Friday, December 23, 2011

Grumpy Christmas to You

For the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling Grinchy. Scroogy. Un-Christmassy. Yes, there’s the clinical depression, which I’m pretty sure is the opposite of merry, but it’s been more than that. I’ve been reacting to this idea that because it’s Christmas, and Daniel’s First Christmas, that I should feel a certain way. And then I’ve been feeling worse, because I’m not overcome with joy and Christmas spirit.

So the other day, I acknowledged to myself that I was grumpy about Christmas, that I didn’t care, didn’t want to participate, and resented the whole thing. I talked about it with some friends, and accepted that’s where I was. I gave myself permission to be grumpy. I remembered Fr. Meehan, a very special priest who died this year, saying in a Christmas homily, “We come to Christmas as we are.” I love that idea, and I’ve held onto it for years. Because sometimes, on special days, what we feel is sad, or lonely, or depressed. And then we can feel worse because we’re not supposed to feel those things on Christmas. But sometimes we do. More and more, life seems to me full of the bittersweet. For me, acknowledging and accepting the bitter helps me to enjoy the sweet.

The lovely Claire, after listening to my holiday rant yesterday, hugged me as she left and said, “Merry Christmas,” and then corrected herself, “Or Grumpy Christmas. Whatever Christmas you want to have.” Talking with her reminded me that Christmas, like anything else, is what we make it. I can’t make myself feel joyful, but I can focus on the positive. What I really want for Christmas this year is to enjoy the real gifts of my life. To be in the present, with Daniel, seeing him kick his legs in his high chair as he eats, listening to him testing out his voice, watching him inch around the floor, warming up for crawling. He is my Christmas miracle, every day.

I hope you all enjoy the real gifts of your life this Christmas. And if you're still feeling grumpy, that's okay too.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Best Advice

What's the best advice you've received recently? I've implemented two game changers in the past month. One is to make coffee the night before. So simple, and it makes such a positive difference in my morning.

Find the other here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Bright Side

Since my pregnancy, I’ve been collecting thoughts about mothering and writing. Two ideas have stayed with me as talismans, helping me in dark moments. One is a quote from Barbara Kingsolver who when asked about writer’s block said something like, “The best cure for writer’s block is having children. Because any minute I had to actually write, I would fall upon the keys like a starved dog.”1

The other idea came from Elizabeth Alexander, the poet who read at Obama’s inauguration. She said that she did some of her best writing in the sleep-deprived early years of her children’s lives; that something about the lack of sleep made her open in a new way, less obstructive to the creative force.2

These ideas give me hope, not because they are necessarily true for me, but because they reframe the writing/motherhood dilemma. Maybe the two are not in conflict after all. In fact, maybe each feeds the other. So far, my experience of parenting has gifted me with a wealth of new material. Mothering has cracked me open in many ways, and the expansion, the new depths of feeling, the survival of heretofore undreamed of challenges, it’s all rich and dense—great compost for writing.

Do you have any unexpected bright sides about parenting or other challenges?

1 Kingsolver wrote one of my favorite books in recent memory, The Lacuna. Yes, that’s right. I’m footnoting a blog entry.

You can listen to the interview with Alexander here: