It is the Monday morning after the busy, family- and food-rich holiday of Thanksgiving. Technically, I should be digging back into my book, because I didn’t work at all last week, but there is a sweet quiet in my office and I find all I want to do is soak in it. I turned Pandora radio to the Baroque Classical station and although the dog is sitting very, very close by to be sure I don’t forget he needs his walk, I am alone for the first time in five days.
Now, I realize that many people do not like to be alone all that much, but writers tend to require vast amounts of solitude. Coming into my office this morning felt like entering a church. My sanctuary, complete with altar in the corner, and all my books and music, the posters on the wall and the calendars, all my tools of creativity. There is a small, stuffed orange bear that someone gave me at a conference, while I was in the midst of writing The Lost Recipe for Happiness, which has a restaurant named The Orange Bear. I took it as a good sign.
It is not a particularly tidy place—there are too many little collections of things, too many papers and photos and feathers and books for that—but I do like to keep it clean, and most Saturday afternoons, I collect all the scattered notes I’ve written, the sixteen pens and dry erase markers I’ve been using, the printed pages from the MIP, and put everything where they belong. This Monday morning, nothing has been put away because I was busy with Thanksgiving, and that’s the way it should be. I forget that I need a transition day after a big rush—after Thanksgiving or a vacation or the RWA conference. I need to collect myself, come back to the quiet of my mind.
It isn’t that I don’t love Thanksgiving. It’s one of my favorites. (“They’re all your favorites,” said my ex once.) I love big fat turkeys and stuffing and an ambling walk with family members. I love having my children around, adore the luxury of time to listen to them talk about their lives. I love the cooking, the preparation, all of it.
I also love this, the Monday morning after. Christopher Robin and Miles are off to work. Ian is back to his home in Washington DC. There is no shopping I must accomplish, no urgent cleaning tasks. The dishwasher is humming with an ordinary load of breakfast dishes. Outside it is a crisp blue Colorado day. In my office, my sanctuary, I am writing.
As I put words on the page, at first in a scattered way, then a little more solidly, I feel my spirit coming to light, nourished by this simple, ordinary act. Here is where I am most myself, here in this quiet, coolly lit room, putting words on the page. Here, when I am in my own mind. Here, where I have space and time to reflect and think and imagine.
I know we aren’t supposed to identify ourselves by the work we do—that it is somehow seen as a flaw of our essential humanity—but honestly, I am a writer. That’s not just what I do. It is a huge part of who I am. It is how I process everything. As I write these words, snippets of the holidays come floating back—the laughter of my eldest son, the pleasure my father took in the apple-blackberry crumble I made for CR, the huge amounts of help my youngest son offered getting things ready and clean and together, the walk I had with my mother. There are the small, poignant moments of recognition—this is Sasha’s last Thanksgiving. Ian has found his home, and it is a long, long way from me. The comfort is that he’s doing work he loves as madly as I love mine, and only the proper choice of a spouse will make so much of an impact on his quality of life.
This is all part of my post-holiday ritual, coming into my office with an extra cup of coffee, grounding myself with the act of writing. My dog needs a walk, and I need to read the pages I’ve been writing, and then, perhaps, by the end of the day, I’ll be able to write a page or two. By tomorrow, I’ll be fully back, and ready to write more productively.
How do you ground yourself after the big roar of a major holiday? Do you have rituals?