Outside my window sit two feet of snow. My house is warm. I just made myself my version of a latte—espresso, equal parts warm milk (who has time for frothing?), and a little yellow packet of Splenda. My office is cozy and quiet but for Miranda (the calico cat) tripping over my desk between me and my monitor, and I (we—sorry, Miranda) are alone. So why can't I focus and write?
I'm excited, I guess, because it's nearly Christmas. Yes, maybe that's it. I do feel a sense of joyful elation.
The thing is, I sometimes feel guilty for allowing myself to enjoy these physical surges of happiness this time of year. Why is that? I think about our young men far from home, fighting a war. I worry about friends who have been without jobs for months in this obnoxious economy. Then there are the people closest to me, family. Some are doing okay for themselves, or at least not complaining if they're struggling. Others…well, if there were any way I could help them I would. But what do you do when someone you love is unable to deal with the daily logistics of life? Can you cushion, protect, provide for them so that the world can no longer cause them pain?
I lost my mother to a long and horrid adventure with Alzheimer's two years ago. She spent the last three years of her life helpless. The last two unable to move from her bed. My sister became her caregiver and did what I never could have done for her. Even so, I can only imagine our mother's pain and confusion. To say that watching someone fade away in the grip of this disease is heart breaking seems a gross understatement. But there is still another person close to me who is just as dear and just as lost. In this instance it isn't a case of advanced age or Alzheimer's. It's a form of mental illness, the medical name unimportant. After spending many years consulting with psychiatrists and counselors of various sorts on behalf of this person, I've come to accept that this illness is another one that simply won't go away, be cured or even likely controlled. It will create the rules by which this dear one will live until death. And again, I am helpless.
What does this have to do with writing? I'm not sharing these thoughts with you, my friends, as a means of venting my frustration or sadness or, worse yet, to squelch your holiday spirit. I'm well aware how many of you reading this are struggling to help someone who is ill, either physically or emotionally. My correspondence with students and mentoring clients often reveals how many of you are caring for young or grown children, grandchildren, parents, or spouses who are desperately in need of help. Often, all we can do is be there for them and let life run its course. If we believe in a higher being, we may be able to place our loved one in the hands of one greater than ourselves. For some that can be a comfort. No, my message today isn't meant to be tragic or drain the joy out of this Holiday Season. Believe it or not, it really does have to do with writing. Consider it my gift to you, except….it's not really a gift, I guess, because it's something you already possess. I'm just reminding you that you have it.
Your natural talent. Your writing. It's a very special ability that you have but few others in this world are lucky enough to possess.
You have an innate desire to put your thoughts, dreams, imagination, stories, and fantasies into words for others to read, and this is the most wonderful tool I know of for managing stress. When I finish this blog, I'll still be sitting at my keyboard and, having gotten my mental gears grinding away by typing this page, I'll feel the urge to keep on writing. My focus has returned. As I write a new scene, the sadness that threatens to suck the joy out of life will weaken and leave for a time. Some people think of writing as work, drudgery, something they must suffer through and be diligent about accomplishing each day if they are to achieve their goal—publication. But the truth is, if you have the writing gene, while you are in the act of putting words to paper or screen, you leave this world behind and live on another plane, in another universe, in a place apart from the rest of your life. You take a little mind trip, and the parts of life that haunt you, particularly those you can do nothing to change, evaporate into the ether. That is why, even with the splinters of pain that life embeds in our souls, I can be happy and enjoy this time of year.
So, this is my wish for you. May you dream your dreams and weave your stories on page after page. May you live in a place of the imagination that brings you long, blissful moments of peace and healing. Write from your heart. Write…write…write, and know that you are doing something worthwhile that will bring insight, pleasure, and comfort to others while allowing you respite from whatever challenges life has laid before you. –Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year, Kathryn