by Fae Rowen
It’s the morning after Thanksgiving and the ugly truth can’t be ignored. It’s “The Holidays” and with that, it’s the end of another year.
Even in my gluttonous post-turkey and pecan (my mom’s from Texas!) pie stupor, I begin to haul out the boxes for wrapping. But these boxes are not for gifting, they're how I wrap myself up during this time of year. This year I am resolved not to climb into one of these writer-deadly boxes.
I'm sharing my commitment to keep myself out of boxes and exploring ways to jump out of any that I might "thoughtlessly" land in.
The Box of Grief for Holidays Past
Many people dread the holidays because of all the people that will no longer sit at the dinner table. Or they dread that festive meal because of the people that will circle the table.
I never understood why people dislike the holidays until, a decade ago, my father unexpectedly died the day after Thanksgiving. Christmas has never been the same. More deaths and losses along the way have made the season even less joy-filled. Like a lot of folks, I miss my loved ones and tend to be mildly (or worse) depressed by the stark knowledge that I'll never again be able to pick out the perfect sweater vest for my dad or laugh with my best friend.
That depression shuts off my desire to write. So I don't--for a month or more. Not only do I not write, I don't think about writing. Deadly to a work in progress. Deadly to a career.
Just recognizing and acknowledging this box is a major step of healing for me. As writers, we are used to observing others and re-creating situations fraught with emotion and trauma. But as humans, we aren't always so great at recognizing and dealing with our own stress.
Getting together with friends I haven't seen for awhile, pulling out decorations packed away for a long time, inviting neighbors for dinner--this year I have already begun preparing to enjoy the month ahead in ways I haven't for years. Let's face it, no Christmas beats the one when you got your first bicycle. But every holiday season brings the opportunity for reflection and joy at the year's accomplishments, the progress (no matter how small) that we've made, and the hope of the following year.
Heck, I'm still standing. That's a cause for celebration, gratitude and joy!
The Box of Busy
With all this new-found social whirl, I'm busy. Not only that, my house and electronics have serious issues that must be addressed immediately. Shopping for a new cell phone, a series of tightly-scheduled home repairs, tree-trimming and more scream for my attention.
Last week I was care-free and had all the time in the world. This week I have no time to brush my teeth! Let alone write.
And there goes the work in progress and the writing career.
I'm not a good list-maker or scheduler of my time. I do show up the requisite five minutes early for an appointment, but my personal time is pretty loosey-goosey. To say that I'll do something at a certain time every day is a set-up for failure. So, how am I going to build in time every day for writing?
At night before I go to sleep I think about the WIP. In the morning I wake with ideas. Now, I get up and jot down the phrases or couple of scene idea words on post-its before I do anything else. They get stuck in the middle of my computer screen.
Even if I haven't had a moment to sit at the computer during the day, before I go to bed, I check e-mail. And there are those morning post-its. They sit like pieces of chocolate on a counter, beckoning me to open the WIP and tinker with it so that the post-its can be removed. Guess what? I do more than tinker. I stay up much later and maybe even finish a chapter!
The Box of Self-Recriminations
Raise your hand if you've never mentally beaten yourself up for something you did or didn't do. Hmmmm. I don't see any hands waving.
When you look back at this year it's probably easy to pull out the whip. If you can't think of anything, here are a couple of mine :
• Instead of the twenty pounds I wanted to lose, I only lost ten. Fifty percent is a fail.
* I missed my personal deadline of finishing my WIP by two months--so far.
Well, duh. Why not use my energy to "fix" these shortfalls rather than moan and groan about my "lacks" and end up sprawled on the couch from bonbon overdose? I have friends that will help me with this strategy and I bet you have, too.
I'm grateful that I finally recognize these boxes and have plans to stay out of them. Do you have boxes that you climb into for the holidays? Do you have tips on how to get out of self-imposed boxes?
Have a wonderful holiday season!