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Posts Tagged ‘gail caldwell’

Five Things I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self by Gail Caldwell

Friday, February 6th, 2015

New Life, No Instructions cover tpFive Things I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self by Gail Caldwell

The author of New Life, No Instructions gives advice for young women based on her own experiences. Her new memoir is about the surprising way life can begin again, at any age.

Originally published on Oprah.com

 
 
 
 
 
 

1. Your father was saying something that you couldn’t hear.

My dad was a tough, sometimes domineering Texas patriarch, and his idea of protecting his two adolescent daughters was to scare hell out of the boys in the ’hood. Granted, it was the Texas Panhandle in the 1950s: When a kid came to my or my sister’s window late at night, Wild Bill would do a patrol around the block with an unloaded rifle on his shoulder.

Why couldn’t he just tell us to watch our backs, or say how much he loved us? Now I know that he was telling us, but too often the greatest generation translated love into laconic shows of strength. I wish he could have said, “You are the most precious cargo in the world and I will do anything to keep you safe,” which might have helped me learn to say it to myself.

2. Live inside your body.

You have muscles and brain cells that are poised for amazing possibilities—childbirth and mountain climbing and dancing until 3 a.m. You can learn calculus or walk across half of Spain and your body and brain will barely flinch. Then you can sleep it off and start again. You will be able to do this for many, many years, particularly if you forgo stupid drugs and too much booze and seven helpings of cheesecake and walking in front of speeding vehicles, or, for that matter, getting into them.

3. Walk tall, even—especially—when you are afraid, or cowed, or insecure.

If you assume you are too good to be taken advantage of, the bullies of the world will usually believe you, and move on.
This skill involves daily practice, like sports or meditation, and, as my gun-toting, poker-playing dad would say, a little bluff at the right time. I had a creepy guy twice my size acting inappropriately in an airplane aisle recently—he reached his hand around my waist—and without thinking, I looked him in the eye, moved toward him with my hand up, and said, “Sir, you’re going to need to step back, now.”

I think I’ve been watching too much Matthew McConaughey in True Detective. But hey, the man got out of my way, fast.

4. Everything—I mean everything—matters.

The friend’s kid brother you were nice to when no one else was; the parking place you got into a screaming match over; the bearable, or awful, breakup you had. What matters is not the parking place, but the way you react: the kindness you display, and the mercy and the poise to be your own best self when you can. Everything matters because it morphs into this giant thing called history, or experience, and eventually life itself. Even the murderous Hound in Game of Thrones tells Arya, “A man’s got to have a code.” Find yours and live by it.

5. Remember the gulping-air surprise of being alive.

Love, color, music, the beauty of the planet—all these things will serve you later, decades later, when you are walking down a street in St. Louis, or a beach on Cape Cod, and you hear a song that sends you spinning. You hear “Night-swimming” and want to weep because it takes you back to Point Reyes in California, or a sunset over Mount Bonnell in Texas. Your memory is the motherboard. Feed it the experience and it will always give it back.

P.S. You will note that I have left out much counsel about the bad times in life. That’s because they will always be there, the worry and sorrow and little hells that we can do nothing about. No prep book for those. Do the good stuff, see above, and it will cushion the rest.

Reader’s Guide: A Q&A between Gail Caldwell, author of NEW LIFE, NO INSTRUCTIONS, and her Editor

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Caldwell_New Life No InstructionsBeloved and Pulitzer prize-winning author Gail Caldwell sits down to chat with her longtime editor, Kate Medina, about her latest New Life, No Instructions.

Kate Medina: Authors sometimes say that while writing their books, they learn something new about themselves or their characters; since you are a “character” in your book, did you learn new things about yourself, or others, or about the portion of your life discussed in New Life, No Instructions?


Gail Caldwell: Oh God yes. I think most writers write to find out what they think, or who they are. A friend was reading the book in its last draft, and said she was struck by how hopeful I seemed. I think of myself as determined, rather than hopeful, but writing the book made me realize those traits are often pretty good substitutes for one another. I also realized, for the hundredth time, how cool my mom was.

KM: You wrote, “Most of all I told this story because I wanted to say something about hope and the absence of it, and how we keep going anyway.” This reflects something people often feel, but don’t know how to express. Would you say a little more about this? Was this your goal of writing the book from the very beginning, or did this emerge as the book came into being? 


GC: I had a vague notion of this idea in my mind from the start—particularly because I was so struck, in hindsight, by that image of the child (me, trying to walk after polio) trying to get up again and again. One of the earliest lines I wrote was about that: “We are engineered to rise up, in every developmental sense.” And I suppose on a larger scale, I think that life is so hard—often so silently, humdrum hard for so many people. And yet they move through the day with tremendous courage. Hard not to laud that.

KM: People love the title, which came from a line in the book about what happens after what seems like a miracle. Would you say more about what the title means to you?

GC: I wrote that line in the context of the people supposedly “cured” at religious shrines—the pilgrims to Lourdes and Fatima, for instance: Miracle, new life, no instructions. It’s such an odd notion, to think that with a blink (or a visitation, or a surgery) life changes and you’re good to go. I suspect most miracles have a small-print addendum, or even caveat: PS. You have to learn how to make this work; you’re on your own now; good luck!

KM: One of the strongest themes, and discoveries in the book, is the strength of friends, and how your neighbors and friends became your family. You said that your travel for Thanksgiving was “to walk across the driveway.” Could you say more about this? 


GC: Ha! I was going to Nancy’s, a heroine in the book, who lives one house over. They’ve done studies recently showing that people with balconies and front porches are happier and more connected to the community. I don’t know that geography is destiny, but in my lucky case it’s been a deciding influence. I’m a single-woman-with-dog, and my neighborhood has parks and friends and grocery stores within shouting distance. If I fall on the ice, someone would pick me up pretty fast.

KM: You write in the book about relationships and what it means to create an alternative family, how there are many different ways to live your life without a traditional relationship path. Would you say something about your life as an independent woman?

GC: Each of these questions keeps feeding me back into the same waters! I always half-meant to get married but in retrospect I’m not sure I’d have been very good at it. I came of age during the women’s movement—I was 22 when I stumbled upon my first rally for Women’s Liberation, as it was called then—and I was wearing eyeliner and an anti-war armband. If life is a kaleidoscope of images, that’s one of mine—the young woman finding a different (and to me, thrilling) path. Consciously or unconsciously, I spent the next few decades finding communities where “traditional” was not an important word in the lexicon.

KM: Your mother is such a wonderful presence in the book, and in your life. What one thing—if one can ever say one thing about one’s mother—would you say about yours?

GC: My mother was strong as hell and did not suffer fools. Eight years after her death, I am still figuring out how smart she was. I also think (see above) she was sort of proud of me for going it alone.

For more from Gail Caldwell be sure to visit her website and connect with her on Facebook.

Featured Excerpt: NEW LIFE, NO INSTRUCTIONS by Gail Caldwell

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Happy Friday! Today we’d like to feature The Pulitzer Prize winning and New York Times Bestselling author, Gail Caldwell. Her new memoir, New Life, No Instructions, goes on sale April 1st, but we have a sneak preview for you today.

Enjoy this excerpt from the opening pages of her book!

New Life, No Instructions by Gail Caldwell (an excerpt) by Random House Publishing Group

Stay connected with Gail on her Facebook page.

Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Let's Take the Long Way HomeThis summer, Reader’s Circle is proud to present in paperback one of the best memoirs we’ve read in years. A few months ago, as we started to think about publishing Gail Caldwell’s extraordinary memoir in paperback, we remembered all the many readers, bloggers, authors, and reviewers who loved it when it first appeared in hardcover, and we thought: why not capture some of them on film? The result is a moving testimony to the power of Let’s Take the Long Way Home. As Time magazine said when it named the book one of its top ten nonfiction titles of 2010, this is a memoir “meant to be savored and shared.” We hope you and your book clubs will read this and agree that it’s an experience best fulfilled by passing it on to the friends in your life who mean the most to you. And we hope you’ll share this video with them too!

Included in the video are Kelly Corrigan, bestselling author of The Middle Place; Carol Fitzgerald, president of The Book Report Network; Bethanne Patrick, editor of Shelf Awareness; Esther Bushell, founder of LiteraryMatters.com; and Jesse Kornbluth, editor of HeadButler.com.

“Stunning . . . gorgeous . . . A book of such crystalline truth that it makes the heart ache.”—The Boston Globe

Read an excerpt
Buy the paperback
Buy the eBook

Win two copies of Gail Caldwell’s Let’s Take the Long Way Home: one for you, one for a friend!

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Let's Take the Long Way Home

Caldwell_gail“A lovely gift to readers . . . You can shelve Let’s Take the Long Way Home,Gail Caldwell’s beautifully written book . . .  next to The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion’s searing memoir about losing her husband. . . . But that’s assuming it makes it to your shelf: This is a book you’ll want to share with your own ‘necessary pillars of life,’ as Caldwell refers to her nearest and dearest.” —The Washington Post (Best Nonfiction of 2010)

Watch Kelly Corrigan and others on why they love Let’s Take the Long Way Home:

Winners will be chosen randomly and notified on September 1st.

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