Of all my character flaws, the one that bothers me the most is the way I easily succumb to inertia. Sometimes, I tell myself, this inertia isn’t so bad. Routine and ritual can be healthy, right? When I find something I like, or something that “works for me,” I tend to stick to it—and convince myself that it represents reliability or loyalty. And to be fair (to myself), I can pivot pretty quickly when presented with new information, like I did a couple years ago with my lunch routine. I had been eating a turkey sandwich every weekday for about 10 years when a friend told me all the different ways processed meat was going to ruin me. The next week I switched to spinach salads with non-processed chicken, and I’ve been eating them ever since.
And yet, my default position is one of inaction, or at least unchanging action: Go to work. Go to the gym. Come home, eat, hang out with the family. Watch a little TV, catch up on the news, maybe read a book if I’m feeling especially motivated. If someone calls, I’ll talk. If a friend invites me to an event, I’ll go. But, to my great loss, I don’t often reach out to others, instead letting my Prufrockian insecurity take hold. “Do I dare disturb the universe?”
Diane, though—Diane is nothing like that. She is action personified, an unsung hero of enormous grit and grace. Diane and I have been friends for the past 35 years or so, owing largely to her persistence and forgiveness, and through those years I’ve marveled at the way she has overcome challenges and personal setbacks with fierce equanimity. While those challenges are hers to tell about, I will note that she is a middle school teacher, which is, I’d argue, not only one of the most undervalued and under-compensated jobs, but also one of the most difficult jobs, in the United States.
Diane is now facing perhaps the greatest challenge of her life thus far—caring for a loved one with head and neck cancer, a rare carcinoma often referred to by its acronym SNUC. The physical and emotional toll this caregiving takes is merciless and unremitting. And yet, she is able to see the absurdity and wry humor in what might otherwise seem unbearable, like when she describes her days in “Difficult“:
Yesterday was difficult in a different way. I’d been at the hospital for 12 hours a day all week. My self-care had been going home to sleep at night, rather than sleeping in the pleather chair in Mark’s room. Not to boast, but I also took a shower every day. And ate food. Despite these excellent efforts to keep myself sane, I did manage to back into the garage door on Friday. And my underwear was on inside out. Still, I was proud of my little effort to keep myself going.
Have I mentioned that Diane is an incredibly talented writer? I don’t suppose I need to now. In any case, if you are a literary agent, you should get in touch with her to see what can be done about getting her blog turned into a memoir. And no matter who you are, you should read her blog.