Of Black Coffee, Morning Clouds, and Self-Expression

EARLY THE OTHER MORNING about 6:00 a.m. the clouds floating over our house were so pretty that I decided to sit on the deck, drink my mug of black coffee, and photograph the clouds as they drifted overhead.

AS I WATCHED CLOUDS morph into one shape after another, I remembered a recent interview I’d heard with Carly Simon.  She was on Here’s The Thing podcast with Alec Baldwin.  [Interview here.]

WHENEVER I THINK OF Carly Simon I think of the lyrics to You’re So Vain, specifically: “I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee, Clouds in my coffee.”  It seemed like the perfect thought for where I was sitting, what I was drinking while musing on clouds.

I HAD ENJOYED LISTENING to the podcast as Carly explained her life, her music, her memoir. Her conclusions.  My impression was that she sees her past clearly, with a wit and wisdom that made me appreciate her struggles. And her triumphs.

AS I WATCHED THE CLOUDS, reflecting on what Carly Simon had said, I began to wonder about my own abilities to understand and describe myself to others.  Would I ever be able to explain my past, either in verbal or written form, as eloquently and truthfully as she had explained hers?

NOT THAT I HAVE an overwhelming desire to tell all to everyone, but should I feel the need to do so for some reason, would I be able to do it?  Would you?

Published by

Ally Bean

Observant. Creative. Humorous. Adaptable. Happy enough. Looking for the crumb of truth in the cookie of life.

72 thoughts on “Of Black Coffee, Morning Clouds, and Self-Expression”

  1. I do not have the eloquent words or wittiness that you have that would tell my life story. I’ve kept a journal since the fifth grade, so that will have to suffice. But I told my kids they are not allowed to read any of them until I’m gone! I love the pictures you took. Clouds are so difficult to paint. They are the one thing I’ve had trouble painting even to this day.

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    1. Beth, I think that writing about yourself is difficult, if for no other reason than you’ll end up offending someone along the way. So the question becomes: do you care more about your truth or do you care more about avoiding hurt feelings?

      I didn’t know clouds were difficult to paint. If you can’t paint them, then no one can.

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    1. Kate, I decided to overlook how boring my life might seem to others when I asked this question. It’s a given that my memoir would be a snoozer… but could I write it? That’s what I don’t know.

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      1. It’s not as much of a snoozer as you think. Most people lead fairly dull lives but project something different. I have a friend who had what looked like to the world as a fabulous job. She traveled extensively to nice places. One day she dumped on how little time she gets to spend seeing anything and how annoying it is to spend your life in airports or meetings. Travel guaranteed no home life to speak of. Yet if you met her and listened to her, you’d think she was the most fascinating person in the world.

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        1. Interesting observation. I’d assume she had a dynamic life going on, too. But if she doesn’t perceive her life as exciting, then it’s not. It’s all in perspective, I’m thinking.

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    1. philmouse, I agree that how you share your life is as varied as the people who share. I found that listening to Carly Simon talk about herself was eye-opening and encouraging. Good things, both.

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  2. My blog started as a quasi-journal for my children. I spent a few years reviewing and revealing snippets of my life prior to them. The girls were interested to a degree, my son not so much. Now, I just whine and bitch a lot about life mid-divorce, when I write at all that is. I know bloggers who struggle with the personal truth versus shielding others issue that you mention. I go back and forth myself, but I’m much more open than I used to be. Somehow the honesty feels false at times though, because it is my perspective alone. It’s my truth and my memory, but at the same time that leaves out half of the whole picture no matter how honest I am… I suppose that is the nature of speaking about or writing biographically. Readers must choose to embrace the speakers truth as valid and honest or seek out alternatives if they doubt or wonder.
    Well, that got long-winded fast– 😉

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    1. Deb, interesting evolution that you’ve gone through while keeping a blog. I can understand how it happened, and have to wonder if it might not be exactly what you need to do to move forward with your life.

      I’m truthful here in my blog, but I don’t tell all and I am cognizant of the potential for hurting people with whatever I say here.

      I agree that no matter how honest you are, you are only telling one side of every situation. And in a memoir it would seem to me that you are locking into that one interpretation. At least in blogging, we’re more fluid and constantly adapting our life stories to the situations at hand.

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  3. I love Carly Simon’s music. And I am fascinated by her life story, one that I’ve read/heard about in pieces here and there, mostly from her in interviews. She’s unflinchingly honest, I think.

    As to your question, I’ve kept my blog for almost 12 years now. I originally started it in order to Practice What I Preached to my creative writing students, which was that Writers Write. And hey, they do!

    I also like to quote the great documentary filmmaker Ken Burns who said, “There are no ordinary lives.” I think we all have a great life story in us to tell. And I think we all, in our own way, really could tell it. We simply have to find the right medium. Is mine Writing? Yes, I think so.

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    1. nance, “unflinchingly honest” describes Carly perfectly. Her music and her point of view fascinate me.

      Your reason for starting your blog is a good one, and I think over the years you’ve shown the world that you can write! I like the Ken Burns quote and wish that more people understood that. Writing works for you, and for me, but you’re so right: you have to find the right medium to express yourself.

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    1. Lynn, I had a good time photographing the clouds as they floated by. I was amazed by how big they were. The podcast interview is a good one. Follow the link, and see what you think! 😉

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    1. Mary Lou, the interview held my attention for the reasons you said. I’ll warn you though, after you listen to the podcast you’ll never think of James Taylor the same way again. Not so much of a fan now…

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  4. Clouds are great shape-shifters.
    So are celebrities.

    Even when they are telling the truth, it’s impossible for them to provide a complete and accurate recap of the lives they have lived. Through no fault of their own. Their histories (and ours) are akin to “clouds in coffee” ~ what we see depends on our perspective.

    “It’s clouds’ illusions I recall. I really don’t know clouds, at all.” ~ Joni Mitchell

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    1. nancy, I agree that there’s always some spin to what anyone says about themselves. I think that’s why I got to reflecting on whether I could ever write my life story, knowing that it’s a matter of perspective and your interpretation of what really happened. Who knows, huh?

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      1. Yup. No two people see exactly the same scene (even when viewing it side by side) since everything is processed through internal filters.

        Add to that our selective memories . . .
        And the intentional (and unintentional) spin spun by Ego . . .

        That said, we can still share glimpses and glimmers of the past ~ with a few amusing anecdotes tossed into the mix. 😀

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              1. nancy, THANK YOU! This looks perfect. It’ll be fun & useful to read about how to write a book using my life experiences as a resource. What a cool find you have here. Muchas gracias.

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  5. I was talking to my older sister the other day and mentioned that I had written on my blog about a restaurant that we had been stopping at for at least 40 years every time we went to Reno. My aunt first took me when I was 21 but the restaurant itself had been there for much longer. At any rate, suddenly two years ago the restaurant closed and was replaced with an Awful Annie’s. It is funny because my aunt’s name was Annie. My sister looked right at me and said, “Who would want to read about that?” Cut me to the quick. I said, “I have some followers!” but it made me stop and think…who does want to read my silly little posts? I’ll have to listen to Carly. Thanks for sharing, Ally. The clouds are marvelous.

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    1. Janet, I’ve had people say to me similar things to what your sister said to you. I’ve been asked if I was still writing about “mundane” things. At first I was pissed, but then I realized that: 1) yes I am, with a bit panache; 2) mundane things are what make up everyone’s life so why not write about them; & 3) someone will always care about what you have to say here in the blogosphere.

      [I also have come to wonder if people who make snide remarks about blogging are jealous of those of us who make a go of it.]

      Anyhoo, sorry your “traditional” restaurant has closed, things like that make me feel old. And if you listen to what Carly has to say, let me know what you think.

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  6. As a huge Carly Simon fan, I often think the same lyrics 🙂
    I do believe I would. But I’ll still wait for a few people to pass on before I write it, if it’s all the same to you.
    😉

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    1. joey, I get what you’re saying. Almost all my relatives are gone, so whatever I’d have to say about them wouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. But as for peers + in-laws, that’s a different situation. Very different.

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  7. Reading scr4pl80’s words, “who does want to ready by silly little posts?” I wonder, but do we write our posts for others’ enjoyment, or do we write primarily for ourselves? I think I write primarily for myself – and when the words aren’t buzzing around in my head, no blog posts appear.

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    1. Carol, that’s an excellent point that I hadn’t thought of. Who do we write a blog for? Ourselves &/or other people? I started for myself, as a challenge to see if I could do it. But now I write more for other people than for me, although I remain true to my essence. And am most kind with myself if no words come a’buzzing! [So I’m back to writing for me, I guess.] Could I get back to you with a definitive answer when I find one? 😉

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  8. I have been on a memoir-reading kick lately and have read a bit about what goes into writing one. I don’t think I have enough good stories to fill more than a few chapters, but I love to read about the lives of others (who are way more interesting than me). That’s not to say that I don’t love my life. I just like to live a bit more quietly and without a lot of drama. Life is good!

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    1. Janis, I’ve known two women who tried to write their memoirs. Both were literate, well-educated women who had a way with words… and neither one could come up with enough stories to fill a book. I consider them a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of memoir writing.

      Like you, I prefer my current low-key drama-free existence, and I don’t know if I want to revisit the earlier times in my life when I lived in chaos and fear. Seems like that’d be a big part of writing your autobiography, the willingness to go through the awful again.

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  9. My life is so uninteresting and normal compared to others. I doubt I’d ever have a chance to or want to write about my life in a consolidated fashion like a book. My blogging is done as it brings a certain order to my life personally. 1 follower or 1,000 followers, I’d still write the way I do and about the things I do regardless.

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    1. Andrew, I’m the same way about keeping this blog. It brings a rhythm to my life and it keeps my brain clicking as I figure out how to express myself. I only write about what I want to share here, so like you regardless of the number of followers I’d be pounding out the same flapdoodle and twaddle that I always have.

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    1. sheila, thanks for your support. I’ve never wanted to write a memoir, but I got thinking about the realities that go into revealing so much of yourself to the world via one. The clouds floated by and my mind wandered down a different path, I guess.

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  10. Should you feel the need, I am fairly certain you will find the way to write it. If the words want out, there’s not much stopping them. Now, PUBLISHING the words is another matter entirely!

    I do want to comment on the synchronicity of you, your coffee, and your clouds encountering the lyrics of Ms. Simon’s song, You’re So Vain. I love when that happens – those magical seeming intersections between the different levels of reality. Sometimes I look for meaning when that happens. That can be fun. Or not.

    One thing that is fun: I did enjoy this post!

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    1. Maggie, I think that you’re right in that I could write one, but I’d have trouble finding a publisher for it. Two sides of the same coin.

      I love synchronicity, too. I didn’t go outside to think about Carly Simon’s interview, but it floated into my mind as the clouds floated by. Like you said it was rather magical– and so easy in the quiet early hours.

      I’m happy to know you enjoyed this post. I don’t write introspective thoughts like this much anymore. Kind of got away from it somewhere along the way. For some reason.

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  11. Someone once wrote, “Memoirs are the backstairs of history.” I think that true whether we are talking about world history or family history. I wish my mother had written the story of her life because I still have questions that only she could answer. As for myself, I have written about my life in my blog as a way to defang certain memories from my past. I’ve also written about things that make me think,”Isn’t it amazing that this is my life.”

    Would I like to write my memoirs? Yes. Could I write it as eloquently as Carly Simon? I don’t know. Could I write it as truthfully? God, I hope so.

    PS- Hi, Alley.

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    1. Hi there, la p! Fun to hear from you.

      I like the quote you shared. It’s true– and adds a certain perspective to what a memoir is all about. I used to read them often because I enjoyed learning about history from a real person.

      My mother left me with some unanswered questions, too. So did my dad for that matter. I cannot imagine either of them writing a memoir though. Different times, different ideas about what was appropriate to share.

      So, are you going to write your memoir? I think that you write well and have some interesting things in your past. For what it’s worth, I’d read it.

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  12. Hi, Ally – From what I have read on your blog so far, I have absolutely NO DOUBT that you would be able to describe your past both eloquently and truthfully. And somehow….I doubt that it would be a ‘snoozer’!!

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    1. Thanks, Donna. I’ve never wanted to write a memoir, but the other morning thinking on things I wondered if I could. Oddly I’d never thought about the difference between desire and ability before in the context of writing. Blame my newfound conundrum on the clouds, I guess.

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  13. I think you’ve managed to plant an earworm and I’ll be humming ‘You’re So Vain” for a while. Glad I’m a Carly Simon fan 🙂

    I think that famous people get asked so often about their past, their inspirations, their ups-and-downs, that they’ve fine-tuned the narrative. Some of course do it better than others … highlight what they want, soft-step what they don’t, some with profound honesty, others with creative license.

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    1. Joanne, that’s an excellent point. They do get the opportunity to create and repeat the narrative that they want out there. That explains why when interviewed Carly Simon, and other celebrities that I read/see/hear, seem so with it.

      I never thought of that reality and it makes me feel better about how inarticulate I’d be if someone started asking me about my past. Apparently I just need to dream it up, then practice telling it! 🙂

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        1. You are a wise woman to look into the future and plan ahead. I shall follow your lead, waiting for that amazing day when the world comes knocking at my door, wanting to know how to be as successful as me!

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  14. I hope to listen to Carly Simon’s interview at some stage thanks for the link. Cloud watching is one of my favourite pastimes-especially at sunset when the colours are vivid. Thanks AB great post 😀

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  15. I don’t think I could…there’s too much and where would I start? I think I would just share a bit and see where it led. Every convo leads somewhere, often not where we intend!!

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    1. Margaret, I’m not sure if I could write my memoir, either. I can write, but do I want to share my story? That’s the question for me. Plus, like you said, where do you start? It’s not like a linear approach would make much sense… so where to start, where would it go then?

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