Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Write drunk, edit sober

I love that cup that my daughter gave me for Christmas. It was something she heard me say when I was struggling through difficult parts of the book I just finished writing. Sometimes I would be stuck, or I'd feel far behind where I needed to be to meet my deadline, and needed to keep working come evening. So I'd pour myself a glass of red wine and catch a second wind, my inner critic silenced for the moment by the wine, allowing me a few more hours, a couple thousand more words. But anything written under the influence had to be scrupulously edited while sober, I told my daughter, because while some of it could be surprising in a good way from dancing with the wine, some sentences would be overwrought and florid and simply had to go. Write drunk, edit sober, that's the rule, I'd joked, and she captured it on a cup she had made just for her mama.

Christmas was low key, with just my husband, my son and me. We opened gifts, we cooked, we dozed, we watched movies, we ate. It was lovely in its way. We missed our girl who was with her boyfriend upstate, having a rollicking time. He has a large family and they do Christmas the way we do Thanksgiving, only more so, with matching festive pajamas for everyone, and Christmas stockings with embroidered names hung over the fireplace, and family breakfast at one aunt's house followed by dinner for the large extended clan at his mom's. Truly, it's the kind of Christmas I always wished I could create for my kids, but almost all of our extended family lives elsewhere, plus I'm simply not made that way. But I'm glad my girl is getting to experience a version of the high octane family Christmases I knew growing up (though we didn't do matching pjs).

She felt a little guilty about not being with us, I could tell, so I kept assuring her that it was a fine and wonderful thing that she was sharing that kind of Christmas with her boyfriend's family, who lovingly folded her in. We were invited, too, but none of us wanted to spend hours on the highway traveling there and back, and my husband and my son both had work the day before and after Christmas and just wanted to chill at home. My son seemed exhausted and more somber than usual. The fire academy is no cakewalk. But neither was paramedic training, and yet even as he felt slammed with work for nine months, my boy loved it. "Who knew I preferred challenging my brain to challenging my body," he said last night. He's lost weight, seven pounds in two weeks, and he was coughing a lot from one of the smokehouse exercises they did on Christmas eve. "Don't make a blog post about it," he said, so I won't.

How do you blog when you're melancholy and worrying about some things, and you don't want to write about any of it? You're sick of your own nostalgia for a time long past, and there is really nothing to be done. You're sad, but don't want to inflict that on your loved ones, and there's not even work to distract you. What a delicious thing, really. The magazine is in the week between shipping one issue and starting to close the next. My manuscript is done and the editor is traveling, so no revisions yet on that, and my next project is still in the contract stages and might or might not happen. One never knows until the contract is fully executed, but I don't have to panic because for now I have the magazine freelance gig and another editing gig in the wings. I have the luxury of choosing any number of paths through this day, not to mention many inspired Christmas gifts expressly designed to amp up my enjoyment of this good lucky life.

My son and his girlfriend gave me an absolutely gorgeous table top easel and brushes, so I could actually finally paint something. I also have a puzzle going on the dining table, and I've been streaming the The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and could keep going with that. I could curl up under a blanket in this freezing cold house and read Just Kids, that Patti Smith memoir that my daughter's boyfriend gave me, along with a Stubs movie membership, the year all paid, so I could also use that and go to the movies. Or perhaps I should schedule the spa day my husband gave me, with a two and a half hour massage of my choice included, my God, I have so many choices.

Or I could call a friend. One is in much the same place as I am. She is Jewish and doesn't celebrate Christmas, but her daughter was with her boyfriend's family, joining in their festivities, and my friend was missing her girl and feeling somewhat adrift. "I am in a state of pining for the old days," she texted me. "Whenever I stop working I can't find myself." "I know just what you mean," I texted back. I'm not sure if misery loves company, that has always seemed an ungenerous notion to me, but misery is certainly lightened by empathy. Her text made me feel less alone.

I got no pictures of my husband and son, as neither one wanted to cooperate with my camera. But here's a picture my daughter's boyfriend's sister sent me of my girl opening her Christmas pjs, and another of her posing in full festive attire with her love and Nina the wonder dog—can you tell I'm kind of fascinated by the matching pjs concept? I secretly always feel as if I'm failing at Christmas because I don't even know how to create a scene like this. Yet I love seeing my girl happy in that tableau. And I am right now reminding myself that there is no wrong way to do the holidays. The only thing wrong with my low key Christmas is my propensity to judge it as lacking somehow. I'm just trying to tell the truth here, to not pretend sweetness and light when what I'm feeling is a lot more layered. And yet, in a world where so many are having an incredibly hard time, I am aware of being extravagantly blessed. That, too, is the gospel truth.


  1. what? no matching pjs for the dog? and I love the mug and the sentiment. I don't do christmas for a lot of reasons which I won't bore you with here. what I will say is I am free of expectations and disappointments and feelings of inadequacy and anxiety about this particular holiday. I could say that every christmas celebration is perfect or that none are perfect but there is so much about the myth (and I'm not referring to the theology here) that I find objectionable. for us it is just a quiet day when the whole country is quiet. any celebration though, changes as the kids grow up and become adults of their own. your family shrinks and grows all at the same time and children must be shared.

  2. Thank you for the free writing advice. Maybe I'll use it to get a better start on blogging I in the new year.

    Glad you had a nice holiday and wishing you the best of everything in the new year.

  3. I think a lot of people suffer because they have too many expectations for this holiday. Your low key day sounded lovely. Like your friend, I am Jewish and so yesterday was just Tuesday and though invited to celebrate with a friend's family and their assorted guests, I begged off since I've not been feeling tip top. It was nice to sleep in with the phone off and not have to dress and put on a party face, something which as an introvert, I find exhausting after a point. It was nice to sip tea and play with the cat, nap when I felt like it and not have to worry about offending someone if I did not wish to eat, and enjoy the quiet. I hope you can find some balance and greater contentment. I wish you much happiness in the new year.

  4. Even though both kids are still at home celebrating Christmas with us, I can completely relate and understand this. And just last night I had the thought that there really aren't many more Christmases like this, with both of them. The expectations are huge obstacles, aren't they? So difficult to navigate. But you're not alone in these many layered feelings. Definitely not. Hope your boy feels better soon with the coughing. (Keep an eye on that, 'kay?)

  5. I love that cup! The message is perfect. I understand your son's request not to be blogged about. I had to refrain from posting about my twin brother's health situation (he's having surgery on Friday). I asked him if I could write about it, expecting him to say yes, and he emphatically said no. There is something about blogging that feels so much like a virtual community to me, I just want to write about everything. Comments and responses are often so illuminating, enlightening and supportive. Ah well, the many layers of life. So here we are, the day after Christmas. Our quiet holidays behind us, and the new year awaits.

  6. You know you're really part of the other half's family when you get matching pjs! I love big gatherings of happy people I'm related to, but I don't have the ability to effortlessly make them happen. Once in a long while my sister-in-law and I will share the load and do it for the family.

    I hope you have a relaxing and restful day. A person has to recharge at every possible chance if there is no vacation in the near future.

  7. I always feel like I fail at Christmas, or pretty much anything that involves celebrations. And I feel jealous of family pictures on facebook of everybody in pjs or long tables filled with people. People always look so happy in their photos. I feel like a fake this time of year.

  8. Merry Christmas and happy New year to you and your family. You're not alone in feeling so many layers of emotions during the holidays. Much love.

  9. It's terrific that you have a friend in a similar place in life with whom you can commiserate. You need to SELL those mugs! You'd make a mint! (A disturbing number of writers both wrote drunk and edited drunk, but I suspect other people cleaned up their really egregious missteps afterwards. :) )