Wednesday, 9 April 2014
Lionel Shriver and the River of Life
When an editor asks if you would like to interview Lionel Shriver there is only one response.
What I hadn't realised was that it would entail interviewing her this week - and in addition, having not just one but three lots of copy to turn in this week. Not part of the recovery plan, but also not the kind of thing to turn down. So I’ve been working, sleeping, walking a bit, resting, working, resting etc.
The interview with Lionel was yesterday, and after a slightly hesitant start, I so enjoyed it. She's a fascinating person with a razor sharp mind - and, of course, she's a brilliant writer. I found we have a lot in common - same age, no children, both have Raynaud’s Disease, both independent and determined, both buy clothes from car boots. She is of course a lot hugely successful but wrote a fascinating piece on Failure (thanks, Mr B for unearthing that one!) which is a much neglected topic in my opinion. I left there feeling WOW with my head buzzing.
Now I have to write it up and file copy soonest - only 600 words which is a nightmare as there's so much I'll have to leave out.I've also got to file two other sailing pieces - and just sent a walk in as well. OK it’s not part of the plan but it’s the right side of challenging, and now the antibiotics have left my system, I can at least think again which is a bonus.
Last week Mr B told me about Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, which he’s reading at the moment. In it, JKJ was talking about the river of life, and said something like, “Don’t think of the things we want in life, think of the things we can’t do without: a home, a dog or cat, someone to love and someone to be loved by, one or two good friends, a pipe and a drink for one is bound to get thirsty”.
At first I thought, yes what good advice. And then, as I thought about it one night, I decided that surely we should want to LIVE our lives, not merely exist. By which I mean that if we’re not happy, we SHOULD think of the things we want in life, for surely the whole point of us being here is to be happy?
I don’t mean aspiring to a way of life that is beyond our financial means, but having FUN. Even if it's making the time to go walking, a day out or an adventure. A sail! Maybe just sitting by the fire and reading. Of course it depends on the company, too. But I truly believe that if something is wrong in our lives - we’re not happy for whatever reason, we should do something about it - after all, we only get one shot at it. As a friend of mine (who is an ex-member of AA says), “there are no such things as victims. Only volunteers.”
I have what I call an Open Door policy, by which I mean if something is wrong in my life, I try and do whatever I can to change it. If I need more work I pitch to endless magazines or agents for my book. When I was in Devon and feeling really stuck, I applied for endless job interviews, accepted a random invitation to Cornwall and met my late husband. Friends of mine are trying desperately to move, and seeing endless houses. Finally they’ve found somewhere. Another friend who was unhappy in her relationship finished it after many years. She was on her own for ages, then met someone she’s very happy with.
I do believe that if you truly wish some aspect of your life to change, if you open as many doors as you can, then turn your back on the problem, something will happen (though maybe not what you quite envisaged). But you have to have done your best and really want that change, before things happen.
Lionel was talking about this yesterday. It’s so important in life to have a go - remember, it’s never too late. It it doesn’t work out, then at least you’ve tried, and you can have a go at something else. And in the words of the inimitable Jack Nicholson, you won’t spend the rest of your life thinking, “I should have asked her to dance…”