“I am walking along Muir Beach, twenty miles north of San Francisco, with my friend the poet Jane Hirshfield. It is a windy day, sunny and cold, the sea full of memory of a storm that blew through last night.
My friendship with Jane is two years and a few dozen beach walks, horseback rides, and mud baths old. The relationship is deeply successful, like, she would say, the relationship between these huge dark rocks and the silver waves that crash all around them. I bring Jane my wild tales of failed love and adventure, my passion and spontaneity, my questions about how to live my life. She meets these with hard-won wisdom as rich and as peaceful as the pear trees in her garden, a wisdom gained from years of sitting on a small pillow in a huge Buddhist monastery, a calm I can only covet while my life tosses itself from storm to storm.
When I moved to San Francisco, I was running, in the same moment both toward and away. Away from a life that had become stale and repetitive, away from a place where when I said ‘creative writing’ everyone thought I meant calligraphy, away from a desert landscape that I loved more deeply than any I had loved before. What I ran toward was less certain: a big city, a new love, an imagined community of artists, the Pacific Ocean, organic vegetables, and exotic food.
But the love went bad and the ocean was frigid, and in less than a year in the land of milk and honey I was stalked, sued, threatened, abandoned, and mugged, twice. For the first time in my life I was afraid to go home at night, and I found myself alone as I had never been, in the way we never are until we are alone in the midst of five million people. it was from that city-solitude I began the tough work of reinventing my life, and now each talk with Jane clears a little more fog away.
Today we are talking about redefining success. I am telling her about my first notion of success, which came from my parents and involved country clubs, clothing, and cars. As I became and adult I replaced that list with a list of my own, no less arbitrary: a Ph.D., a book of short stories, a place on a best-seller list, a film.
But now I am coming to the understanding that success has less to do with the accumulation of things and more to do with the accumulation of moments, and that creating a successful life might be as simple as determining which moments are the most valuable, and seeing how many of those I can string together in a line."
[Found on Jonathan Carroll’s blog]