Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Need a funnybone boost that actually might change your life? The divine Mary Laura Philpott talks about why we're all a little out of sync, why being happy all the time is not the answer, how midlife crisis can strike anytime, and more in her wise and hilarious essay collection with the great title, I MISS YOU WHEN I BLINK

Mary Laura Philpott is totally cool. I mean, really cool. She's so enthusiastic about books, so warm and funny, you really want her to be your best friend. And her book, I Miss You When I Blink is phenomenal, the kind of book you want to give to all your friends--and your enemies, too, because it will surely make them better people. And isn't the cover the most wonderful cover you've ever seen?

But I'm not the only one raving about this book. I Miss You When I Blink was and is:
*A Most Anticipated Book of 2019 by BuzzFeed, The Millions, Bustle, HelloGiggles, and Lit Hub
*A Best New Book of Spring 2019 according to Esquire, Southern Living, and Chicago Review of Books. * *And #1 on the IndieNext List by booksellers across the country.

Mary Laura Philpott is also the author and illustrator of a little humor book called Penguins with People Problems; a writer whose work appears in publications including The New York Times, The Paris Review, The Washington Post, O The Oprah Magazine, and others; the founding editor of MUSING, the digital magazine published by Parnassus Books; and an Emmy-award winning co-host of A Word on Words, a literary interview show on Nashville Public Television. And you really want to follow her on instagram, too. 

I Miss You When I Blink has been called a pep talk from a beloved sister (which I loved). Who gives YOU the pep talks you need, besides yourself?

Pep talks are everywhere, if you look for them — especially in nature. Plants and animals are all about persistence and resilience. There’s a reason they make motivational posters with pictures of flowers growing out of cracks in sidewalks and caterpillars turning into butterflies. You want a pep talk? Go outside.

But also: I’m not one bit ashamed to text someone and say, “Help, I need a pep talk.” Luckily, I have friends who are great pep-talkers.

I loved these lines: “Maybe we all walk around assuming everyone is interpreting the world the same way we are, and being surprised when they aren’t, and that’s the loneliness and confusion of the human experience in a nutshell…” Can you talk a bit about this please?

Sure! That’s from the “Lobsterman” essay, in which I give repeated examples of getting things wrong — all the times when everyone around me in school understood the instructions, and I veered off and did some weird other thing. That quote also speaks to an idea that comes up again and again in the book, which is this: So often, we go around thinking, “No one understands me,” or “I don’t understand that person,” when really, it’s just that we’re all a little out of sync with one another. We go through different phases and experiences at different times in life, and my frame of reference may not be the same as yours in a particular moment. It can be so isolating — and unnecessarily so.

Paradoxically, both these things are true: We can never understand anyone else, because everyone is different. And we can always understand each other, because we’re all at least a little bit the same.

I also loved that you made note of the fact that depression and midlife crisis can hit at any time, and that we all waste a whole lot of time trying to craft that perfect existence. I also feel that social media doesn’t help, because everyone seems happy, celebrating, gorgeous and etc. Plus, what really is the perfect existence—and does that perfection change through time? Do you think that maybe the goal of happy, happy, all the time, should be replaced with content sometimes?

Oh, yeah. If you’re aiming for “happy all the time,” you’re doomed never to reach your goal. For me, the shift that had to happen — and that still has to happen periodically,  because I’m always having to remind myself — is that I can hold room for multiple feelings and states at once. Somehow it became hard-wired into my brain over time that I couldn’t let myself be happy until I had every single thing in my life exactly right (kind of like you can’t have dessert until you eat dinner or you can’t play outside until your room is clean).

If you operate according to that rule in the real world where it’s impossible to get every single thing done and correct, then you never let yourself be happy. I had to learn how to say, “Some things in my life are going great right now, and others are in-progress, and a few others are a bit of a mess, and that’s a balance I can live with.”

Tell me about your writing process. Did you have a-ha moments while writing these essays? Do you know what you are going to say or does it seem like a gift from those pesky muses?

I don’t know what I’m writing until I’ve written it. That’s not to say I sit down in front of a blank screen and place my fingers over the keyboard and wait to be surprised by witchy magic (I wish). But what typically happens is that I intend to write one thing, and in the process of exploring that topic, I find my way to something else. Sometimes I change my own mind about something by writing about it. That’s what happened in “Wonder Woman,” an essay toward the beginning of I Miss You When I Blink. I started out thinking I would write about how this one formative experience with my mother made me the perfectionist that I am, but as I wrote, I found myself asking and answering questions that led me to a different conclusion.

What’s obsessing you now and why?

I’m on book tour, so at the moment I’m obsessed with packing and schedules. Efficiency! I crave it. Some people have dreams of making a billion dollars or having their face on the cover of a magazine… My greatest career dream is just to reach the point where someone actually goes along with me on book tour, so I get where I’m going without worrying.

What question didn’t I ask that I should have?

I would never tell you what you should do, Caroline! You’re just right. But if you want to know my favorite thing to make for brunch… I’ll tell you: a dutch baby. It’s just a giant pancake. How can it go wrong??

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