Ok folks, the holidays are over and the University of South Carolina Gamecocks pulled off an outstanding win over Nebraska yesterday. Today was back to reality. Hmm. Can we skip the rest of winter now and go straight to spring?
Didn't think so. Crap.
This is when winter starts to hurt. The excitement of the holidays are over and it's time to get back in our routine that has us out at sunrise and coming back at sunset as we muddle through the cold days of winter. Everything seems bare, dead, and cold. Yes, it's depressing. The trees and decorations are down. No goodies lie around the office to munch on anymore. No more presents will be given or received. And there were no Christmas lights to welcome me home.
Truth is, though, it's not all dead - it's merely resting to put forth that burst of energy that brings vibrancy and life during the other three seasons of the year. The trees and grass are dormant, not dead. Just as I needed the past 11 days off work to keep from getting burned out, so too does nature need to rest in order to bring us life and bounty through the rest of the year.
Truth be told, the season isn't without merit. I usually do my most (and best) writing in the winter. In fact, I wrote the rough drafts of Blurry and Anywhere But Here in January and February, and did major work on Splinter during that same time frame last year. My productivity with my writing seems to be at it's highest during the winter. I guess that makes sense. If everything is dull routine, then that means fewer distractions to pull me away from my computer. A resting world gives my muse time and energy to come alive. And I hope that pattern resumes this winter - considering that I haven't written anything new since November and am itching to create more new work in the new year! (All of the work on my writing has been in the area of publicity and promotion - good, but I miss creating new work too!)
Winter is a good time to catch up on indoor activities that seem to move to the back burner during the busy summer and holiday seasons. It's a great time to read, for example, or take up an art or craft. I've been doing a lot of reading lately, and I used to stitch a good bit in the winter when I wasn't working on novels. Cold days are also good fo DVD marathons of your favorite movie series or TV shows or playing games. I noticed yesterday when I went out that most stores are having some of their best sales of the season, so there are deals to be had on winter clothes. Treadmills and gyms make it possible to exercise indoors to keep you active. And, of course, the Internet is an endless source of information and entertainment to keep you occupied, from joining online groups that focus on an interest or hobby, finding new recipes to try cooking this weekend, or looking up entertainment in books, music, etc from independent artists.
Hmm. Suddenly winter doesn't seem so glum. In fact, it sounds like I could find plenty to do that will make the next two months pass painlessly.
Here's hoping your new year is off to a great start. Take care and I'll see you next time.
December 6 is always a tough day for me because my maternal grandmother died on that date in 1987. I’ve lost many people, but that date stings every year – no doubt because of the holidays that wrap around this month. Losing people is always tough, but losing them during the holiday seems to cut a bit deeper. It’s something you feel more. I usually don’t talk about it much and do my best to be a “big girl” and move on, as is expected.
Until this year. I know it’s been 24 years, but I’m all grown up (middle age now, in fact), I’ve found my voice, and now there’s this great thing called the Internet where I can post things. And now, you’re going to hear ALL about it.
One of the reasons why dealing with death over the holidays is tough is, naturally, because the entire world is celebrating, and you just don’t feel it. A hole has been ripped in your life and, as I said in my last entry, a date in red on the calendar doesn’t hasten the healing of the heart. I believe it was C.S. Lewis that said death is unnatural because people weren’t created to die, and I believe it. Death is such an aberration to our spirit, and that abnormality is especially evident in a season where we celebrate the birth of our Savior and eternal life. Emotions know no season and if they take a smack then nothing is going to expedite the healing process. Here they parallel the body. Don’t believe me? Burn your hand, break a bone, or sprain something today and see if you’re healed by Christmas.
The reason I sound cynical here is because of the other reasons why death is hard to deal with during the holidays. Yes, the whole world is celebrating, and they don’t want to stop –not for you, or for any pesky little problem like (gasp) death. They want to be happy and have fun and by God, you aren’t going to stop them. I thought perhaps it was my still child-like perspective on the world in 1987, but in the 24 years since then I still hold to the opinion that:
1. People don’t cope with death well, especially during the holidays;
2. The dumbest things are said at visitations and funerals; and
3. People can be incredibly selfish, rude, and insensitive in their desire to create “the perfect holiday” (which we have already acknowledged won’t happen).
I thought it was because people kept telling me to “cheer up” and “be glad the holidays are here to help ease the pain.” I thought it was because people kept telling me to “grow up” and“get over it because it was just a grandparent.” I thought it was because people kept saying “you mother has it worse - don’t you owe it to her to get over it and try to make Christmas good for her?” Yes, people really said these things, without exaggeration. But the problem is that I learned it wasn’t just me when Rick’s grandmother died on December 21, 2000. I warned Rick of the incredible stupidity and insensitivity he was about to experience and lo and behold if he didn’t see I was right within 10 minutes when a lady walked up to us with a huge smile plastered on her face and said “What a wonderful time to go to Heaven! She gets to celebrate Jesus’ birthday with him face to face. But oh, your poor father, this must be awful for him. So, what are you doing to celebrate?”
If looks could kill, the one Rick and I gave that lady would have made her the funeral home’s next customer. I noticed she hurried away and we’ve never seen her again.
I wish I could say I’m embellishing these comments, but I’m not. In fact, I’m fighting a rare urge to name names here so the whole world will know who the igits are. But I’m not going to do it because the point of this entry isn’t to debate right and wrong. It’s to acknowledge that people do die during this joyous time of year and to guide you toward the proper way to help somebody that’s suffering a loss during the holidays. And so, I have offered my experiences to give a few tips on how to best console people that are grieving over the holidays.
I’ve already hit on the first one. Emotional healing knows no season, so please don’t try to push people into celebrating if they don’t feel like it. Not for their sake, or the sake of the kids, or the family, or anybody. My mother and Rick’s father tried to put on that “brave face for the family,” and let me tell you – it didn’t work. Grief was the pink elephant in the room and everybody saw it by Christmas. Not only are you headed for disaster by not allowing them time to grieve, but you risk more damage by your selfish demand that the holidays will go on, come hell or high water. So please, back off. If they don’t want to put up a tree this year, go caroling or attend parties, don’t make them. Back off and give them the space they need. If you feel you absolutely must do something, do it in more practical ways that are not holiday related, like offering to bring them a meal, help them clean the house, or take care of the kids one evening. Believe me, they will appreciate you not force feeding them to a world high on Christmas more than any present under the tree.
Second, please use discernment. Everything that flies through your head doesn’t need to fly out of your mouth, and as the non-grieving party you have a higher obligation to put a lasso on your tongue. This is true always, but it’s absolutely essential at visitations and funerals. This is not the time to be witty, wise, or philosophical. There are people trained for that, so leave it to them: You know, the pastors, priests, rabbi’s, therapists, psychologists, and others trained in the religious or mental health fields. I have no doubt that losing a parent is much worse than losing a grandparent, but that’s an inappropriate thing to say to ANYBODY, especially to a 12 year old that’s confused, hurting, and doesn’t know what to do. Logic doesn’t work in highly emotional situations like this, so don’t go there. In fact, when it comes to funerals then the less you say, the better. Just say “I’m sorry for your loss” and let it go. People in these situations don’t want a dissertation on dealing with grief or a lecture on getting over it. They want people to acknowledge how they feel and have respect for it.
Third, don’t take it personally. People are already stressed out this time of year and that tends to work on nerves. Unfortunately, sorrow and anger are part of the grieving process which can strip nerves raw and increase emotional outbursts. I know it’s awkward if somebody burst into tears when a carol comes on in a store, or shouts insults at the mall Santa, but unfortunately seasonal things that seem benign to most can trigger deep grief responses in those dealing with loss. I know from experience that it can be extremely frustrating to watch the world celebrate when a huge hole has just been ripped in your life, and sometimes the strangest things knock holes in those walls of restraint. Don’t make a scene bigger. Simply try to diffuse the situation as smoothly as possible, remove the person from it, and do your best to control your emotions so you can help them control theirs. They’re weak right now, so give them the gift of being strong until they are healed and able to be strong on their own again.
I have a word for those of you that have recently lost loved ones, or that have lost them this year and are facing your first holiday season without them. Please know that you aren’t alone. There’s nothing wrong with you, and you are going through a natural process. Understand that it will get easier, but it can only get easier if you take the time to go through the grieving process in your own timing. So don’t try to be brave or try to sweep it under the rug because it’s the holidays. Some people don’t get it, but that’s not your problem. They will one day because we all lose loved ones and have to deal with that empty seat at the holiday table eventually. The holidays come around every year so believe me, there will be more chances to “do the holidays” later. It’s ok to take a year off if you just can’t face it this year. It doesn’t make you Scrooge. It makes you a human being – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Finally I’d like to say, for the record, that all the people that said those rude, insensitive things to me in 1987 and to Rick in 2000 deserve a smack. So I’m saying it now, on the INTERNET, to the WHOLE WORLD, on MY WEBSITE right now. Consider this your virtual kick.
Wow, I do believe that’s something like Nana would say.
Well, I suspected it would happen: Just before the long weekend, publishers for both of my novels sent informationto complete. Fortunately, they gave some time and I got everything done. I suspected there would be times like this when I signed that second contract, but I still think it's worth it.
I have (relative) publication dates for both novels now. Blurry, the young adult novel, will be released in August 2011. It's been edited and now I'm waiting on the copy editing, cover art, and website setup at Wings ePress. Anywhere But Here, the supernatural mystery, will be released in April 2012. I just turned in the pre-publication information to Whiskey Creek Press and it's going to the editor and the cover artist next.
It's been a lot of work these past few days, but I've been glad to do it. Both books are in motion now, so I wait to hear back on the next steps. It's exciting! I'll be sure to keep you posted as they progress through the publication process. And now, I also pray for wisdom (and luck) in promotion and sales.
Since I've been busy with returning to work and on the novels, there's not much else to report. I am looking forward to some time away from the computer, though. Maybe I'll get back to reading, if I don't get caught up on the Star Trek episodes that Netflix has on streaming video now.
That's all for now. Here's hoping you have a good rest of the week.
I've noticed that time alone is something that seems to be disappearing in life. Not just my life, either, but most peoples' lives. I think this is a shame, because we all really need time and space to ourselves.
Apparantly I'm one of a very small group of people that hold this belief. You wouldn't believe how much ridicule and criticism I get for wanting some time to myself every now and then. It seems that a lot of people just don't understand how I can be content alone, even for a minute. "How can you stand it?" they ask, "to just be by yourself and not have someone around? Aren't you scared? Aren't you lonely?"
The answer to both of these questions is no, I'm not. I think that fear and lonliness are issues that have deeper roots in personality and temperament, frankly, and I've never been prone to either. But I think there's something else to blame for this loss of appreciation for alone time. It's called reality TV.
Somewhere in the past decade, people have become fascinated with watching other peoples' lives. This has never been unusual with celebrities, but now we want to know every detail of everybodys' life from the biggest mega-superstar to the cleaning woman. People willing to sacrifice their own privacy for a shot at fame have erased the boundaries of individualism.
The fact that we live in a society obsessed with maximum use of space feeds this fire. How are people supposed to understand boundaries when they work in a cubical where they overhear personal conversations all day, go home to a neighborhood where houses are literally spitting distance apart, and log on the Internet to see what their "friends" are eating for supper and watching on TV? Between the media, technology, and life itself, society is trying to pound it in our heads that it's not appropriate to put up a wall every now and then and say "Stop! No admittance! I need a time out!"
And in the end, this is feeding insecurity. Because in reality, we all need time to ourselves. Time to think, to ponder what's important to us and to take care of ourselves. Time to be our authentic selves without having a spotlight or webcam on you. We don't have to tweet every thought that runs through our head. We don't have to post a status update every time we move. And despite what the world tells you, it's really not right or appropriate to do that anyway. It leads to a habit of dysfunction, because we can't move until we know what everybody else is doing. It turns real life into a game of chess. You can't move until the other person moves first - thereby sacrificing your right to be who you are.
The world has always pressured people to conform, and there will always be voices screaming at you to be what they want you to be. The problem is that they aren't interested in what you want. They're interested in you being what serves their interest the best. That's why it's so important to pull away from the voices every now and then to consider the direction of your own life, and to make sure the sails are set in the direction you want to go. When we let noise fill our lives, we may find our ship sailing to a shore we never meant to even visit - much less live at.
I say to heck with the world. My life isn't reality TV, an evening drama, or a movie. It's real and I will share what I please, when I please. I do enjoy social media and blogging and love that it connects me with people around the world, and that it opens up more things in terms of interest and entertainment than have ever been available before. Heck, E-publishing is making me a writer, and I think the Internet is giving people a great opportunity to share things of interest (like books, news, etc) that would otherwise be drowned out by mainstream media. But I also consider everything I blog, post, or Tweet very carefully before I hit the "submit" button because I know that everything in my life isn't interesting to all people or, in some cases, business that doesn't need to leave the confines of my personal life.
I'm a responsible adult and am under no obligation to anybody to ask permission or to advertise everything I do. And I won't. That being said, I'll end this entry and leave you to ponder what I will do with the rest of my evening. I know, but (*sigh*) I just don't feel like Tweeting that right now.