Between Christmas and New Year's is a magically suspended week. We celebrate with our children and remember our own childhoods. Yet while we revel in the present in light of the past, we also think about the future in a way only possible during this week. There is a spentness to this season; the Christmas tree is getting dryer, wrapping paper and ribbons can be found behind the sofa, and where is that gift certificate, anyway? Our waists are a tad wider. And we think, "Is this all?"
I met with two old friends near the MLA convention this past week. One of them, G., I have always envied. She has children and tenure at a decent school, a published book and another on the way. But. Her marriage is unraveling, destructively. viciously, and it is causing her to despair. And I am afraid for her. Please send your thoughts and prayers out to her . . . . My other friend who I met, H., is still single at 50, and has recently won a coveted short story prize, but is still waiting for her "break." She just learned that she has arthritis in her hips, and that her ex-fiance is married, with a child. Pray and think about her, too.
There is a point, somewhere in midlife, when you can run aground. Your mistakes catch up with you, the narrative of your life is stalled, you dread exposing your fears to anyone. At a certain point the seams in your soul start to show you that things aren't getting better and better, an endless spiral of success and happiness. Then, what do you? You've lost track of your oldest and best friends, or don't forgive them for something you no longer remember. You can't be as vulnerable to new friends as you would have been, because you don't want to appear needy.
Our culture doesn't give us a clear way to transcend our bodies or our fears, or any legitimate way to smash the success myth. We have to claw our way out of this one, full of grit and cussedness. We need to start praying, make art, teach someone to read, write a book, learn to give back, forgive those who have wronged us. We need to seek community, whether it's a church or synogogue or not. We cannot do this on our own.
In less than two years I will be 50. I know that raising children is extremely valuable, but I need something else that adds up to more than carpools, loaves of bread, and a blog. I know that I need to dedicate myself to writing, and I am working on some specific solutions that are too tentative to mention now. (Don't worry, this does not involve running away from home.) Dear readers, help me have the boldness to do this.
And may you face the challenges of the New Year with grit and cussedness.