I thought it was the upcoming holidays and the stress of all I had to do; write my annual Christmas letter, send out cards, baking, decorating, buying gifts and wrapping. It seemed too much this year, with my other responsibilities added in. I am busier every year, and this year in particular, with the fire from two Christian Writer’s conferences still burning in my belly. I’d put the mundane household tasks on the back burner while I feverishly worked on building up my platform, expanding my speaking engagements, adding another blog onto my already full blog plate, cranking out essays for anthologies and features for the local newspaper.
“What’s up? You always have your Christmas cards out by this time every year.” a friend asked recently, speaking a truth that weighed heavily on my own mind. Even the year my husband went through cancer, and last year when I lost my mother in November, I had my Christmas cards addressed and sent by St Nicholas Day. Last year I’d even gone through my deceased mother’s address book, adding her Christmas card list to my own, still finishing up by December 6th. http://marypotterkenyon.com/2010/12/01/odyssey-of-an-address-book/
But this year the writing of the Christmas letter seemed too much. Every time I pulled out the cards and the paper, I found myself uncharacteristically moping a bit, and everyone knows that a Christmas letter is meant to uplift and cheer, not become a litany of complaints. Surely, the events of the past eighteen months had finally caught up with me; the loss of my husband’s job in July, my mother’s death in November, my grandson’s December cancer diagnosis and subsequent surgery and chemotherapy treatment.
Up and down, my emotions went, causing me to wonder if I was experiencing an as yet undiagnosed mental disorder. The highs and lows had been frighteningly more frequent since Thanksgiving, until I realized that for all I was doing for my writing career in the way of designing a new blog, sending out queries to magazines, and networking, the one thing my life was lacking was actual writing. My husband noticed the difference. For several days I was blissfuly happy while I worked on an essay with a December 31st deadline. Of course, I had no time during those joyous days in which to work on my holiday letter. The funk hit once again, shortly after I pushed that “Submit” button. I could not bear to interview a local person about the lap robes they made each year for residents of a nursing home. Just the thought of something called a “lap robe” was depressing. I e-mailed the editor of the newspaper and asked if someone else could do the interview, using the valid excuse of the death of two close friends and my need for grieving time. The editor, unaccustomed to me asking for an “out” on anything I’d agreed to, swiftly responded that it would be no problem. One less stressor, but still that letter would not come. I got up early every morning, put on my favorite Christmas CD and willed it to appear, to no avail.
I must be depressed, I told myself, even as I wondered how I could make that work in an article. We writers are not very nice people; we take the pain and anguish, despair and despondency, of ourselves and others, and work it in our minds until we can put pen to paper and describe it in excrutiating detail. We mean well, but standing in line at a wake yesterday, I hated myself for wondering what words I could use to describe the crumpling of the face and the sobbing of the woman behind me.
“It is no use! I will just send out cards without a letter this year!” I exclaimed to my husband this morning, and he nodded his head and shrugged his shoulders, likely wondering what difference it made. He does not understand the burden of the writer who must put words to everything, including another year’s passing. I got out the boxes of cards and the address book, but decided to check my e-mail first, the ultimate in the writer’s procrastination arsenal. An e-mail from the newspaper editor informed me that our county historical society wanted to feature one of my newsaper interviews in their promotional materials. My breath quickened, my heart leaped in excitement, and I jumped up from the desk chair to share the news with my husband, who smiled broadly back at me as I shared this good news.
And then it hit me. I was happy! I was most assuredly excited! Life was good. If I were so inclined, I could sit down right at that moment and crank out a grateful and inspiring Christmas letter.
I reflected a bit then, on the busy days since Thanksgiving. When had I been the happiest? Being alone with my husband brought contentment, as had the few quiet contemplative moments I’d managed to grasp. When working on that essay I’d surely been happy, but also every time I got an e-mail or an acknowledgement of my writing; the book signing at Barnes & Noble for the two Chicken Soup books I was featured in, the e-mail from the newspaper editor who wanted to speak with me regarding my “expert” status as a couponer, the e-mail from a Chicken Soup editor regarding the acceptance of an essay…
I wasn’t depressed.
I’d become a writing junkie, needing the “fix” of a good writing session, the “jolt” of an acceptance, or the “drug” of accolades for my writing in order to feel good.
And we all know there is only one antidote to that kind of desperate need:
Even if that writing is in the form of a Christmas letter.