It’s the end of the year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I am an American with two incredible children (no really, people who hate children love my children, that’s how fucking cool they are), I live in this house at the edge of a campground that fluctuates in my psyche between living in an Ewok village, a Hansel & Gretel cottage, and the Blair Witch project. Hmm.
Back in graduate school sixteen years ago, a classmate of mine and I were going through break ups at the same time. We marveled at just how many things were going on in our lives yet here we were MFA’ing in a writing program and we got….nothing. Big block of brickwall writer stopping nothing. The situation was made worse as our relationships were brand new when school started and all kinds of bitter over when we were graduating that December.
The more that’s there the less that makes it to pen or keyboard. That’s what I’m fighting.
A friend of mine scared the hell out of my young artistic existence when he matter of factly said to me, “Um, you know, you’re only as good as your last work.” Well, shit, Ross. Thanks.
It’s with those two things in mind that I write this year’s Christmas post. It’s that doubt. It’s also that black rain cloud of sadness. Maybe it’s the season. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s the control freak in me being vanquished. I have no power here, be gone. Do you want the facts or the interpretation? I almost lost my mother this year in a freak accident. I was apparently ill for at least four months. I don’t like even trying things if I’m not going to be the best at it–an unfortunate character trait of DNA also in my daughter–it kills me to know that like a disease, I’ve given her the sadness I never wanted to pass on. My son became a tween overnight and started 7th grade a year early and he leaves the house each morning that much more independent. He gives me the cat to cuddle.
And I so want to think about things like being thankful and grateful and post some great platitude with a kitten in the background or a buddha, straight from a bad facebook meme, but I’m not that kind of person. I want to follow, really follow a guru, a diet, a god, a way. Something. I am grateful. I am thankful. But I also feel that particular feeling of not feeling at all.
Living. Truly living. Gets harder not easier. I am both simpler than I used to be in my taste and likes and what makes me smile and more complicated in my actions and my love. I am still relatively calm and carefree about some things and down right neurotic about other things. I at once love and embrace the mountains still and every day I miss making a life more involved with the world rather than hiding out up in a forest. What to do?
I think sometimes it’s best to write in Pillow Book form–Sei Shonogun was on to something. Long lists of beautiful things rendered more visceral by simple phrases:
Moss on the trees after it rains.
A son who is kind, gentle, witty and so very talented.
A daughter who is fierce and feels far too much about everything.
A band of musicians encouraging and fun.
An office mate par excellence.
A cousin like a long lost sister.
The anticipation of a new tattoo.
This amazon army of mostly women writers I’m part of.
A place for you to rest in my compartmentalized heart.
Twenty pounds down.
A great pair of boots.
Only one wrinkle at 45.
Blurbs for your book from writers you love.
Hiking and walking in Plumas County.
A cozy office in a hundred + year old building.
A great vintage dress.
Okay many dresses.
Parents who I love and respect as friends–and great steps too.
Friends and ex-lovers who have not abandoned the difficult work of being here with me.
The sound of my voice coming back to full octaves of range.
The production of my first play in 20 years.
The bloodletting of my body for three pensive months long.
The sky on the way home from Genesee today.
A book finally coming out in January; another in the works.
A community so tight we ask for no IDs, we are taken at our word.
Landlords with a Felliniesque carousel in their backyard.
A partner who understands need, want, forgiveness and freedom.
Two cats who don’t mind being surrogate space heaters.
A fire in the hearth I didn’t have to make.
Red candles burning.
A kitchen smelling of the alchemy of spices.
A book of poetry nearly completed.
A series of zines ready for the printer.
A magazine I had a hand in.
Going back to my hometown without regret.
Strumming on my grandfather’s guitar.
Holding my grandmother’s hand a little while longer.
Quitting a job that’s secure in favor of the insecure unknown.
The paying off of some bills.
A season of madness yielding clarity.
Tests that come back benign.
A literal literary kitchen.
There is strength in numbers.
A river flowing with water once again.
I am lucky in this come as you are existence.
I am lucky to have birthed children who create.
I am lucky to live in this place.
I am lucky to enjoy my work (writing, djing, mothering, teaching).
I am lucky to have you as a friend who doesn’t judge me.
And to quote that HipMama t-shirt I’ve practically worn out:
Eat Well. Make Art. Live Free. Amen.