Josna Rege

Reflections on Three Years of TMA

In Notes on February 23, 2013 at 5:33 pm

It was on such a grey February day back in 2010 that Nikhil first got me started on Tell Me Another, and ever since, I’ve been on an adventure that has connected the disparate, widely scattered people and places in my life, past and present, re-connected me with long-lost family and friends, sparked unexpected global conversations, and been a source of deep pleasure and solace. Now that it’s coming up on the three-year anniversary of this blog, I’m wondering whether I ought to continue in more-or-less the same vein or whether, after 175 stories, it’s time for a change. But if so, to what? Publishing a selection of the best of Tell Me Another, beginning a novel, working more concertedly on my research and scholarly writing, taking up the study of Russian or the Cape Breton fiddle, or simply trying to get my messy life in order? Is TMA a net loss or a net gain of energy, a means to an end or an end in itself?

Looking back at the last few months of entries, I’m wondering whether they’re shifting from stories to reflections, from sharply observed, lightly humorous sketches to nostalgia-tinged, sentimental, even rather maudlin pieces. Perhaps they are no longer evocations of a particular time and place or affirmations of a particular sensibility, but more frequently, escapes into a past that is simply over and done with. What about Ram Dass’ maxim, Be Here Now? Something tells me it’s not yet time to withdraw from the world of action and write my memoirs; there’s still too much work to be done. Am I becoming one of the innumerable victims of that emergent pathology, Internet Use Disorder?

from The New Yorker Cartoons

from The New Yorker Cartoons

Just thinking out loud. For those of you who are my small group of loyal readers,  I’d welcome your honest thoughts, and I’m not fishing for compliments.  For those who have just started reading and following TMA, I’d be curious as to which types of stories you are most enjoying. This has been a very personal project, with the only common thread in the widely varying stories being my life; and yet I find that I do want—and have even come to crave—feedback. Is this, too, a pathology, or simply a natural human impulse?

Spring is not quite here, although the sap buckets are out on the old maples around town. Sitting here in limbo at the dining-room table with a snowstorm of unknown intensity about to begin, simultaneously feeling the stirrings of the future, the persistence of the past, and the demands of the present. Shall I sit here a little longer and write another story for Tell Me Another, or shall I turn my attention to something new that is waiting to be born?

  1. ah, dearest, just keep ON writing. don’t psychologize, as we germans say. bine

  2. Just a suggestion, why not write your memoirs now, your future ones, and then thirty years from now all you will have to do is a little rewriting! 🙂

    • I like that–writing my future now, especially since I may not remember any of it in thirty years anyway! Thanks very much for your comment.

  3. I agree with Sabine…I always love reading your posts. Your writing is clear and evocative and I always take something away that resonates. Although I have been too busy lately to even read much less comment, I take comfort in knowing that you’re out there musing on life and connecting us all through your writing. Ultimately, I hope you will continue to write if it gives you the satisfaction and pleasure of creation.

    • Thank you, Norah. You remind me that creation is creation, whatever form it may take, and if it brings you joy and satisfaction, it’s a good bet that it’s what you should be doing. x J

  4. JoJo, I couldn’t manage to comment on-line, but I love and adore your TMAs, and hope you keep writing them. I envy how much you remember of your past, and also what a wonderful past, and wonderful parents, you had/have. Also, your incredible ability to capture it all in such short paragraphs. These are some of the loveliest things I have ever read. Love, s

    • Sally–you have successfully commented online! But even when you don’t it is lovely to know that you are reading and responding. I think Norah and you were the first and second people ever to post a comment on TMA, so in a very real sense I write to you. Thank you for your loving comment and for pointing out that I owe everything to my parents, whom you have long loved and appreciated. x J

  5. Josna, I’m new to your blog, as you know. I’ve found it to be such a breath of fresh air. Your insights in to life, your intellect and heart is something I deeply appreciate. You sound a bit down, but I want to say that you have a real gift of communicating and I for one hope that you keep going with TMA

    • Thanks very much for your warm, encouraging comment, Don. I was indeed feeling a bit down when I wrote that note (probably ought to have waited until the mood passed and revised before posting), but it is delightful to hear back from someone like you thousands of miles away, whom I would never have “met” except through this new form of writing. I’m enjoying Candid Impressions very much, and am particularly inspired by the way you combine your original sketches and short companion pieces.

  6. I feel like you have written, tenderly and beautifully, a memoir, a whole piece, one that people would read and re-read for years to come. In the meantime, I can’t imagine not having your stories in my mailbox. They have meant so much to me. Beautiful, moving, funny, great.

    • Ann, thank you for seeing these scattered pieces as a whole memoir. Love to be able to share them with you as you have shared so many important times with me. It means so much to have dear friends bearing witness to one’s life. Hugs, J

  7. Josna,

    Clearly your creative gifts, captured so beautifully in TMA, have enriched many lives, including mine. And whatever you make happen next, please don’t leave them behind. Still, in what you’ve written I sense you have bigger questions about your own future, or, at the very least, that you are unsettled, on the cusp of some kind of transition. Sit with it. Open to it, and to the discomfort of not knowing what’s going to happen next. Who knows what seeds of change may be sprouting!

    • Thank you, Karen, for your vote of confidence. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in some kind of transition! Fretting over it is never going to help, neither is looking for a quick fix. Thank you for your yoga-teacherly advice to “sit with it” and your reminder that it may just be growing pains, which are not just restricted to adolescents.

  8. Dearest of Jojos,
    Everyone seems to agree – you should just keep writing. So what if it changes? It is like a river flowing out of you and we all have little houseboats on it and enjoy and take from it what we need or like. Your talent for turns of phrase and for memories are valuable to all of us. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself and your past. The future will emerge as it is meant to do. Worry not.

    • Dear Marianne, I love the picture you have painted! Can I come by your houseboat for tea? I take deeply to heart your “Worry not.” xxx J

  9. First, congratulations on three years! You’ve posted nearly 60 pieces a year, which is amazing, because they’re not just post-for-the-sake-of-posting, but thoughtful, evocative, funny, interesting observations and reminiscences on your life. If you feel the well is running low and need a bit of a break, take it. If you want to try different types of posts, I have a feeling you have plenty of loyal readers who will be interested to see what you do. If you were just in a low mood, thanks for sharing it. A lot of what you write is about process, so having a look into your writer’s process reminds me that this actually is work, not just a fountain that spouts out wonderful prose.

    Please don’t try Russian. If you do well at it, you’ll blow my excuse that I did terribly because I was in my 40s when I took the class and just could not get it. After a year and a half, I still had to mentally go to the back of the book and use the charts to figure out which case endings to use. I suppose it was good, as I learned what it felt like to be the bottom of the class! However, I’m contemplating learning Italian. Want to duo-learn?

    • Thank you, dear Sarah. You have been one of TMA‘s most loyal readers and regular comment-posters from the beginning. I’ve so enjoyed your thoughtful responses, but equally, your own stories about your amazing (and amazingly parallel) life and the lives of generations of your family. It is true that writing these stories has taken a fair amount of time these past three year, but I have loved every minute of that time, so it hasn’t felt like work in the least. (Now the trick would be to find a way to feel like that about the work I have to do.)
      I’m not sure about Russian. It is Andrew’s family’s language and a good friend of mine is a retired Russian teacher. Furthermore it is not a language I have to learn–nothing to do with my research or my immediate family. I thought I might enjoy the experience, despite the supposed difficulty. But then, what about Marathi, or Urdu, or Spanish, all languages much closer to home? Italian is v. tempting, especially with you, but I think it’s even farther afield for me. (If you’re interested, though, my friend Ruth is in an Italian conversation group that meets once a week, and I think you’d like her very much.) x J

  10. Well, Marathi and Urdu both sound intriguing, really! As does Ruth’s Italian conversation group, but since I haven’t even started yet, I’m pretty far from that. I find I can read a bit, just by figuring out the Latin roots, but I know it’s a lot more involved than that.

    • My friend Margaret’s father learned Hungarian after his retirement, and I don’t think he had any prior knowledge of the language, so that gives me some hope! The more I think of it, though, I feel I ought to try to get better at something I already know a little rather than picking up a smattering of something new which I’m unlikely to use much. There must be a beginning Italian class or even an informal self-study group somewhere in the Valley. x J

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