Archive for December, 2005

I’ve had this post percolating in my brain for weeks – really, since a little bit before Thanksgiving – but lost a week due to illness and have been playing catchup ever since. I’m counting my blessings that I got to write this before Christmas!

This time of year is not a happy one for many people. Many family members stress each other out, yet are expected to be together at least one day out of the season. Other people feel stress over the pressure to give the perfect gift – whether or not they’re inclined to find it. And the holidays can be downright miserable to those who are celebrating the first Christmas without a loved one.

For the last couple of years, I was one of those who felt more stress than joy about Christmas. Money was tight; family issues were a problem; the world seemed too negative. I was a lot like Charlie Brown trying to find the meaning of Christmas, but even reading the Gospel of Christ’s birth failed to move me. I just could not figure out what I was doing wrong.

This year I know my problem was that I was taking too much for granted. This year, and during the last few months especially, I’ve come face to face with what, exactly, life has to offer – for better or worse. I regained perspective, made peace for myself.

Still, I found myself not relishing spending the holidays with family members who have not had perspective for a very long time. I resented the idea of being thrown into social situations with people who feel no peace; in fact, I started feeling dragged down once more, and that scared me. Depression started to creep back into my outlook the way it hadn’t done for many years.

Although I was pretty sure it was situational, not biochemical, I had to consider how to overcome it. I thought about medication, even though I’d never needed it in the past. And I thought about how I’d overcome depression in the past: writing. Early on I wrote stories to stave off loneliness. In my first year of college, when the anonymity of being just another student got to be too much, I kept a journal of the little daily things that made me happy. Over time it became a habit, though I had to admit I hadn’t found much to be happy about recently.

I thought at least part of my problem was that I hadn’t been able to work much on my novel, and the extent to which I bring my personal life into my fiction. None of it is directly autobiographical, but I write about the things that affect me most. Especially since having my son, I’ve felt things much more acutely. In a lot of ways my son taught me how to feel instead of how to analyze feelings; I learned profound visceral reactions. I found my characters achieved a depth of emotion they hadn’t had before. And now I wondered whether medication might lift my mood to the extent I would lose touch with those emotions.

That question is probably not unlike the one other depressed, bipolar, and even schizophrenic creative people have asked themselves – and answered by going off their meds. Enough of us have become alcoholics or committed suicide that I knew I’d have to consult my doctor if writing and journaling didn’t work, but I at least wanted to try it my way first.

Happily, it’s been working. I started with faith as a cornerstone – meditating on that Gospel instead of just reading it – and working outward from there. What else makes me happy? The family members, my son most of all, who do not take life for granted. The perspective their joy gives me. Reaching out to friends, which has always been difficult for me, but has resulted in deeper friendships than I ever could have wished for. More material accomplishments: finishing my novel, earning more money than I ever have in my years of self-employment.

Sure I’ll have moments, even days, that will be ordeals more than memories to treasure – but having at last found peace, I can get to work on helping those I care about find it as well.

I hope to blog again before the new year, but in case I don’t get to it: I wish you all a blessed, joyous, and peaceful holiday, in whatever form you choose to find it.

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Tag! I’m it!

Mary Louisa tagged me for the first meme I will ever have completed. (By which I mean, Ronn tagged me in early October, the Time of Upheaval that meant I never did get around to it. Is there a time limit on these things?) Anyway, this particular meme means I must list 15 facts about my reading preferences and then tag 3 more people. If I can find three people who read me and haven’t already been tagged.

  1. My father taught me to read using J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit.
  2. I soon turned to mysteries: Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Agatha Christie, and P.D. James. In that order.
  3. Madeleine L’Engle is my favorite author of all time. Her books influenced so many of my core beliefs about God, science, and people in general.
  4. I have torn through my husband’s entire collection and now thirst for more.
  5. During my son’s first few months of life, I rediscovered many of the books in our home collection and read them like a madwoman as I nursed.
  6. I loved libraries as a kid, but I fear my son is more interested in the construction thereof than in being inside them.
  7. Stealing from ML: my son has hundreds of books. I have not counted them, however.
  8. I am very picky about children’s literature and tend to steer clear of books I feel are boring or stupid.
  9. As a corollary, I critique children’s books while I am reading them to my son. I cannot turn off my internal editor.
  10. Stealing from Nancy Martin: “I have not read Harry Potter. For no other reason than it just doesn’t appeal to me. Let the flame war begin.”
  11. I’ve become bored with our current collection, and intend to ask mostly for books for Christmas.
  12. The last nonfiction book I read was God’s Politics by Jim Wallis. (Thanks again, Meagan!) The last fiction book I read was The World According to Garp by John Irving.
  13. My mother forbade me from reading anything by Stephen King while I was growing up, so naturally it was the first aspect of my husband’s collection that I jumped into.
  14. The two books that have the most influence on my fiction are House of Sand and Fog (Andre Dubus III) and The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold).
  15. I think it’s about time Sebastian Junger released a new book.

So there they are. I tag Ronn, Silandara, and Hope. Happy fact-finding!

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