I dread Christmas. I try to get as much writing done as I can in the weeks following Thanksgiving, but I never get more done than I usually do and then I get sick because Christmas means I Don’t Get To Write.
My wife and I grew up in the same area 500 miles away, where both of our families and friends still live. We visit home over Christmas each year. I’ve protested these trips in the past but it’s always been worthless and now I only have flaccid complaints: my wife has her initials stamped on my testicles (this is often a stipulation of marriage and child-rearing, and less painful than imagined (if you’re lucky)). The drive takes a whole day, and the week of Christmas is spent packing diaper bags and dashing between relatives’ houses.
In the past I’ve tried to keep up writing over Christmas but it never works – for me, excusing myself to someone else’s office or spare bedroom to write is the same as asking for a stack of Hustlers and announcing that I’ll be locking myself in the bedroom for two hours – writing is a Very Personal ejaculation of something deep inside… So, it takes 20 minutes to get to the library and find a secluded table, then more time suppressing indignation towards any person who sits down near me, or walks by, or speaks within my ear-shot. And I don’t have my typewriter. And I can’t focus, because the only way I focus is by writing every day and by spending the intervening hours in aloof contemplation of whatever it is I’m writing. When I’m dashing between families I haven’t seen in a year, there isn’t time to think, no time to get my head into Writing Space.
I’ve never been able to write at my parents’ house, either. I tried once, struggled to write in the house I grew up in, but between the noises and the swampy vapors of childhood I couldn’t get anything decent down, then I hit a wall, and spent the next 3 months drunk on a couch.
When I’m not writing well I get moody and I hate humanity and I can’t stand doing anything that doesn’t include writing something decent.
(That ejaculation of something deep inside, it’s my heart, the thoughts and emotions somewhere deep in my mind’s basement that I cannot otherwise access: the self that I did not create; writing is how I dredge and build piles, how I exert and exert control over my determined self: writing is my ego. When you’re a child you are at the will of your parents; I cannot pull myself out of myself in the place I grew up.)
The first house we stayed at this Christmas was my wife’s grandparents’. The baby slept in the office, my wife and I slept in the spare bedroom. I woke up early the first morning, desirous and excited to write. But grandma’s a pre-dawn riser with a compulsion to divulge, so the entire house, which wasn’t big, wasn’t worth trying to write in except for the office, where the baby was.
My wife was pissed at me for waking her up. I was stressing out and getting pissed because I needed to write and had no where to write (no library near grandparents). Grandma came in asking if we were okay. Then I was boiling and trying to keep the lid on, and wife’s furious at me for waking her up to drag a crib with a screaming baby into the spare bedroom, followed by grandma insisting I should write in the living room.
I didn’t get anything down that morning, or for the rest of the Christmas week. I did things differently this year. I decided to turn my head off. I excised my need to write and I decided to be good, personable company. I forgot about myself and didn’t have a moment all week when I wasn’t talking with someone I haven’t seen all year, catching up, chasing Baby around; visiting dozens of relatives, friends; family parties, board games, out to the local bar, diners.
The week was relentlessly hectic and I didn’t think about my desire to write. If I had, the week would’ve been much slower, no different from past Christmas trips.
This was the best Christmas I’ve had. I didn’t receive many presents (baby sure did), but I forgot about my own dreams and desires and I ran myself ragged spending relentless hours with everyone who wanted to see me, my wife, and our baby. Instead of using my ego to further my own ends, I used it to please a whole lot of others. And it turned out to be a wonderful holiday.