole soul best never to think these thoughts
Or never to let them kind of thoughts gain ground
Or make your heart pound
But then again you know when they’re around
Just waiting for a chance to slip and drop down
Because sometimes you hear ‘em when the night time comes creeping
And you fear that they might catch you sleeping
And you jump from your bed from your last chapter of dreaming
And you can’t remember for the best of your thinking
If that was you in the dream that was screaming
And you know it’s something special you’re needing
And that there’s no drug that’ll do for the healing
And no liquor in the land that will stop your brain from bleeding.
And you need something special
You need something special alright
You need a fast flying train on a tornado track
That will shoot you someplace and shoot you back.
You need a cyclone wind on a steam engine howler
That’s been banging and booming and blowing forever.
You need a greyhound bus that don’t bar no race
That won’t laugh at your looks, your voice, or your face
And by any number of bets in the book will be ‘round long after the bubble gum craze.
You need something to open up a new door
To show you something you’ve seen before
But overlooked a hundred times or more.
You need something to open your eyes
You need something to make it known
That it’s you that owns
The spot that your standing, that space that your sitting
That the world ain’t got you beat, it ain’t got you licked
It can’t get you crazy no matter how many times you might get kicked.
You need something special alright,
You need something special to give you hope
But hope’s just a word
That maybe you said or maybe you heard
On some windy corner ‘round some wide-angled curb.
But that’ what you need, man, and you need it bad
And your trouble is you know it too good,
Because you’re looking and you start getting the chills
‘Cause you can’t find it on a dollar bill
And it ain’t on Macy’s windowsill
And it ain’t on no rich kid’s road map
And it ain’t in no fat kid’s fraternity house
And it ain’t made in no Hollywood wheatgerm
And it ain’t on that dim-lit stage with that half-wit comedian on it
Ranting and raving and taking your money
And you think its funny.
And you can’t find it either in no night club or no yacht club
And it ain’t in the seats of a supper club
And sure as hell you’re bound to tell that no matter how hard you rub
You ain’t gonna find it on your ticket stub.
And it ain’t in the rumours people are telling you
And it ain’t in the pimple lotion people are selling you.
And it ain’t in no cardboard box house
Or down any movie star’s blouse
And you can’t find it on the golf course
And Uncle Remus can’t tell you and neither can Santa Claus.
And it ain’t in the cream puff hair do or cotton candy clothes
And it ain’t in the dime store dummies or bubble gum goons
And it ain’t in the marshmallow noises of the chocolate cake voices
That come knocking and tapping in Christmas wrapping saying
“Ain’t I pretty? Ain’t I cute?
“Look at my skin
“Look at my skin shine, look at my skin glow,
“Look at my skin laugh, cry”
When you can’t even sense they got any insides
These people so pretty in their ribbons and bows.
No, you’ll not now or any other day
Find it on the doorsteps made outta paper mache
And inside the people made of molasses
That every other day buy a new pair on sunglasses
And it ain’t in the fifty star generals and flipped out phonies
Who’ll turn you in for a tenth of a penny
Who breathe and burp and bend and crack
And by the time you can count from one to ten
Do it all over again
But this time behind your back, my friend.
The ones who wheel and deal and whirl and twirl
And play games with each other in their sandbox world.
And it ain’t either in the no-talent fools who run around gallant
Who make all the rules for the ones who got talent
And it ain’t in the ones who ain’t got any talent but think they do
And think they’re fooling you.
The ones who get on the wagon just for a while
‘Cause they know it’s in style
To get their kicks, get out of it quick,
And make all kinds of money and chicks.
And you yell to yourself and you throw down your hat
Saying, “Christ, do I gotta be like that?
“Ain’t there no one here who knows where I’m at?
“Ain’t there no one here who knows how I feel?
“Good God Almighty, that stuff ain’t real!”
No, but that ain’t your game, that ain’t even your race
You can’t hear your name, you can’t see your face.
You gotta look some other place.
So where do you go for this hope that your seeking
Where do you look for this lamp that’s burning
Where do you look for this oil well gushing
Where do you look for this candle that’s glowing
Where do you look for the hope you know is there
And out there somewhere.
And your feet can only walk down two kinds of roads
And your eyes can only look through two kinds of windows
And your nose can only smell two kinds of hallways
And you can touch and twist and turn two kinds of door knobs.
You can either go to the church of your choice
Or you can go to Brooklyn State Hospital.
You’ll find God in the church of your choice,
You’ll find Woody Guthrie in Brooklyn State Hospital.
And though it’s only my opinion,
I might be right or wrong,
You’ll find both in the Grand Canyon
At sundown. 2 months ago
I’m currently attempting to write an email.
A few months ago I wrote a very personal entry about my family. It helped a lot and the responses I received carried me forward. Because 43Things is not in the least bit private though, it does present the problem as to how personal is too personal. I don’t mind saying what I think here (and get a lot of benefits from doing so), but the people I write about are real people and I’d be horrified if they or someone they knew found my entries.
Which makes writing entries for this goal particularly tricky!
How to phrase this?
The email I am writing shouldn’t be that hard, but it feels like a real struggle. What I have to say is pretty simple. (Someone said that I want to move out as soon as possible, when I neither said nor want any such thing.) My family often decide they know what’s best for me without asking me, or decide what I want even if its the opposite to what I want, and correcting them is hard because they have acted very defensive or slippery in the past.
I have been thinking about what it means to stop caring about what people think of you. There is a Sufi saying that goes something like: the people we care about become our masters – so choose your masters wisely. It isn’t that you should do without caring or masters altogether (good “masters” raise the expectations you have of yourself). The poet and historian Jennifer Michael Hecht (one of my favourite people) said on a radio interview recently that “we believe each other into being.” If we suddenly found ourselves alone on Earth, with no other people “would you bother to wash a dish” (she said), would you bother to wear nice clothes or bother much with anything. Music would sound different, the way you think to yourself would be different… we believe each other into being.
I just don’t want my life to be so restricted by caring anymore. And it is difficult when you depend on those people, because what they think of you is what you have to respond to. If they think they know better or that you can’t make intelligent decisions for yourself then what they think does matter because what they do matters and how you see yourself through how they see you matters.
The empathy I have for them (even when they are saying awful untrue things) just overwhelms me. It is not mutual and I end up in a much weaker position, watering down my truth or only focusing on them.
Getting away from that would be a liberation. (Uh, is this too personal again?). Anyway, maybe the best thing to do is try to get the practical results I want and not care if they think I am demonic or destructive or whatever (it struck me today that in the clashes I’ve had with my family it seems to me as though they see me as both very impotent and very destructive at the same time). 2 months ago
All my life I’ve been worrying about what people will think of me, but recently this fear has been carefully honed in on one thing: how am I gonna explain ME to everyone?
You see, when you’re at home and you’re ill and you’re doing your daily routine, you don’t have to think about your illness. No one is asking you questions so you feel like yourself rather than different to anyone, and, apart from the times you have a mini panic and feel like you have to justify yourself to yourself, you don’t have to answer to anyone either.
Since I’ve been meeting new people, I’ve avoided talking about, mentioning or letting on I have ME or how bad it is. This means the group of people I know (who are all very similar, very healthy athletic types) don’t really know what life is like for me. They don’t know that I spend days in bed after meeting up with them, for example.
Steve knows, and told me he mentioned to Olli and Fred that I have to “recover” after each meal. They said they had no idea and were apparently sympathetic and eager to know more. The trouble is… I don’t know how to talk about this.
I worry what people will think about me. I don’t want to get upset in front of people, cry, appear, well, lame on multiple levels.
I remember all the past bad situations, like Francis or Drew. Drew, one of the group members who I let in about my ME, was somewhat of a disaster. He turned up at my house one night, claiming that just 2% of what he had to tell me could change my life for ever. He had a hand gesture to go with this claim that he kept making, over and over again. “It’s not your fault you don’t know any of this,” he said, “but I can teach you all these things. I can help you. Your mind can heal your body. Just 2% of what I’m telling you, if you let it, could totally turn you around. Just two per cent!” That two per cent lasted for about two hours and needless to say I felt patronized literally to tears.
It happened that when I decided to start writing back to anyone as soon as they wrote to me (emails, private messages or public posts on Facebook etc) I had to stop caring what people thought of me. I had to put aside that “this isn’t funny enough/clever enough/enough enough” mindset. I had to just say it and submit it.
I’m socially anxious – no diagnosed with anything, but I’m undeniable stressed when interacting with people. Case in point: it’s not unusual if I say hello to someone on MSN, and if they pause before they say hello back (as is fairly common) my heart beats faster and I think “Oh my word, I’ve offended them somehow at sometime really really badly, WHAT DID I DO?”
It’s crazy and I have to laugh while writing it, but it’s true.
I’ve known for years that I have to stop caring so much about what people think about me, and that stopping caring is what will really help me talk to people about ME. Practicing quickly writing back to people has made it click. Not just click but clunk loudly and noticeably into place.
I didn’t realise it was practice, but that’s exactly what it’s turned out to be.
I have so much anger and sadness and pain about having ME. No wonder: for years the medical establishment has thought that ME was a psychiatric condition, and even though in the 80s it was proven to be physical it’s taken a long, long time to trickle through. I’ve felt branded rather than diagnosed, and I never know what people will say or if they will judge me. It burns all the more because, when all is said and done, I’m ill. Really ill. And I don’t need salt rubbed into that wound over and over again. No one does, even if you do think 2% of what you have to say to me could change my life.
Difficult conversations are made more difficult because we anticipate a struggle, and if I don’t care what they think of me then it doesn’t matter what they do or say. I don’t expect prejudices to never bother me again, but I don’t have to carry them around with me either.
I’m gonna stop caring what other people think of me, and leave all that at their door.
http://name-us.org/ 4 years ago
Sappho was a poet from Ancient Greece, living around 2,650 years ago. She lived in Lesbos, though her portrait above was found in Pompeii. She gave us the phrase “bitter-sweet” to describe love. I love the poem below, not just for how it sings in itself but because it was written by a woman who truly believed in the Goddess and was calling to her. The poem is not written to re-create a myth, but as a living spirituality and religion.
The last line reminds me of Matthew in the Bible. Matthew says, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.” Aphrodite (a more complex goddess than how we imagine her today) also brings in the sheep and the goats, but as one flock. We are the child and she is the mother.
Hymn to Aphrodite by Sappho
to this sacred place
encircled by apple trees
fragrant with offered smoke.
Here, cold springs
amid the branches;
the round is shady with roses;
from trembling young leaves,
a deep drowsiness pours.
In the meadow,
horses are cropping
the wildflowers of spring,
blows on the breeze.
In this place,
Lady of Cyprus, pour
the nectar that honours you
into our cups,
gold, and raised up for drinking.
Evening Star who gathers everything
Shining down scattered –
You bring the sheep and the goats,
You bring the child back to its mother. 2 months ago
I’m sorry about your mum. She probably is really worried, as you said. I would be too (!) but it hard when people crash around you all thunder-and-lightening like that.
Good luck with the match, it’s really very exciting. 2 months ago
The Road Not Taken is one of the most famous poems that people don’t remember. Or rather, misremember and recreate. It’s not that it is a complicated poem. It isn’t. As one of the writers at Sparknotes said, “Several generations of careless readers have turned it into a piece of Hallmark happy-graduation-son, seize-the-future puffery.” In looking for poetry I have even seen it referred to as The Road Least Taken.
There is no least travelled road in this poem. The poet stands where “two roads diverged”, has a long hard look at one and then, almost as if on a whim, takes the other. Doubts creep in immediately. The poet is placated by a brief justification in saying that the second path “perhaps had the better claim because it was grassy and wanted wear”, but immediately comes clean and admits that, actually, “the passing there had worn them really about the same, and both that morning equally lay in in leaves no step had trodden back.” He actually “kept the first for another day”, meaning that he wanted to go down it and perhaps still wishes he did or still could. “Knowing how way leads on to way, doubted if I should ever come back.” Ah, regret. Familiar, familiar regret.
The poet imagines being in the future, looking back “with a sigh”, and presenting his choice to others by embellishing or lying. It makes the better story. In the present it is clear that neither road is less travelled by, but in the future he will tell it differently.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference. 2 months ago
Someone else said that they’d pay for this website if they had to. I probably would too.
I talked to my mum again today about important this project is to me. We’ve talked about it before and she’s generally been enthusiastic, but also generally forgets about it. I need to do it before I move out, or before the process of moving out takes all my energy.
I have a lot of objects in my room that tell a story of my illness. For example, a large box in my wardrobe the contains my old school things from when I nearly went to school but didn’t. I haven’t opened it in years and have refused to throw the contents away. Recording it in this project would be a letting go and a reclaiming of the story.
That part of the story is particularly painful.
There are other objects too, like my guitar and an old gift from a friend. The guitar I want to photograph because it is something I want to play but am mostly unable to. If anyone sees it or asks me more generally if I play anything, I either say no or end up talking about how I would, but… you know. The idea of photographing it in the way I imagine gives that area of my life some integrity and pulls it together in a lager narrative.
The act of photographing is a process of revealing, telling, releasing, and turning these negative diving bells into something positive.
I want to photograph them all on stark white backgrounds. I could use sheets and do it in my house, but I’d need help with lighting and getting it set up. Doing this is really important to me.
The project will be about how objects show the life I want to have but can’t quite have, and the life I almost had but didn’t.
Then moving on.
(Or moving on-ish.) 2 months ago
The seventh poem is another one of Larkin’s. It particularly resonates with me and the peculiar sadness I feel every spring. That emotional tension between love for the world and the loneliness within it. Both the shoots of spring and the berries of autumn give me happiness shot through with existential blue.
I like how the first lines hum in tune with the last, “The trees are coming into leaf like something almost being said…” sounds like it could be the susurrations of life or the words of the Gods, but at the end of the poem it seems as though the leaves themselves are talking: “Last year is dead, they seem to say, begin afresh, afresh, afresh.” It is pleasing. I like the idea of the leaves chatting to each other in a Roald Dahlish sort of way, that the whole world speaks and is always speaking.
The Trees by Philip Larkin
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the small animal of your body
Love what it loves.
Tell me of your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile, the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and clear pebbles of rain
Are moving across the landscapes,
Over the prairies and the deep trees,
Over the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
Are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
The world offers itself to your imagination
Calling to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
Over and over announcing your place
In the family of things.
The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry
When despair grows in me
And I wake in the night at the least sound
In fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
Rests in his beauty on the water, and the grate heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things,
Who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
I come into the presence of still water,
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
Waiting for their light. For a time,
I rest in the grace of the world, and I am free.
Written from memory2 months ago
How I did it: I’m really glad 43Things is back. While it was gone over the last few days, I started reflecting on how much I get from this website: the community here, the structure and focus it gives, and even the context it provides for my goals.
For example, I want to do as many of the All-Time Most Popular Goals and the Popular Achieved Goals as possible. I realised that if 43Things vanished, I might not even be bothered with many of the things on those lists. This realisation could be interpreted in two ways: the first is that maybe those goals are clutter and perhaps too much bother if I wouldn’t bother bothering with them on my own. The second way to look at it is that I am interested in the goals and would enjoy doing them, but only in the context of the 43Things website.
The idea of ticking these things off only makes sense in that context, and the idea of achieving them is only enjoyable and meaningful if I can share those achievements here. (When I first read the top 100 goal lists I realised that despite being ill there was still many things on those lists that I could do, and for that reason alone I wanted to try doing them.) This is how the virtual world melts into “real” life. Ordinarily I wouldn’t be so interested in, say, completing a Sudoku puzzle but because that activity is part of the 43Things community I want to do it. Those goals are not a big part of the experience for most members, but they’re there in the zeitgeist (literally).
This week I am visiting my boyfriend. Outside his house is a grassy mound and we sat on it one evening in the dusk. We sat quietly when suddenly I handed him my tangerine juice and said, “Hold this, I’m going to roll down the grassy bank on my side.” It is one of the things on the top 100 lists. It wasn’t quite spontaneous, but it felt so because it wasn’t something I’d have done otherwise and we both ended up laughing and laughing.
It’s the ability to share goals and thoughts, problems and progress that has made this website so meaningful for me, and has made this blog a point of power. About a year ago, I kept a handwritten journal. It became a really negative task because the writing was just me, muttering to myself and going round in circles. Knowing that people are reading this (or just might be reading) propels me forward, and adopting other people’s goals in the context of 43Things makes me feel part of something bigger. Sharing the progress of my own goals makes me feel more focused and engaged.
It would be a loss if this site were to go away. Read how I did it… 2 months ago