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 which somehow make sense of a world that doesn’t always make sense, Rob’s “top fives” run the gamut of pop culture, eclectic compilations that include his top five episodes of Cheers, top five Elvis Costello songs, the top five musical crimes perpetrated by Stevie Wonder in the 80s and 90s, 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, setlists, 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, handbags, road-trips, playlists for road trips, white lies, excuses not to go out, cocktails involving gin, dramatic entrances, exit strategies, famous people who could play me in a movie, Heaney poems, hashtags, 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 good day. I clicked on the email, and there it was – news that this blog has made it to the short list of the 2017 Blog Awards Ireland competition in the Irish Diaspora category. This is not the first time the blog has made it this far. And it’s grand. No really, it is. Look, Randy Newman was nominated for twenty Academy awards and held the record for successive nominations – 14 of them – before finally winning in 2001 for “I Didn’t Have You” from Monsters Inc. Some of the critics attributed his losing streak to the obvious – that all his songs sound a little too much like Randy Newman, of all people.
Then there’s Susan Lucci, Queen of daytime soap operas, who finally won an Emmy after 19 consecutive years of being nominated in the Best Actress category for her portrayal of over-the-top hellcat Erica Kane on “All My Children.” 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, this 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 even republish in other on and offline places; and to those of you who come back for more, for enduring thousands and thousands of words – many of them not remotely close to being the right ones, about breast cancer and bad hair days or Belfast and bombings; the 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 concert ticket stubs, and brown paper packages tied up with string the way my mother still does, about magic and loss and Van Morrison.
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 has been 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 keep what is most precious, private. I suppose I have learned how to – as Meryl Streep said of Nora Ephron – ‘achieve a private act.’
I’ve learned how to avoid an ending, and I am very good at the long game. I know what Nora Ephron’s son knows – that closure is overrated. I cannot consider the concept without recalling the first time I realized how much it mattered to other people, in particular, a principal who, following her observation of a lesson I had taught to a class of 5th graders, indicated with grave 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. I think it’s the continuing that matters (along with what I wore along the way).
Continuance – it has a nice ring to it. Keep on keeping on. Howl on.
I am dedicating this post to one of Belfast’s finest musicians, who will forever be on my top-five list and whose final album, Reckless Heart, is currently shortlisted for the Northern Ireland Music Prize In Association With Blue Moon 2017.
Bap Kennedy (17 Jun 1962 – 1 Nov 2016).