I said on Monday that I’d tell you more about my holiday break, but the more I think about it, the more I wonder how to put it into words that suit this space. I don’t celebrate Christmas—and not because I’m busy celebrating Hanukkah or Festivus or anything like that. Besides the short days and dismal weather, December is a time of year when I have too many sad anniversaries all at once, and I thought the cat wouldn’t make it through the month, either. (He did! Good baby.) The week between Christmas and the new year is one that I give over to the memories of the people I’ve lost. It’s a very private time, one that I know doesn’t fit in with the rest of the world’s revelry. If I had a child or a large family, things would be different, but for me this timing works out. Those who know me best understand the levels of meaning when I say simply I’m not good company at this time of year.
Myron spent the time with his parents. They live in a place with even more severe weather than Ottawa, and I prefer to visit them when it’s nicer outside. Fortunately, they’re understanding, and as long as they get a dose of their favorite child (he’s their only child!), they’re happy. As for me, I tucked into the remains of my draft, and though I carried it over into 2011 and I’m far too superstitious to type things like “The End,” the words are down and it’s time to fix them into readable writing instead of what they are right now. I cleaned out a couple of closets and made a big dent in the decluttering mission I took on for this year. While my brain was deep into the draft, I found sorting papers and shredding to be oddly soothing.
It was my own version of a writer’s retreat, if one were to bring ailing cats who require medication and syringe-feeding to writer’s retreats. I did not have to worry about dinner-table conversation or the dinner table at all, really. I ate soup and rice cakes and hummus and learned that cold slow-roasted tomatoes make amazing sandwich ingredients. (Seriously, try it.) I felt like I had so much time that I could write five pages, mull them over, and delete them all without a care, because I had time enough to write something better. The somber feelings of the end of the year are imbued into the last hundred pages of manuscript, but that’s okay. A book about loss ought to spring from loss in the writer, don’t you think? And yet the ending—the ending that exists right now—is triumphant and redemptive in the way that a new year makes me feel, the way that I want a book to make me feel when I can tell there are only a few pages left.
It feels strange to step away from a world full of celebration at a time like this. Self-centered, for sure. But the results were worth it. Enough of my day-to-day life disappeared and let the book flow again in a way it hadn’t in months. I feel both spent and energized at the same time, and I can see the hundreds of days of the coming year rolling out in front of me like an interstate heading west into a place I’ve never driven before. Here it comes.