It’s Sunday. I didn’t know. Had a good, hearty laugh with my mom on the phone when she told me it was Sunday not Saturday. That about sums up how my holidays are going. I’m a bit off kilter. A bit out of step. A bit disconnected. And I can’t seem to shake it.
This is the second time I’m starting this post too. I had about three paragraphs written but when I went to save it, something malfunctioned and I lost what I wrote. This could be painful for a writer, alas, I’m making it mean it just wasn’t the way I was supposed to start this message.
I feel different. Yet again. Although the things I’m doing this end-of-year are not different than years past.
Letter to Mitch Albom
Every December I write a letter to Mitch Albom. Yes, the Mitch Albom. If you didn’t know, I’ve been writing to him for years, since we met when I was a wee lass in high school. This year’s letter was written as per usual…alone at my desktop whilst I cried and reflected and summed up the last year of my life. Mitch just published a book called The First Phone Call From Heaven and I read it before I wrote my letter so I could reference it, and use what I learned from it in my reflection. It was a deeply moving and, this year, difficult task.
I wasn’t sure if I should continue writing to him. I questioned the meaning behind my sending him these intimate summations of my life. I’ve never requested a response nor felt the need for a response until this year. And I’m not sure why. It was a new feeling for me – to want a response from this writer who I’ve held in a mentor-like state for years but only actually conversed with twice in person, twice on the phone and once through my blog. I told him this in the letter…the fact that this year I felt like I needed some sort of response, and how with this want to interact more with him came feelings of guilt and self-confidence shrivelling on my part.
He’s busy. People ask of him his time and money and attention so much, why would I do the same? Who am I as compared to everyone else that deserves a response? And as I wrote and shared these feelings I realized that this is so what I do to myself to undermine what I really want or need. And the guilty feelings for even requesting a response, I mean what is that all about? I had to ask myself, and be honest with my answer, if I was willing to give up this important tradition because I wasn’t willing to not get a response – even if I requested one.
The answer was (is) no. I’m not willing to stop this tradition – this end-of-year self reflection to a writer I barely know (even though I feel like I do know him well – which I think is actually the reverse – he knows me well because of the things I share in my letters) because he’s not going to respond. What I’m hoping is that he does respond – so I at least know that he got my letter, and that will help me keep writing. And furthermore, I have to let it be okay to request a response. Because I’m a good person. A dedicated writer and reader, and someone worth having a conversation with.
I realize that I do not think of myself in this manner nearly enough, especially when it comes to my writing. I think it’s worth it to ask a person whose writing life is fascinating and one that I can learn from – it’s worth it to ask to have a conversation about it. We’ll see what happens. I’m not entirely sure he got my letter (I had to have it hand-delivered to him when he came to Windsor for a book signing), but I’m hoping he did. Now I wait.
I’ve watched the following movies over the holidays (so far). Watching movies is really important to me. Not just because I love filmmaking but because I love how watching movies makes me feel. Invigorated. Emotional. Relaxed. And our kids love watching movies too. We have ‘movie nights’ a lot. I find myself laying on the couch, curled under a blanket and staying up till 2 or 3 am watching films. It’s the best. When the winter cold rolls in I want to roll onto the couch and watch movies. Christmas vacation means watching movies. Lots of movies.
The Family Stone
Something’s Gotta Give
Walking With Dinosaurs
A Christmas Story
Meet Me In St.Louis
School of Rock
Home Alone 3
Ramona and Beezus
The Polar Express
Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer
10,000 episodes of ICarly
100,00 episodes of Drake and Josh
(There might be more but I can’t remember right this second!)
I was gifted so many amazing books this Christmas. And the hubby gifted me a Kobo reader loaded with ‘the classics’. I’m not 100% into the Kobo (although I’ve been told that I will love it sooner than later). It’s very weird to me to not turn pages and smell pages and hold an actual book in my hands when I read. I don’t want to make the switch, so for now, I’m reading actual book books and visiting the Kobo for brief reads. I make more time to read when the holidays hit. I love reading and I gift myself the time to read when Christmas vacation comes around. So far I’ve read (or am reading) the following books:
The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom
Then Again by Diane Keaton
Gone Girl by Gilian Flynn
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield (currently reading)
Paradise Squandered by Alex Stefansson (currently reading)
I read at various times during the day. I even read on Christmas day amidst a roomful of kids and cousins, a loud television, and food, food, food cooking in the kitchen. It’s like I can’t get enough words! I think it’s because I don’t have to get up early in the morning, that I take more time to watch movies and read books. I can stay up late and not worry about being pooped in the morning. Such a good feeling that is!
Boy. Eating – what I eat, when I eat, how I eat – changes over the holidays. I think it does for many of us. We send that ‘eat well and make good food choices’ voice in our heads into a deep corner of our mind that is so far away we can barely hear her. Until we’ve eaten so much chocolate or so much ‘insert any type of food here’ that she comes out screaming and pulling out her hair. I can’t say I’ve eaten a lot, but I can say I’ve eaten too much junkfood. Mostly because it tastes so damn good. And my Aunt Rachel’s cookies are pieces of heaven, and we can’t say no to heaven now can we?
We don’t eat turkey, ham or corn on Christmas. It’s not part of our tradition. Instead we eat some sort of pasta (this year was my Aunt Jeannie’s 8-layer lasagna), shrimp (or seafood), then a slew of meats (lamb and chicken), potatoes, veggies and bread. We brake to burp and go to the bathroom, then we have fruit to cleanse our pallets. Opening gifts happens in between fruit and dessert. Dessert includes a whack of Italian pastries and cakes, candies and cookies. Plus coffee and espresso. We eat for hours – literally. Even if you eat a little bit of each round, you’re stuffed by the end.
Plus, with friends coming over to our house or us going over to friend’s houses, there are loads of nuts, chocolates, chips and dip…finger foods that I tend to eat more of. And breakfast. I love breakfast! We’ve been making pancakes, bacon and eggs, toast and coffee. The breakfast feasts that there just isn’t time for when not on vacation, we indulge in over the Christmas break.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t eat like this every day. I can’t! There are days in between where I drink lots of water and only eat yogurt and say, one chocolate bar. But certainly, eating is a big part of my Christmas holiday traditions. I also don’t exercise as much because I’d rather read or watch a movie or slack. I can’t completely stop though, because then I’ll feel really gross and the demon woman in my head who only has negative things to say to me, she gets really strong and nasty. And I ain’t got time for that.
Work and Play
This holiday stretch spans two full weeks. We took the full two weeks off from work. The hubby his home. The kids are home. Getting any work done is very challenging. It’s not impossible, but it’s challenging. So I’ve not been working nearly as much as I’ve worked during past holidays. In fact, work kinda makes me queasy. My motivation to do any is extremely low and I’m fighting feelings of ‘should be’ consistently. But ‘should be’ isn’t translating into ‘actually’…at least not in any form of productivity. It’s kinda scaring me – how easy it is to not do any work. To just read, watch movies, hang with the kids, hang with family and friends. I mean, isn’t that how vacations are supposed to go? Why does it feel like I’m doing something wrong when I’m not working?
I’ve been in a pretty constant state of avoidance of all things work. And it feels icky yet needed. While I lay in bed in the mornings when I know it’s morning and I could get up to a quiet house and work, I go through lists of things I should be doing and getting done, then my tummy gets all knotty and I can’t move. Can’t get up. Can’t do the work. Is that weird? Throughout the day, I get waves of motivation where I finally feel ready to sit at the computer and get work done – read and answer emails, work on websites, etc. – and I move toward it even make it to my chair in some instances, but as soon as I get there as soon as my hands hit the keys – the kids come running up to me. Jump on my lap. Beg and pull me away from the work. And my heart breaks when they say ‘Mommy, it’s vacation time, why are you working? You promised you’d play with us!’ and I can’t work. I just can’t.
Even working on this blog post has taken extra long because the kids have pulled me away at various times so I can sit with them, hug them, feed them. It’s difficult for me to work when they’re home. Someone once said to me, ‘Vanessa, you do everything for your kids. It’s too much.’ And I was immediately confused and embarrassed and, well, upset. I mean, of course I’m going to do everything for my kids. I will do as much with my kids as I possibly can, especially during vacations. Isn’t that the point? Even though I do get frustrated and feel my heart break when I want to work and I choose to play with them instead or when I choose to work and hear them get upset because I’m not playing with them. Either way, it’s a loss and a line of cracks in my heart when I have to choose one over the other. Because I love both so much. Not one more than the other – both very much.
I think having to choose between one or the other is what’s causing my motivation mojo to get out of whack. It’s what’s causing me to choose inaction over action. And I’d rather stay up late or get up early so I can be alone – and work or read or watch movies – because then I don’t have to choose between being the kids or not. But since I’d also rather sleep in and watch movies or read, you can see how the ‘work’ portion of these holidays is get the short end of the stick.
I’ll get there. I’ll get it done. And I’ll enjoy the family time that is needed and wonderful and that will change a bit each year as we each grow up a little more.
I submitted a chapbook to a chapbook contest, some poetry to a poetry contest, and my new book to several big awards. I’ve posted a few lines on my Facebook/Twitter. I’ve written a letter to Mitch. I’m writing this blog post…but other than that, I haven’t done any writing. I haven’t touched my novel in weeks. I think about it every day, but I just can’t sit and write. I can’t because it takes time and energy that I just don’t have right now. I don’t want to have to choose between being with friends and family and being with the characters in my novel. It’s all or nothing on both fronts so I’m choosing family and friends. I’ll get back to my novel with a vengeance in the new year. I’m looking forward to it.
In fact, I feel like some things need to change when it comes to my writing life. Yeah, I know. I say this every year. ‘Change must happen’…but this year, the change has to come in this way – continue on as I’ve been. The change has to be that I stop telling myself that things need to change. Things are going quite well! I know I am dedicated and goal-oriented. I know I am productive and organized. I know I am disciplined and hard-working. I just have to believe in myself, stay positive and continue to work hard.
I was writing in my journal and thinking about how the end of year brings on all these final collections – best and worst dressed, most intriguing people, sports lists, music lists, movie lists – all rating and categorizing and judging the previous year’s events, people, things. I mean, we even find a most used word – which was ‘selfie’ with ‘twerk’ at a close second. This is both terrifying and ridiculous to me. I mean, really? These are the two words that can define a year in human existence? What does that say about who we are?! Wouldn’t it be amazing if the word of the year was ‘love’ followed closely by, say ‘read’? And the problem with attempting to organize and categorize a whole year’s worth of living gives us permission to let it all go over the switch of a day. We can’t stop feeling things that happened in 2013 or any year. Someone who is intriguing in 2013 is not going to stop being intriguing in 2014, right?
I found myself getting really bummed out as I forced myself to think about my ‘now’ as an ‘ending’ instead of a continuation of what is already pretty damn great. I don’t want to look back any more than I already have (and consistently do, really!) in my letter to Mitch. I want to move forward while giving the most to my nows. This is challenge enough.
Phew. Have you made it this far? Thank you!
As much as my inner-list-maker wants to create a mother-of-a 2014 list of goals and challenges, my inner-eff-that is winning the battle and keeping me silent on this front.
I’ll do what I do. I’ll write what I write. And I’ll let myself enjoy the process as much as I can.