The Monday After

Peace by RickydavidIt 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?

10 thoughts on “The Monday After

  1. Barbara, I think I all too rarely take the time to reassert the essential rhythms and grounding myself. I feel as though I race from one thing to the next and when I have no ‘next’ I begin to worry as to why not. However, there’s a special spell *you* weave when you write a piece such as your current blog, which brings me calm and peace, and for that (especially as I’m polishing a ms due tomorrow) I truly thank you.

  2. Barbara,

    So glad you had such a lovely Thanksgiving,and thank you for articulating the ritual of re-entry so beautifully. Such a necessary part of our process–learning to synchronize our writing life with real life. And you are SO good at helping us do that!


  3. What a beautiful post, Barbara.

    As I sit here, staring around at the clutter of my office, I can’t help but feel calm too.

    It is my sanctuary from a busy life and despite being the size of a cubbyhole, with no doors, it is my place, a place I love to slip into to write.

    My ritual is sitting here in silence, opening my current WIP and letting the characters speak to me. I love it!

  4. Barbara, thanks for validating my need for alone time. A week of wedding preparations and our son’s big day immediately preceeded Thanksgiving this year. By the end of it all, I just wanted everyone to go away and leave me and my computer alone. My poor DH, I practically pushed him out the door to work yesterday.

  5. Yvonne, I can’t think of a thing I’d rather do than offer peace and quiet for a few minutes. Thank you. When you get that mss in, I hope you will find a few days of rest somehow.

    Thanks, Robin and Leigh. (It’s hard to call you Leigh!)

    Nicola, I can imagine how much you love your office, esp with such small children! (For a long time, my office was in the dining room, so I could keep an eye on the boys while they played in living room or watched Sesame Street (my sacred hour!)).

    The thing is, after resting yesterday, I feel much more alive today. Took a long, long walk, by myself, watched television, read a book, put things back in order. Now, to work!

  6. Deanna Constable

    Hi Barbara!

    Thank you for this posting. I came by it by way of your FB posting so thank you for the link as well.

    You and your family were in my thoughts while I was on my vacation with my husband. I sent positive thoughts that your time with your children and family was better than you had even dared hope for and it sounds like it was. I’m so glad.

    I’ve continued to have Sasha in my thoughts too and I know how precious this time is. These quiet times are so essential for savoring our blessings. We really as so very, very lucky, aren’t we? Love to you!

  7. Ruthie

    Love your post, Barbara. I also had a fantastic Thanksgiving. Brined and butterflied a turkey for the first time. It was so juicy and delicious. I just hope I can do it again.

    What made Thanksgiving so special this year was my grandchildren. They actually ate ‘grown-up food’. At ages 6 and 3, it’s hard to get away from the chicken fingers, Mac and cheese, etc. So this was huge. Aside from the food, it was just great to have everyone here.

    My way of unwinding the day after is the gym. The workout is for me and it’s a great stress reliever. Then it’s back to work with a clear head.

    Can’t wait to buy your book. Are you watching Chef’s Academy?

  8. Debbie

    What a lovely post. I was especially touched by your remarks regarding your son, Ian. I have one child, a daughter, who was born with a suitcase in her hand. I put her on a train back to school (by which I mean high school…she attends boarding school because why stay home and go to school when you can pack your bags and go somewhere else?) yesterday afternoon. As always, I find myself torn between the ache of knowing how much I will miss her and so much pride in her maturity, independence and trustworthiness.

  9. It’s hard to have one who wants to fly, isn’t it? But I never, ever want to hold him back.

    Mmm, that brined turkey sounds great, Ruthie. I haven’t watched Chef’s Academy (so sad about J tonight!). Do you like it?

    Catching the love, D

  10. Ruthie

    Chef’s Academy is different. Can’t say that I really like it. I don’t think it’s worth your time. As for Top Chef, I knew Jen would go. I really liked her. She would have won, hands down, in previous seasons. I’m picking Kevin to win.

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