I love a list. It has a beginning and an ending. It’s a certainty. A sure thing. Naturally, then, I love Rob Gordon, a kindred spirit erstwhile hapless record shop owner in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. A compulsive maker of lists, his “top fives” run the gamut of pop culture, eclectic compilations that include his top five episodes of Cheers, top five Elvis Costello songs, and the top five “women who don’t live on his street but would be very welcome.” Like Hornby’s character, I can produce all kinds of top-five lists . . . album covers, fonts, pet peeves, life lessons, things not to say to a teenage daughter, mix tapes (now playlists) for any occasion, places to see and avoid in Phoenix, dive bars, concert venues, ways to get my own way, pizza toppings, authentic “Irish” bars in Phoenix (there might not be five), hairdressers, Tom Petty concerts, Van Morrison songs, things Nora Ephron said about what not to wear, lipstick shades, road-trips, playlists for road trips, white lies, cocktails involving gin, dramatic entrances, exit strategies, famous people who could play me in a movie, Heaney poems, laughs, crying sessions, and ways to let someone down easy (mostly myself).
It turns out there are psychological reasons for this love of lists. For instance, there’s the guess-work, the wondering if what I think will be on the list will be there when I click on it, confirming that I was right about something. Apparently, a correct prediction causes the brain to send an extra little shot of dopamine, and that boost makes for a better day.
So today is a great day. I clicked on the link, and there it is – this blog has made it to the short list of the 2016 Blog Awards Ireland competition in the Irish Diaspora category. This is not the first time the blog has made it this far – I am perhaps on the road to becoming the Susan Lucci of blog award competitions. Like Ms. Lucci, I’m happy to be nominated and in the company of others who wrestle with getting the words right and who retreat online to this timeless space, a home away from home. It is a lovely thing to know that there are readers for whom this corner of the blogosphere represents the Irish abroad, and the recognition delights me as does being included on a list with others who have lifted me up and set me down again in this very space.
So thanks to those of you who read and remark and still come back for more, for enduring thousands and thousands of words – many of them not the right ones, not even close – about breast cancer and bad hair days, about Belfast and bombings, extended rants about menopause and motherhood and having it all or not having it all, about Seamus Heaney – ah, Seamus – and back home, about vinyl records and ticket stubs, and brown paper packages tied up with string the way my mother still does, about magic and loss and Lou Reed. As much as I have revealed of myself in this virtual space, I know for sure what is not copy, what is not up for public consumption.
Cancer was copy – it still is. Some of the business of widowhood is copy too. But I know what is not. I know what to keep and what to discard. I know how to control it and how to control myself. Most of the time. As public as I have made many of my choices, I know how to be private and how to keep what is precious, private with the man who makes me smile and lifts my heart and lights up the dark corners in which I sometimes find myself. I suppose I have learned how to – as Meryl Streep says of Nora Ephron – ‘achieve a private act.’
I know how to avoid an ending, and I’m very good at the long game. I know what Nora Ephron’s son knows – that closure is over-rated. I cannot consider the concept without recalling the first time I realized how much it mattered to other people, following a principal’s evaluation of a lesson I’d taught. In her report, she indicated, with some disappointment, that I had provided “no closure” for my students. I didn’t bother arguing with her, because I knew I would be back in my classroom the next day and the next to continue – not to close – with my students. It is the continuing that matters (along with what I wore along the way).
Continuance – it has a nice ring to it. Keep on keeping on. Maybe you’ll come along for the ride.