Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye Year

I found this, courtesy of PostSecret, and I thought it was natural, considering how many of us are thinking about this past year at this point. It's almost over, and I wonder how many other people want their year back. I wonder how many people want more than just the last year back. It made me wonder, for just a minute, if I want my year back. I wonder if maybe a little part of me wishes I could go back and re-live it. I wonder if there are any changes I would want to make. I don't think there are, really. When I think back on the past year... I think it was a crazy, wonderful, mixed-up, meant-to-be, perfectly timed year. I had not a clue what was in store for me last January. In fact, this year began with a sinus infection. How lovely. Last January, I was sick, depressed, wildly emotional, and not exactly full of faith. Even quoting Joseph Campbell at myself didn't seem to help that much. Fortunately, January wasn't an indicator for how the entire year was going to go. It was a year of ups and downs, and the downs got pretty low. But, oh, the ups were so high... It turned out to be year of some lasts, some repeats, and a great many firsts.
First, I turned eighteen. I finished my last year of debate with one last trip to the Regional tournament. I didn't go to Nationals (which would have been a first) but I did get to go to Disney World for the first time, and ride my first roller coaster! And I had the chance to spend time with one amazing family, and make some really amazing friendships (one of which has lasted much longer than I could have anticipated, and I'm so grateful). I joined a small group, and made more good friends there too. I also graduated from high school (ha, I made it!). Then, I spent serious quality time with all my Northern folks. I also got to take my very first trip to Chicago (highly notable, and highly wonderful). I read the last Harry Potter book. I got to see my parents start a business. I got both my driver's license and my very first car (that was a biggie). Then I fell in love, back out of love, made a new friend, got even closer to an old friend, and finished my first semester of college classes. (All while working part-time. I might mention that in the past year I manged to quit my job, and then get re-hired again.)
It was a big year. A good year.

Now I am looking into the face of another new year. Yet another unit of the order we try to impose upon time is gaping in front of me. I'm looking at it, and honestly, I'm a little scared. I'm scared that I won't make it to a four-year college like I want, scared if I do I won't be able to pay for it, scared that I won't be smart enough to handle statistics and Spanish... In this past year, and the past few month especially, I have found that there isn't anything I'd rather do with my life than be a writer. That gives me a wonderful sense of conviction and scares me to death at the same time. I'm even a little scared at how fast it all goes by. I have so many resolutions I want to make, that I know I'll never keep. I know I'll just keep bumbling along, figuring things out as I go, helped in large part by other people.
However, when I think back on the past year... I realize that a lot of good came out of places where I didn't even expect it. That gives me hope.

Now, there is no way I'm going to come up with an ending that isn't ridiculously sappy or trite (I tried, but no luck). I'll only say that I do not want my year back. I think I may (God help me) be ready to dive into the next, feet first. (Especially now that I have lovingly exorcised 2007 through writing this.)

Happy New Year. I hope it's a blessed one for us all.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Ilde Hermit

It feels really, really good to be lazy. Slowing down to the point where an entire day will contain the following: Read in bed, make a cake, walk the dog, do some dishes, watch tv, knit. It's marvelous, at least until I get bored. Which will happen eventually, but until then I revel in this slow pace, after the hectic rush of the past few months.

Yet, this slowing down has created plenty of space for strange thoughts and musings. Christmas was delightful, once it truly arrived. My family and I made sugar cookies, sang hymns by candlelight, and exchanged gifts around our tree, whose ornaments carry the history of lives. I finally manged to relax and simply enjoy the spirit of the season... Although I found myself torn once again by wishing to be exactly where I was, and with my more far-flung family at the same time.

In the lazy days since Christmas, a number of thoughts have been chasing themselves around my head. I processed with shock and a sudden, unexpected grief the news of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. I am not going to claim that she was a hero to me, or that I knew a great deal about her, besides what we all heard or read in the news. But her death made me realize with a crashing horror what a courageous leader has been lost to us, and what a life of conviction. Not only that, her death seems to encapsulate for me the intensity of the fear, instability, and violence that consumes that region of the world. It is another jolt to my expanding awareness of the turmoil that surrounds us.

I am also, as of yet, trying to ignore the fact that the year is drawing inevitably to a close. I am not ready to admit that yet, not ready to reflect on the year I have just had. Most of all, I am not ready to speculate about the year to some. It's too much at the moment, but I know I will be forced into a fresh year soon anyway.

I still can't control a bubble of emotion when I watch a movie that ends in a happily ever after, the perfect couple united at last, as you knew they had to be. I realize that I would like to be in love in theory; in that nice, inevitable way that it happens on screen. Yet, when I am confronted with reality it is so disturbingly messy that I end up recoiling in fear and confusion. Circumstances are not right, the wrong people get involved, emotions run wild. Really, being single is so much more simple. I have always known that life is not like a romantic comedy, at least once I passed the age of eleven or twelve. I know what is fiction and what is not... on a certain rational level. But there is something in my brain, or my gut that yearns to have that fiction for myself. However, I am a coward, and I will run away from the messiness of real life as long as I can. I only hope I can be forgiven for that.

I received, as a Christmas gift, and elusive copy of Atonement, by Ian McEwan. It has gripped me far more than I had anticipated, and I find myself marveling at how intensely McEwan plunges the reader into the inner lives of his characters. It so deep a plunge that I feel something has been revealed to me as another writer. Only, I am still uncertain, especially since I am only about (perhaps not quite) halfway through. I am waiting to see what happens next.

Now I am struggling with my own inertia, and sudden anti-social behavior. Right now, I would like to be a hermit. An idle hermit. True hermitage, however, isn't exactly on the list of options. And there seems to be a general disregard for people who do nothing. I don't see anything wrong with it, but...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Clothes Dryer Thoughts

I have too many thoughts to fit into one entry, I think. So, I'll have to split them up into a few over the next few days. Right now I am (was) trying unsuccessfully to sleep. But thoughts keep tumbling through my brain, all mixed up and spinning round and round, like watching the colors of your clothes in the dryer at the laundromat. I'm thinking about how quickly Christmas passed (oh, but how lovely it was after all) and what a fun party I just came home from. I though passingly about how I am looking forward to moving out, but then also reflected on what a marvelous family I manged to be landed with. I am still processing, in slow kind of shock that has been in the background of my evening, that Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated. I am wondering if ignoring awkward situations really is the best idea, (but I am too cowardly to do different, I think). I am also reflecting on how stupendous it is to wake up and have nothing you have to do that day. It feels refreshing for the moment.

These are all thoughts I would like to elaborate on at some point, but for now I would simply like to say that I hope you all had a beautiful, wonderful Christmas, and that the new year will find you well. Please try to relax, it's good for your health.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Rest For The Weary

This afternoon was a gray, gray afternoon. It was an afternoon spent rummaging through thrift store bins, and outrageous theater cast-offs. It was an afternoon of tea and cookies, and a friendship so old and comfortable; like a pair of perfectly well worn shoes. It was a breath of fresh air, in all the best senses of the phrase. I feel that I may be finally drawing closer to what I want Christmas to be. I have reached the understanding that Christmas will no longer hold the same kind of wide-eyed magic it had when I was just a kid. I have the reached the understanding that many things will not hold that magic anymore. But if I can see what has replaced that, and see not a loss, but the gaining of something new... well, then that would be something.

Today I heard a story on the radio about a homeless man living in New Orleans who had not been home, or seen his family in many, many years. He gave an interview that aired nationally, and his family heard him on their radio many, many miles away. As soon as they knew he was there, and that he was alive, his mother and his son got in the car and drove to find him. They did. They found him all right, and he kept saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry for leaving," and they kept saying, "It's okay! It's okay, We got you. That's all that matters."
The he told them he had wanted to go home for a long time. But he had been too proud to show up after all that, "I didn't want to come home with nothing, and you all think the only reason I come home was because I needed you," he said.
"Honey!" exclaimed his mother in a voice so full of love and exasperation, "that's when you're supposed to come home!"

And I thought, if only everyone knew that.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


I am trying really, really hard to come up with some kind of meaning here, some kind of message, some kind of philosophy, some kind of deep thought. Nothing is coming.

All I can see is the surface of life; I'm skating along it, crossing things off my To Do list, worrying about social engagements, gifts to be given, and errands to be run. There are things to be cleaned up, picked up, put away. There are seams to be fixed, buttons to be sewn back on. There are things to be baked. I don't have time to stop and ponder. That or I don't want to, who knows?

Part of me wants to have something to share, but is that just my own desire to validate myself by writing something big and beautiful? Something worthy of praise?
Some days I write because it's real, and I write just because this truth just has to come out. But on days when I'm struggling to find that truth, I start to panic a little bit. I start to wonder if I'm any good, and I'm sure everyone is going to stop reading because it's pretty clear things are going to be downhill from here... Sometimes I do wonder about my own motivations for lots of things. Not just the writing. Sometimes I ask myself why I want the things I want, and I don't always have a good answer for myself. Sometimes I wonder why I, why people, insist on tying their own self-worth to things we think we can measure: things like the grades we've gotten, the mountains we've climbed, and the people we've managed to impress. Because I don't think that's what it's really about. I hope it's not. I told a friend that there is more to you than these things we focus on so much.
What's left after you take all those other things away? That is what I'm looking for. Only sometimes it's hard to get past the surface of life.

Insanity continues as Christmas grows closer. I have concluded that I will not be able to relax until Christmas day itself. But I am grateful for the friends I have still with me. I've realized lately that it can be difficult sometimes to keep people in your life, no matter how much you liked each other. Family is also, in both comforting and difficult ways, always there. I think I'm grateful for that too.

And so the days meander forward at a pace I can't abide. I want them to slow down. Give me more time, I say. Slow me down, and fill me up.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Well, I Can't Say I Didn't Enjoy Myself...

And so this marks the end of the semester. I have just finished my last final, and now I am free, free, free from school until January tenth. I feel that I should take some reflection upon the past few months, just to remind myself of how much I managed to cram into them, if anything. I managed an A in all my classes except (yes) mathematics. I earned I a respectable B there. Which is really nice, considering that I can't claim to have been in an actual, honest-to-God classroom before the beginning of this semester...

What else did I do? I worked part-time all semester, got nervous, got excited, got sick, got better, had a crush, got better (ish), made a friend, and realized that I love English, (and being in school, for that matter) even more than I thought.

Now, Christmas. Christmas, and cookies, and decorations, and lights, and parties. Then New Years, and I'll be looking back on how much I manged to cram into the last year...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What I Want

Life, it seems, has descended into a barely controlled chaos. I think the state of my physical surroundings reflects this more accurately than anything... my room is in a state of mess that is bad even for me. Books are stacked on the floor, laundry spills out of my dresser drawers, a layer of old papers, older receipts, and sticky notes scribbled with various to-do's coats my desk (I mean it, I can't see the top of my desk). Makeup is strewn across the top my dresser, shoes lie in the middle of the floor, unmoved despite the fact that I keep tripping over them. Everything is a mess, but do I stop to pick anything up? No. Things get hurled around the room, pushed off the bed onto the floor at night when I want to sleep, tossed here and there as I rush to get out the door. All ignored as I study (Oh, finals! How I wish you were over and done with!) or choose to steal some hours of sleep in the afternoon. (Why can't I control the urge to lie down?)
There is so much to do. Even my lists aren't making me feel better. I just keep thinking that if I can just get through my exams, then I will be able to pull things together. Or let things go, maybe, because at that point it will be okay to do that. I think.

I keep hearing holiday music, and looking at the calendar, but it doesn't feel like the holidays to me. I'm busy, my family is busy. We haven't even put up our Christmas tree yet. I was feeling tired and sad, wondering where that holiday spirit that usually infects me has gone. I keep waiting for it to come, but I realized today that I have to go out and stir some up. I keep thinking about slowing down, but I can't without feeling guilty. School calls, the future is begging to be planned, people have been acting... oddly. But once these exams are out of the way, I promise to myself that I will summon some cheer. I will give away cookies, and spend time with my family. I will laugh and make others laugh with me, I will get in touch with friends, I will be young. Mostly I want to loosen up and be grateful, and not worry about what might or might not happen tomorrow.

That is what I want for Christmas, even more than the entire boxed set of Gilmore Girls.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

An Acceptable Melancholy

I love winter passionately, despite my runny, sneezing nose and the itchy dry skin on the backs of my hands. I love to stare up at the pale, sharp winter sky and see bared tree branches etch dark lines against the blue; twisting and marvelously intricate. I can't think of anything more stately and dignified than a bare tree. I love the quiet bleakness of winter, the peacefulness, the acceptable melancholy that comes with some winter days. I love how warm and brightly lit my kitchen becomes when I am baking cookies for Christmas.

I am yearning to take a step back. I want time to be alone, but I am also wishing and waiting for certain old friends to migrate back to this city, as they do during the holidays. I miss them, and I want those comfortable friendships during the holidays. I am too tired to deal with these people who end up complicating my life instead of easing it.

But first comes finals. I am sitting here with various Anthropological terms running through my head. That is, I am writing this when I should be studying for a test. I am both very ready for this semester to be over, and slightly sad at it's passing. It went so fast... How quickly the weeks pass, and all of a sudden those days and weeks have added up to another whole year. And how quickly some people can pass through your life! Easy come, but hard to let go of all the same.

Once again I find myself praying to make it through the week. Every week I think it's going to be different, and that I won't have to send up that prayer. I always do, though. Things aren't bad, just overwhelming. As usual. I don't know that I would have it any other way... (Well, I might wave a magic wand to disspell this cold if I could.) But I suppose you have to take the good with the bad. How else is the good going to mean anything?

As a last thought, this has been floating around in my head lately, for I feel that it must be very true:

We have already had to rethink so many of our concepts of motion, we will also gradually learn to realize that that which we call destiny goes forth from within people, not from without into them.

-Rainer Maria Rilke

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Empty Chair

The other day, I sat alone at a table for two at the coffee shop. I spent a lot of time staring at the empty chair across from me, and I wondered what it would be like to have someone sitting there. With me. Sometimes sitting alone at a table drives me crazy. For some reason that day I didn't wish that seat was occupied. I liked the way the sun slanted over it, and I liked being quiet and on my own.

Actually, I enjoyed being alone almost all day. I like the feeling of independence you get when you're out on your own and haven't got anywhere to be. You can just go wherever, and watch other people, and think your thoughts. It's nice. I have to say that it's also nice to go somewhere because someone else promised to be there, just to see you. I need that sometimes.

Being alone isn't so bad though. I find that after a certain time, I crave it. I can feel myself turning inwards. It happens to me in the Winter. I know that this is surely a season for friends and family, but I can feel my strange inner solitude creeping up on me. The unbreakable solitude that comes from knowing that there is part of me (just as there is in everyone) that know one will ever really know. It doesn't depress me. In fact, it gives me a comfortingly un-shakable sense of identity.


November as a month was like running around with weights on my ankles. Now I feel like the weights have been taken off, and the race seems so much easier... I'm proud of what I managed last month. Like writing a novel despite all odds, and all the voices in my head that told me to give up and sleep instead. (To those who are interested, I am setting my novel aside for now. It was so hard to write, and I just need some space from it. What I might do is go back to the novel I wrote last year for NaNo. I feel that it has the most potential out of anything I've done as a result of the novel-in-a-month thing.)

What would be really marvelous is if December made me feel like there was no race at all. I would like to relax, and maybe get back to some leisure reading.

But the craziness of December is creeping up on me. Christmas is coming. The holiday music has begun to play, the stores have started to get more frighteningly crowded. We lit an Advent candle yesterday. Each year I try desperately to make Christmas as simple as it was when I was little. It gets a little more difficult each year. I still try to hold onto Christmas the way I remember it, because I think it's worth it. I try not to fall into the cynicism, and anger, and depression, and anxiety that grips some people during this time of the year. To me, Christmas is about spending time with people you love, baking them cookies, taking a time out, and lighting up those long, long nights that come as we approach the solstice. (Oh, and Jesus too.) What I'm saying is that I want Christmas to continue to mean more than stress, and commercials.

Today I had a conversation with a friend in a blustery parking lot that got me thinking about hearts. I see so much happening around me; people fighting, and loving, and trying, and wanting. Yes, there are people on the other side of the world who are suffering, but I think that if we looked a little closer to home we might realize that you don't always have to look that far to find people who are hurting. Sometimes I feel helpless in the face of that, and it makes me want to write out the truth every day of my life.