Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I Believe You (Todd Snider)

Here is a link to The Learning Curve of Gratitude, Mary Chapin Carpenter's This I Believe essay for NPR's Weekend Edition, Sunday June 24, 2007 - I've also copied and pasted it below...
"I believe in what I learned at the grocery store.

Eight weeks ago, I was released from the hospital after suffering a pulmonary embolism. I had just finished a tour and a week after returning home, severe chest pain and terrible breathlessness landed me in the ER. A scan revealed blood clots in my lungs.

Everyone told me how lucky I was. A pulmonary embolism can take your life in an instant. I was familiar enough with the medical term, but not familiar with the pain, the fear and the depression that followed.

Everything I had been looking forward to came to a screeching halt. I had to cancel my upcoming tour. I had to let my musicians and crew members go. The record company, the booking agency: I felt that I had let everyone down.

But there was nothing to do but get out of the hospital, go home and get well.

I tried hard to see my unexpected time off as a gift, but I would open a novel and couldn't concentrate. I would turn on the radio, then shut if off. Familiar clouds gathered above my head, and I couldn't make them go away with a pill or a movie or a walk. This unexpected time was becoming a curse, filling me with anxiety, fear and self-loathing — all of the ingredients of the darkness that is depression.

Sometimes, it's the smile of a stranger that helps. Sometimes it's a phone call from a long absent friend, checking on you. I found my lifeline at the grocery store.

One morning, the young man who rang up my groceries and asked me if I wanted paper or plastic also told me to enjoy the rest of my day. I looked at him and I knew he meant it. It stopped me in my tracks. I went out and I sat in my car and cried.

What I want more than ever is to appreciate that I have this day, and tomorrow and hopefully days beyond that. I am experiencing the learning curve of gratitude.

I don't want to say "have a nice day" like a robot. I don't want to get mad at the elderly driver in front of me. I don't want to go crazy when my Internet access is messed up. I don't want to be jealous of someone else's success. You could say that this litany of sins indicates that I don't want to be human. The learning curve of gratitude, however, is showing me exactly how human I am.

I don't know if my doctors will ever be able to give me the precise reason why I had a life-threatening illness. I do know that the young man in the grocery store reminded me that every day is all there is, and that is my belief.

Tonight I will cook dinner, tell my husband how much I love him, curl up with the dogs, watch the sun go down over the mountains and climb into bed. I will think about how uncomplicated it all is. I will wonder at how it took me my entire life to appreciate just one day."

SONG: I Believe You by Todd Snider

BOOK: This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman

POEM: Sunsets by Alan Brownjohn

Suddenly caught by how it seems
Possible and quite credible that,
In this last windless minute at

Sunset, that downspread of fields I watch
(Gazing past, from the vantage hill,
Just visible cows to the town) will

Have darkened a little – even though
You can’t measure this and it may be
Your eyes don’t tell it truthfully –

I sense a comparison with
Some points in the progress of love:
Times when each element has to move

At just the stage when you would want
It at rest – when, dispassionate-
ly, you would want to define and state

To yourself just where you stand. It may
Be a simple error to believe
That love runs on like that, you can deceive

Yourself quite easily. But
So often love seems to be set
On rushing you past anywhere you get

A chance to arrest it, and talk.
And in this, as with nightfall, you sense
That you cannot make much pretence

Of defying any darkness.
It leaves you no other choice.
It happens in front of your eyes.

QUOTE: "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense." ~ Buddha


  1. I love that Mary Chapin Carpenter essay. It brought tears to my eyes when she suddenly realized that the young man at the grocery store really meant for her to enjoy her day.

    You have a really inspiring blog. I linked over from Rapunzel's blog this morning. I'm glad I did!

  2. Hey, A ~

    Thanks so much for your kind words - I am very lucky to have Rapunzel for a friend, and she is dear to link to my little-over-a-month-old musings... :-)

    Speaking of inspiring, if you're not already familiar with Mary Chapin Carpenter's music, I highly recommend you invest - she, as well as her new CD The Calling, is amazing!

  3. Susan, I've seen her in concert a few years ago (Steve Earl opened for her.) She is really amazing! I haven't listened to the new CD though, so thanks for the review! :)