Thursday, December 15, 2011

Everyone's Dancing Merrily in a New Old-Fashioned Way

I had a great aunt, now gone, who wrote the best Christmas letters ever. The card would arrive and I'd grab the nearest object which would theoretically be used as a letter-opener and go at it. Sometimes I'd use my index finger and get the expected paper-cut without complaint, such was my excitement. And there would be the letter, in all its unremitting glory. This woman was lovely and cheerful; the few times I met her in person, she struck me as a generally good egg and a great dame, but she worked on the assumption that people were most interested in the awful bits. Each letter was another year of my distant relatives in rehab, having miscarriages, getting divorced, entering hospice care or just up and dying. In my admittedly fault recollection, there was not a single piece of good news for a decade. It was like a Christmas letter written by Job. 

I felt as if last year's Christmas letter to you all was homage to my Great-Aunt Edith. But, in my defense, it was a year of loss and loss must be recognized. Loss is the roux upon which the gumbo of life is based, the darkish constant presence which might not be delightful on its own but gives meaning to everything on top of it.

[Yes, it's a stretch, but I just glanced at Bryan Batt's new book on decorating in the New Orleans way and have Big Easy on the brain. Could have been worse; I restrained myself from declaring loss to be the okra of the vegetable world.]

So, loss is roux and it's important and all, but it doesn't mean I didn't go into this year without a certain trepidation. Was 2011 going to be another year of goodbyes?

Turns out, it wasn't. Around this house, 2011 was not a year of loss, but a year of gains. Extra work-stuff for Consort, the book for me, challenging new online classes for Daughter, three new volunteer jobs for me and, of course, a rabbit. There have been many times in my life before this year where I've been beetling along, getting small things done, when I've been struck with the profound guilt that There's so much more I could be doing! I have much more energy I could be expending on getting things accomplished! Entropy is speeding up because I'm not helping someone somewhere! Well, while the Congressional Library couldn't hold all the other things I believe I should be doing, I can say honestly I'm probably at the upper limit of what I could be doing.

When I stop to consider that I forgot Daughter and I were due at church Sunday morning for altar-attending, I grant everyone permission to suggest I'm actually slightly beyond what I'm capable of doing.

In February-when I was signing the book contract- I scheduled my year and told Consort I wouldn't have an actual unaccounted-for day through June, 2012. Then we laughed, because that was absurd. It is absurd. It also happens to be true.

It's a funny year for my family; I'd say we're all a little burnt-out and yet somehow we're not unhappy. We're running everywhere, doing everything, noticing how more time and more money would make the whole process so much more effortless, but we're smiling. I think if you have a year of loss before a year of gain, there's always a small still voice in your head in the middle of the chaos reminding you you're alive, and that's a good thing to be. Maybe I take on everything because I know those people who've left would love to be back here, feeling useful, being alive.

Everything in my life needs me right now, which sometimes annoys me; I might periodically grumble about my volunteering, but I also know that because I show up, things get done. Maybe not perfectly-definitely not perfectly-but they get done, and I walk away feeling as if I've added something good. Seems like a small price to pay for all that I've been given. When I look at Daughter, her education, my relationship with Consort, my work, my life, my small, still inner voice sings softly And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

Have a joyous holiday season and I wish everyone a 2012 of productivity and peace.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Juli said...

Sweet! Couldn't haved said it better.

5:57 PM  
Blogger Dawn Maria said...

In my family the favorite holiday letter is from the white trash side of the family. Mine arrived two days ago and as always it was a good read.

I can never quite figure out the exact number of children born out of wedlock and to whom they belong. Must be new math or something.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous ɹǝƃƃolquǝʞoʇ said...

I have some white trash members in my family, too.

I hate it. It's just so Kentucky!

8:51 AM  
Anonymous Lydia said...

Lovely. Your statements including why you volunteer and do as much as, if not more than, you can, remembering how those who are gone would " love to be back here being useful, feeling alive" is a beautiful reflection and appreciation.

10:52 AM  
Blogger StevenIre said...

One thing that adds to my peace is the constancy of production of this blog. It allows me the opportunity to dilute poor comments of mine in my total sequence without having to remember my last bad one too long—that, and you also write beautifully.

9:18 PM  
Anonymous Robin Raven said...

Beautifully written. Thanks for the inspiring blog entry.

I hope that you and your family have a very merry Christmas!

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Quinn - I just found an old photo of you and me from when we were about 4 years old, I think, outside your house. Hope you are well.

Teri

11:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hows about some new content?

5:15 PM  

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