Dad, Dust, Ditz

GOOD: Dreamed I was on a road trip with Dad and some of my siblings.

BAD: As we were driving, the clouds behind us turned black, then billowed orange, and ash fell from the sky. (Yes, I did just finish reading Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn.)

GOOD: Dad drove as fast as he could, and we at least got ahead of the main thrust of the blast, and though we had to pull off the road when the ash cloud hit, we were able to dash into a temporary office building. It wasn’t much more than a metal box on a concrete slab, but enough that the air inside was breathable. AND it had wi-fi.

ALSO GOOD: Thanks to the wi-fi, I checked my e-mail, and found I had a response to a short story I’d submitted recently.

BAD: It was a rejection.

GOOD: It wasn’t a form rejection. There was a good amount of constructive criticism.

BAD: It wasn’t a story I’ve actually written, so the criticism wouldn’t do me much good even if it was from someone smarter than I am, which (being as how it came from my own subconscious) it wasn’t. Also, the only part of it I remember was about a character named Tanya, who was supposed to be a totally ditzy bimbo, but apparently I don’t fully understand the bimbo mindset.

GOOD: The editor provided some helpful tips for improving future bimbos.

BAD: I don’t remember the tips, except that there was something vague about nails and matching purses, neither of which I would take my own advice on. So.

Anyway, I can’t help but feel this dream sums up much about my writer brain and my limitations as a writer. Other sci-fi and fantasy writing friends would have dreamed they led an intrepid band of volcanologists, spelunking deep into a cave on the outskirts of the seismic ring, there to battle past Bigfoot and set charges to release pressure and end the eruptions and save the Pacific Northwest.

Or they’d be an up and coming ice mage destined to defeat the flame mage who has turned a green and fertile kingdom to fiery desolation.

Instead, I dreamed I was alternately whining about slow Internet, yelling at Dad for going outside without covering his mouth with something to keep from breathing dust and ash, and hunkered over the screen trying to understand why Tanya was insufficiently bimbo-esque.

Sigh.

So this is Christmas….

2014-12-25 21.02.52I didn’t get Christmas cards out this year. I didn’t find every present I feel like I should have found, and most of the ones I did get home aren’t going to be nicely wrapped. I never got Christmas lights up, beyond a few LED candles in a few windows. I didn’t get around to baking or candy making or any such thing last weekend, and I work until five, so it ain’t gonna happen today, either.

It doesn’t feel much like Christmas.

But you know what? I doubt that first Christmas felt much like Christmas at first, either. On the surface, nothing went the way it “should” have. The first Christmas took place in a stable. There weren’t multi-colored cookies all laid out, perfectly wrapped presents heaped up, everything all well thought out and organized. I know I’ve harped on that a bit already this year, but in a year where I’ve spent Advent struggling to find joy, it helps to know that God can bring light out of darkness, and that there is often a deeper plan.

And hey, the wise men didn’t make it there with gifts until sometime later. So I guess I’m in good company all around.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Advent Reflection: Finding Joy

Adventwreath

Early Wednesday mornings, I spend an hour in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. As part of my prayer, I typically say a rosary, and since it’s Advent, today I said the Joyful Mysteries.

As I was going through them, it struck me: every “joyful” mystery also came with a double helping of sorrow or anxiety.

I mean, think about it:

The Annunciation
Mary is a very young woman, not even married yet, and first of all, she comes face to face with a VERY SCARY angel, who has to start off by telling her not to fear, and THEN tells her she is going to be the mother of God’s son. No pressure. Yikes!

The Visitation
Immediately after the above, while still in early pregnancy (not pleasant, from what I hear), she sets off on a long journey on foot to visit and assist her cousin. I mean, it’s wonderful that Elizabeth is having a baby, but…man, how tiring and miserable would that have been?

The Nativity

I imagine Mary preparing a space for the baby. Maybe Joseph made a beautiful cradle. Maybe she had little clothes laid by. And then? She ends up giving birth in a stinky stable, far from home, likely without many relatives around. Poor Mary!

The Presentation at the Temple
A few weeks after Jesus is born, Mary and Joseph, as good Jews, go to present their child at the Temple. There they are reminded that they are poor (meh, turtledoves are fine–we know you guys are broke), and THEN hear a bunch of scary prophesies about their new son.

The Finding at the Temple
If you’ve ever been somewhere very crowded–the mall, an airport, a fair–and had a child disappear for even a few minutes, you can identify with Mary and Joseph’s panic. Except it wasn’t a few minutes! Jesus disappeared on them, and they searched for DAYS! Granted, they did find him, but…goodness!

Yes, there is also joy in each of these if you look deeply, but mostly the joy came not from the situation, but from their acceptance of God’s will for them, not getting riled up by the circumstances.

Advent can be tough for me. I’m single, I don’t have kids. I get melancholy remembering wonder-filled evenings as a kid when we’d light the Advent candles and turn off the lights, and read a prayer by candle light with all of us elbowing and jostling to poke at the candles.

I miss all the saint days for which we had fun traditions: putting out our shoes for Saint Nicholas on December 6th, making pinatas for Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th, candles for Saint Lucy on December 13th.

I miss baking cookies as a family, making fudge, making Christmas decorations.

I’ve spent long years wishing I could see all these things through the eyes of my own children, which doesn’t seem likely now.

It’s hard.

Maybe I’m crazy, but it helps a little to realize that even some of the most wonderful happenings in all of time weren’t untainted by loneliness and anxiety and sorrow. It also makes me a little more inclined to look deeper at my own days, to find that kernel of beauty and joy that I might otherwise miss. I want to value the moments I do get to spend with family–nieces and nephews and siblings, instead of burying myself in envy. I want to pick up an Advent wreath and start a few traditions of my own, even if I do so alone. I want to value the freedom I have to stop by the adoration chapel before or after work now and again this month.

Sometimes, joy is where you find it.

I’m a Social Being! Ish.

I’ve been pretty withdrawn lately: stopped going to Wednesday night Irish sessions and other jams, didn’t manage even the social aspects of NaNoWriMo, which honestly was what I was most looking forward to. My story crashed and burned this year, so I felt like I’d be an impostor, but I really should have just gotten out there.

As a result of all this, I’ve been feeling…lonely.

Despite my dislike of small talk and my tendency to portray myself as an antisocial people-hater, I really make a lousy hermit. It really isn’t people I hate. It’s crowds. People, I like, so long as I’m not forced to interact heavily and on-the-spot. People, I start to miss, especially living alone as I do.

So I want to start writing at my favorite coffee shop again in the mornings before The Day Job.

True, part of that is because I need to get back into a regular writing habit, which has kind of gone by the wayside in the midst of my recent move. I have one novel in the editing stages and a few short stories that need polishing before I send them out again.

But also, I miss being part of a world outside of work and home.

I’ve referred to coffee shops as bars for introverted morning people. You’ve got your regulars, your bartenders (though they have a fahncier name–baristas), the comfort of familiar background noise, conversations you can take part in, but don’t have to. They’re a great place to be alone, but not. And I need more of that in my life, especially around the holidays.

BONUS! Great coffee. Who doesn’t need a little more of that in their life?