Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Quiet Girl

Well - I have been on vacation, in Boston, and it was a fabulous trip. But this blog isn't about Boston, it is about the new book I bought for my flight home. It is called The Quiet Girl, by Peter Hoeg. I know a lot of people who are fans of American Lit, and I tend to lean towards British counterparts, so sometimes it is refreshing to try something new.

As with life, as with literature.

This book is distinctly Russian and I love it. I am about halfway through and have already demolished the book with a magnitude of folded pages and underlined phrases... I own it, what do you want?

First things first, I like the title. It always says so much about a book. Mainly I sympathize because I used to be the quiet girl. A lot of people scoff at this, but seriously! My confidence came to me after years and years of quiet servitude to society. Now you can't shut me and my opinions up, and I must admit I like it that way.

One side note. This book is Russian. Dark. Think Dostoevsky, only slightly less suicidal.

Alright, let's get to the meaty excerpts and my commentary:

"As a rule there's a part of oneself that knows. And a larger part that doesn't want to know."
Usually, I ignore the part that knows. Then my mother reminds me and I have to pay attention. The large part of ourselves wants to be happy and carefree, much of the time this is only possible when you ignore the nagging truth in the back of your head. Although I will say that if you listen to the small part there would be a lot less delusion in this world. I am on the fence as to whether that is a positive thing.

"April light was unlike any other. It had a charming, optimistic unreliability, like an overbid hand in poker. It gave a promise of spring it wasn't sure it could keep."
Promises. Lots of times, people throw out promises like they are compliments, because they sound nice. Also because they want to fulfill them, even when they know they can't. This is dangerous. When you throw a promise out it leads to expectations, inevitably leading to disappointment.

"We'll be back tomorrow... We can hope so, but can we plan on it?"
You really can't plan on it, so live with no regrets. Today is the only thing you truly have the slightest chance of influencing. Tomorrow, next week, next year? Forget about it.

"Happiness doesn't consist so much of what one has scraped together and gotten off the ground, but of what one has been able to let go of."
Man have I had to learn this the hard way, in love and life.

I used to think, in love, that if you let go of the past you could be happy with that person who had previously ruined your life so successfully. But really? It is about letting go so that you can be emotionally available for the next person, so you don't walk around with a bitter chip on your shoulder. Because no one wants the mean, broken girl.

In life, you have to let go of what you can't change. What benefit is it if you pull yourself up and create a life, but are still so wrapped up in the past you can't appreciate it?

"He hadn't had a word for it, but he had known, they both had known, that they were in the path of a storm it would be hard to ride out."
This is a sad moment in a relationship, any relationship. When you realize everything you had is in jeopardy of being lost because you or the relationship isn't strong enough, when it was all you thought you had. After you lose it, the pain in your heart never goes away. The what if we had been stronger fades though, because you realize - after as much time as is necessary - it just wasn't meant to be. Is someone at fault? Possibly, but that is really isn't the point.

"You have very little talent when it comes to being satisfied in everyday life. But your longing. Sometimes I envy you that."
My mom will tell me I am always looking for the next "thing." Everyday life is very difficult for me to appreciate. My mantra of living in the now is helping, but I still get excited and want to jump 50 steps ahead. Most times, people don't want to jump that far with you. I will say, though, I would rather perpetually strive to improve myself as opposed to complacently stagnating. Although can I have both? Striving and yet still being satisfied? But if you are satisfied, then where does the motivation come from? So many questions.

Also, I think this longing in myself forces me to put myself out there in all aspects of life. Two of my friends have recognized this lately and given me meaningful commentary which supports and validates some of my harder decisions, and brings a loving tear to my eye:

M: Heart on sleeve is so hard, C, but I'm proud of you. Because you wear it beautifully.
P: You earned it, Claire and I'm so proud of you taking charge of your life and not settling.

"Touching doesn't help; we never reach each other anyway."
This really goes back to the whole letting go theme. Sometimes we make mistakes and take steps backwards - why? - because it is comfortable. We know what to expect, even the problems. But then it is the same problems, like the two parties are on completely different wavelengths. No one wants to keep banging their heads on the wall when there isn't symbiosis, even where there once was.

"You think people will always be abandoned."
If I am being harshly truthful with myself, I live my life by this saying. No one can let you down if you don't expect anything of them. You like someone? Well that's nice. You better push them away before they let you down. What kind of a life is that? I spoke to Kimberly Jo the other day and, per usual, she hit me with a truth about myself. She said, "Claire, you put up walls. You know you do."

Here is my thing: Letting other people in? Giving up some control over yourself? Scary. I can't even type giving up control, I can only resign myself to 'some' control. I am working on it.

"Do we ever hear anything other than our own monstrous ego and the immense filter of our personality?"
Some people really do, I think. I applaud them. Me? Everything is filtered through my preconceptions and philosophies. This isn't always a bad thing. For example, I only ever ask people questions which I would be comfy answering myself, out of courtesy. Does this limit my questions? Yes... On the other hand, many times you should really listen to people, because they only ask the questions that they are dying to answer.

Tricky, people are tricky. They tell you a lot about themselves if you are willing to listen.

"There is no past, only the present."
Word. Make the most of it.

P.S. Date night : )


  1. I am so glad you're back.

  2. Perhaps this Brit Lit girl needs to check out this discovery of yours. I'm intrigued and will be visiting after I absorb everything you wrote. Deep thoughts for a snowy Wednesday.