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Susan Ito trying to do it all: reading writing mothering spousing daughtering working living

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Oh my goodness. What a way to wake up in the morning. I just read "Shy," an exquisitely beautiful essay by Rick Bass, published in Narrative magazine. You might have to put in an email and password to read it, but do it. It is so worth it. It was brought to my attention by Michelle Richmond's wonderful blog.

Reading "Shy" gave me that teary, deep-breath Gilead feeling. Rick Bass writes so poignantly about the condition of being shy, and of being a writer.
When you are shy like this, you feel a million miles away from anything, from everything, and you want to come closer, but cannot bear to bring yourself in; and of course, part of you does not want to come in—but also when you are a million miles out, you can see things, and you’re free just to stand there and watch, and things that are sometimes ordinary seem to you, to your shy little mind, in the outback, the last outpost, pretty and special. They are ordinary to everyone else, but to your never-experienced-any-of-these-things little mind, they’re beautiful, and you feel like falling over on your back, upturned, like a turtle.
That just took my breath away. It's so ... I don't know, human. I think of all the shy people that I know and love (one of whom I am married to). I don't think I am a shy person. In fact I'm pretty sure that I'm not. Sometimes I feel self-conscious, and a little awkward in new situations, but I don't think I am shy. Reading this essay gave me such a beautiful little window into the lives of shy people. Bass writes more (this really took my breath away!) about attempting, one summer, to become Eudora Welty's yard man. (Can you imagine?!)

I just wanted to be close to her, was the thing. It seemed like the most perfect of worlds. I could be close to her, but I wouldn’t have to say anything. I could just stagger around in the Jackson heat, shirtless, in her front yard, and perspire: trimming the hedges, mowing the lawn, sweeping the sidewalks and the driveway—like some sort of yard savage; just sort of standing guard, is what I imagined it would feel like, protecting her, but more important, just kind of being around her...
I figured I could learn things just by cutting her lawn, just by being around her, by maybe being bold enough to breathe some of the same air—and never, ever telling her that I was a writer; or rather, that I was trying to be one.
Wahh! OK, just rereading that made me tear up all over again. Here's to all the shy people out there, and their beautiful inner lives that so many people might not ever get a chance to see or experience. Are shy people more introspective, because they're not blurting their stuff all over the world? I do know that being invited into the inner world of a shy person can be a very wonderful thing; it feels precious and rare. Well, today I am just grateful that shy Rick Bass is also a writer, and that he has braved his anguish and shared his words with us. A gift.


Blogger Bustopher Jones said...

Thanks for sharing this, Susan. I will definitely read it. I was very shy as a kid.

Thursday, February 23, 2006 9:27:00 AM

Anonymous lisa said...

Thanks for visiting Lam(b) today. I have Gilead and I haven't read it year. Gotta move that to the top of my read next pile.

Thursday Thirteen is just that - you list 13 things every thursday. There is a blog roll for folks who participate in it so you get a lot of visitors.

See you again soon, I'm off to read Shy next.

Thursday, February 23, 2006 2:38:00 PM

Anonymous lisa said...

Oh and I forgot. I don't live in Ithaca, but I guess my internet lives there. I am in upstate NY though and it is pretty here.

Thursday, February 23, 2006 2:43:00 PM


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