First things first

Holy smokes. Did someone slip me a mickey? One day, I was typing about Halloween and now there’s a Charlie Brown-style Christmas tree in my living room.

Poor old blog. Amid these scurrying, overloaded days, it’s always the last one picked, the scrawny four-eyes left on the fence during Dodgeball at recess.

I sit here, half-awake, staring at the boxes that I need to take to the p.o. I am thinking of the syllabi I need to write, of job travels and duties that will eat away my break, of the imminent arrival of house guests, of lint balls under the futon, of gifts we can’t afford, of the folks who have no gifts, of wanting to kick congressmen and Wall Street in the collective breadbasket, of laundry and grocery stores and the obscenity of shopping malls. I feel like an insect, stung through the thorax, spun and swaddled in the white fibrous web of  exhaustion and trivialities and first-world guilt, left to flail on the dirty siding and decompose into a papery husk of myself.

Good heavens. And to think, I started out wanting to write about gratitude.

Please forgive my self-indulgence. It’s been a rough few months (and for whom hasn’t it?).

As I sit here, trying to get a little quiet, I am listening for the writing part of me. That desire that sustains me, even as I trudge forward without it. Right now, it’s hard to hear its heartbeat.

But I also remember this well-known quote from Joyce Carol Oates, which she gave in an interview with The Paris Review: “I have forced myself to begin writing when I’ve been utterly exhausted, when I’ve felt my soul as thin as a playing card, when nothing has seemed worth enduring for another five minutes . . . and somehow the activity of writing changes everything. Or appears to do so.”

I love that last bit: “or appears to do so.” Even if we’re fooling ourselves — making believe that we are making change — that’s still something. And perhaps, at some point, through that very act of writing, it will become making belief instead. Which I guess is why I finally sat down here first, before the day took over. To make-believe that I am a writer. To make myself believe.

I will leave this woe-is-me tale on a funnier, random note: I was at a conference, having a grand old time with a dear friend making fun of hipster haircuts, when Joyce Carol Oates walked into the area where we were sitting. She looks exactly as she does in her photos. We all saw her and pretended not to; I’m sure there was a frenzy of Twittering. Oates, wrapped in an elaborate green shawl, then waltzed … straight into the hotel gift shop. I caught glances with another woman sitting nearby. Without missing a beat, she tilted her head, flipped her wrist, and said: “As one does.”

Wishing everyone a joyous, creative holiday season.

ps I will get to that gratitude. It’s there, I promise.

By bryn

Writing, teaching, whatnot

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