Can I admit something? I’m not a Christmas person anymore.
I used to love it. I used to love the decorating and the gift-wrapping and the caroling. I used to love the anticipation of it all.
But now, at age 35, Christmas = STRESS.
There are so many lists. And someone or something always gets left off. Some present gets forgotten or unbought or unwrapped. There is usually a heated discussion with Steven over whose family’s house we’re going to when. (And there is also a major difference in our tree-decorating philosophies which usually causes at least one spat.) There are umpteen things going on at the kids’ school that I have to remember to show up at or send food for or prep costumes for. And there are also the gray days. The cold, gray, terrible days. They make me feel gray, too. I miss my humid, sunny Bangkok.
But I am finding a path out of the dimness through creativity. I continue with my early morning writing hour, which honestly has become a treasured part of my day, just for the silence. I’ve finished my book proposal and I’ve started the last round of revisions on the book before sending out queries. Feedback from my beta readers is starting to trickle in to help me with that. I have also begun a second manuscript, which is a bit of a follow-up to Transfigured Faith, and more reflective of what I’ve been going through in the past year or so. There is also a story that’s been forming in my head about a refugee who immigrates to the U.S. One day soon I hope to begin writing it down.
I’ve also been writing lyrics. I know. Lyrics? Little known fact: A LONG time ago I used to write songs with some high school friends. I don’t think anything ever came of all of those songs, but my songwriting partner Michael did go on to become a singer/songwriter in Thailand. I am writing songs based on poems by Rainer Maria Rilke in his Book of Hours. I don’t know what I will do with them. I may email them to my friend Michael just for old times’ sake, and they will fade into history like the rest of our songs. But it doesn’t matter. The process of writing is enough. Reading the poems and creating something inspired by them is what my soul needs in order to heal, to open itself to light, to find peace during this busy season.
I’ve gotten two rejections lately, both on essays that I think are really good. It’s disappointing. But a writer friend of mine just calculated his acceptance rate for this year. It was 7.7% acceptances. 92.3% rejections. (He did get a poetry chapbook accepted for publication, though, which is a HUGE success!) This is the life of a writer. You work hard day after day, year after year, and you only move baby steps at a time. I breathe in, and I accept it.
Maybe this creative streak is a sign of Christmas itself. Madeleine L’Engle said that all art is incarnational. Turning the divine into the human. And vice versa? Maybe this writing is part of my salvation. Maybe this inclination to take what’s inside of me and put it down on paper and send it into the world is the way I am healed.
For your sake poets sequester themselves,
gather images to churn the mind,
journey forth, ripening with metaphor,
and all their lives they are so alone . . .
And painters paint their pictures only
that the world, so transient as you made it,
can be given back to you,
to last forever.
– Rainer Maria Rilke, Book of Hours, II, 10