Monday, December 29, 2014

A Terrible Excuse for a Holiday Card

My East Coast family visited us in Wisconsin for Christmas.

Wisconsin is a long way from Boston, where I grew up.

My anticipation of their visit was like a reckoning--a calculation, if you will, of the full psychic toll of their absence.  When they arrived, I knew I would laugh more.  There would be a levity of spirit that isn't always present at other times.  I would experience a homey comfort in their company that I don't always feel, way the heck out here in Wisconsin.

I could write about how it's funny that I have adopted the Midwest as my home, because it's not a perfect fit.  But that's not what I'm here to write about, so let's cap that off by saying that the little discomfort that I always feel is the discomfort of a traveler, which is helpful for a creative person.

But have you experienced what it means to feel like an outsider, even to yourself?  Sometimes, I feel like I live too far out on the limb, too far from family and old friends who really know me.  I could almost forget who I am.

This year, instead of sitting down and writing all those cards, which I am clearly failing to do, I am writing this pathetic post just to say that I am, especially at this time of year, keenly aware of the many people who seem to have parts of me that I haven't seen in a long time.  Maybe that's not important, generally speaking.  But it's important to me.

Amy Franks, for example.  You never roll your eyes and gently shut me down when I trot out my latest pet theory on anything&everything.

Kate Kaminski, going for a walk with you is one of my life's greatest pleasures.

Booba Anwar, for me, you're a touchstone to something deeply spiritual.  I love the way our thoughts close the distance between us in the space of a heartbeat.  You are always there.

Monique Pommier, every year, I try to honor you with a card (not this year) in gratitude for the conversations we have had... Your wisdom was like a mirror in which I could see something reflected clearly as if for the very first time: my humanity.

David Greenberg, a moment with you in a cafe would restore a great deal of something I've been missing for a very long time.

Neal Barmack, my uncle, and my father's brother--whenever we talk, I feel that essentially Barmack something that I thought was entirely lost to me with the death of my father.  My feeling for that connection--with what is Barmack in you, and also in me--is bigger and mushier than our family culture permits me to express.

Sue Miller, the sound of your voice--and your laughter, in particular--gives me an immediate sense of my father's presence.  You were such a big part of him.  I miss you both.

Matthew, Marty, and John Greenman, a Christmas card to remind you I love you is the least I could do, but I love you just the same.  In our shared joy and loss, we are of a piece.

There are many more people, and so much more I could say about the unique pain that each of them causes me by missing them.  I should have sent cards, it might have been easier.

When I seem to lose sight of who I am, remembering the people who know me--who seem to own discrete parts of me, as though I were a time-share--brings whoever I am back into focus.

'Tis the season to be grateful--yes, grateful!--for all of the people that I do have and have had and hope to continue to have in my life...in Wisconsin, on the East Coast, the West Coast, Hawaii (I'm coming back in 2015!!!), in Europe (shout out to the Czech Republic and Poland!), in England (part of Europe?  yes/no/maybe?  Tom?  Nigel?  Mr. Boggon...?), on FB, and on the well-traveled Psychic Friends Network...  Bittersweet it is, but I am grateful.

I remain, as ever, in careful observance, your loving [fill in the blank],

Jess







Monday, December 8, 2014

A Declaration, and a Mad Dash Back to The Other Side of My Brain

This post is going to be a mad dash.  I am going to write and finish this post it in one sitting, edits be damned.  Forgive me, reader, for all mistakes: If I don't write this now, it feels as though I may never write again.

I am very nearly finished with my book.  In a sense, it is finished.  It is like a porch that has been built but not yet stained.  It is a porch and you can use it as a porch.  It is a book--beginning, middle, end--and you can read it like a book.

It seems amazing that I wrote as much as I did--since stopping, back in October, I can't seem to get going again.  A gear shifted in my brain from creative to editorial, and it is a long a reedy bridge between the two; it traverses an appalling maw of a canyon, of course, and I must crawl and claw my way across it to the other side, where I will return to the joy and mania of creativity.

Not being creative, it's like being on a stabilizing drug.  That's the truth.  There is, from my subjective point of view, something intensely energizing about dwelling in the creative portion of my brain.  I have written earlier about how hard it is to transition between the inner and outer worlds; the writing and imagining, versus the writing up of lists and the getting things done.  It is like I am always painting a room--which necessitates that all other rooms suffer a level of neglect while I focus on making improvements elsewhere.

It is awfully hard for me, a woman, let's make this about women, misery loves company, to brush all of you aside.  [No, not YOU.  You, my reader, are the only one that I do not brush aside.  This is all for you (and me, mostly me).]   Everyone else is getting totally screwed out of something.

What worked so well last time was that letter of apology.  Remember, the one in which I explained that I was about to write this book (paint a room), and as a result, broad swaths of neglect were to be expected.  Am I really to live like that always?   It seems so nearly impossible for a woman, except in as much as we have the hubris (as women, but I have never had the hubris) to say or think for a minute that I can do it all.

Let me repeat, I have never been one of those women.  I know one or two of them.  We used to be friends.  They gave up on me years ago.   They saw all this potential--creative potential--but paired with abjectly normal levels of energy.  When I was younger, the whole fantasy of realizing my potential (HEROIN, don't touch it) was my true undoing as a writer.  Moving to Wisconsin seems to have cured me of that, but still....

I am afraid.  That's it, isn't it?  If I put the final touches on this manuscript, my God, then I'll have to send it out into the world.  Words fail to describe the apprehension that gives me.

Or does it?  Is it just so incredibly impossible to make the writing the central focus of my day.  That is what I am currently failing to do.  But I am also, for what it's worth, also not writing any posts.  I am not writing anything.  I am not thinking or acting creatively at all.  I am letting every moment of inspiration pass.  And to be sure, make no bones about it, it is not good for my head.

Writing--being creative--makes me crazy in one way.  Not writing or being creative makes me crazy in a whole other way, which is tantamount to a loss of self, voice, time, and opportunity.  It is the loss of everything I might have done good or bad and whatever I might have learned while doing it.  It is a kind of zombified existence, which, for all of that, has a certain undeniable appeal.

Here's what it boils down to.   Life detracts from writing and writing detracts from life.  One must yield significant ground to the other--there's no way around it.   The inner life is nourished while the dishes pile up in the sink and important appointments and social engagements (the list goes on) are forgotten (completely, utterly, and with enormous remorse and self-recrimination).  Or, one tends to one's garden (I, I tend to my garden: cats, dogs, horses, family, friends) of earthly delights and something inside of (me) is silenced and all but utterly forgotten, with enormous remorse and self-recrimination.

Therein lies my challenge: To strike a balance.  Is it possible?  Is it?

Or, if it is not possible; if being creative defies, as I suspect it does, all grasping attempts at balance between it and the other, then it becomes very clear that it is a choice.  And a hard one.

And so this, this post, this dashed-off piece of writing, is my declaration.  Because there is no choice, really.  We are what we are, and I no from experience that I am doomed to fail at everything else and that it is never going to be enough to simply be a good mother, wife, and friend with a tidy house.

I am not there yet, but I'm making my way back to that heady place where I belong and the hours bend to me.