Four Okay Things for June

I’m borrowing an idea from Granta, a literary journal whose pages I know are filled with lots of things I would benefit from reading but that I am too cheap to subscribe to so I just get their free emails instead. In their monthly email, they highlight a featured writer in a segment called “Five Things Right Now.” The writer shares five things s/he is reading, watching, and thinking about...right now.

So as not to completely rip them off, and because I am probably thinking at least 20% less than their featured writers on any given day, I am sharing four things I’m reading, watching, listening to, and thinking about—things that ultimately help me find a better sense of okay because they make me think harder or differently, make me laugh or make me cry, or make me appreciate where I am and what I have to share.
 
1. The World’s Largest Man by Harrison Scott Key
I can’t escape this book. It’s everywhere. And it should be. It’s hilarious. It’s one of those make-it-what-you-want-it-to-be books. It can be a quick and easy page turner (a “beach read”), or you can really dig in and dissect some of the darker elements of the story blanketed with humor to prevent the need for Kleenex at the beach.
 
Key’s memoir takes us through his childhood growing up in rural Mississippi with a father who wants nothing more than for him to be a real man’s man: a hunter, a farmer, an athlete. But Key, however, would rather read books, write stories, and go grocery shopping with his mother than kill animals in the woods each weekend with his father and older brother. Actual laughing out loud will occur.   
 
2. General Orders No. 9
This is a documentary about the American South, God, Nature, civilization, responsibility, change, progress, the past, the future, destiny, history, loss, mindfulness, hierarchies, patriarchies, even cartographiesat least these are the things I got out of it. If you like Terrence Malick (think Tree of Life), then you will probably enjoy this film. There are virtually no actors and no dialogue, only narration over long and intentional shots of Georgia landscapes, photos, and maps. (I realize I’m not doing a very good job of selling this thing, but I hope you’ll watch it anyway.) If you like films where you get to decide what you think it was about, then this is a film for you. It’s also only a little over an hour long.
 
3. Lil’ Wayne + Bruce Springsteen
Music is a powerful antidote against fear for me. Before I do anything scary (give a presentation, attempt to make a new friend, go to grad school, try to use an expired coupon), I ask myself what would Lil’ Wayne and Bruce Springsteen do? Would they be scared? Maybe. But would they do IT anyway? Yes. So I keep a playlist called “Fear Busters” handy that I turn to when I need to feel like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. Then I get on with it, whatever IT is.
 
4. “Consider that you never know ahead of time what will be useful.”
This is a quote from a book one of my professors, Diane Thiel, wrote called Winding Roads. (It’s a book of writing exercises, so unless you’re into that kind of thing, I’d probably just appreciate the quote and move on.) I’m quick (and therefore often imprecise) to assign value to experience: this moment is important; this one is not. But the reality is I have no idea what is or is not “important” or “useful.”
 
Sometimes the greatest moments of clarity have come to me from the most seemingly inconsequential events, and some of the most disappointing moments from events on which I placed the highest expectations only to see the actual outcomes fall short of my imagined ideal. In staying open to the idea that each moment and every interaction is an opportunity filled with potential—or is “useful”—then I stand a far greater chance of each moment and every interaction actually being useful, even it it’s something "small" propelling me towards something bigger. I’m an “I want what I want, and I want it now” kind of person, and as I keep learning, that’s just not how Life works. Moments build on moments, some big, some small, some immediate, some delayed, some joyful, some painful, but all there for a reason. Everything really is going according to plan.
 
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Was this helpful, ehem, useful to hear what I’m reading, watching, thinking about or listening to these days? Or were you bored and think lists should be left to those who do it best (Oprah and Buzzfeed)? I’ll probably only do this once a month at most because I’m a slow reader, watcher, listener, and thinker. In any case, I’d love to hear what’s keeping you okay these days. Drop me a line at kate at aimingforokay dot com or leave a note in the comments section just below.