It’s the last Sunday in December, the last Sunday of 2018—tomorrow is the last day of the year. The year ends on a Monday, as it began. My 52 week experiment is over. The commitment met—on some weeks joyfully, on some weeks reluctantly, each word typed out in a spirit of anger, resistance. Also—practice.
Was it a good exercise? Yes. For me. For you, I don’t know. But then, it was never about you.
You: It never is.
Jane: It sometimes is. Just not this time.
It’s the time of year for reflection, and a time of year that, for the past 13 years, has carried for me the shadow of heartbreaking grief. This year, the shadow has seemed fainter, and that made things easier, until it didn’t—I don’t want to forget. Memories, even the awful ones, are all that we have of the past.
You: Not true. You know that.
I suppose. We are, after all, made of the past. Nothing else.
The faintness of the shadow comes from the demands of the present. Flora’s going through a rough patch, I’m starting a new job and two new projects. I am moving, moving, thinking about the future and so busy in the present, the past lessens its hold.
I don’t want to be busy. This past year, I was supposed to look for sustainable rhythm (assignment to self) or some other such unicorn. It proved as elusive as unicorns usually are. But I did learn a lot about my process—my blinders—my guilt.
Imagine motherhood, marriage, life without guilt.
Sean’s been off work this week and doing the heavy lifting at home. I’m grateful. And guilty. And, aware that come the New Year, new job and projects notwithstanding, the heavy lifting will be mine again. And I’m afraid. And resentful.
And, guilty for feeling resentful. Which makes me short-tempered and snappy and then, again, guilty for being…
I used to blame those first 14 years of a Catholic upbringing on my finely developed sense of guilt, but it runs even deeper than that. Because you’ve got it too…
Funny thing about guilt: guilt cannot really co-exist with gratitude. It crowds out gratitude, diminishes it. I’m not sure it works the other way around.
The holiday week has no Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday… Sunday. The days get jumbled and confused. My weekly rhythm and routine come undone. And the only one of the kids who is really enjoying it is Cinder. The holiday week offers a break from the routine of school for him, as it does a break from the routine of work for Sean.
For Flora, Ender, Ender and me—it just takes away the anchors we use to organize our time. Flora comes undone. Ender is clingy. I’m… angry, not working enough. Guilty.
Jane: We should have gone to Cuba.
The lack of routine in a new place at least comes with novelty. And an active search for a new routine…
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living.
So I’m writing about this again in one of my projects, and I’m dealing a bit with this with Flora-and always, myself—and Sean would like Cinder to spend less time on video games.
But when I need a rest from the world, I reread Jane Austen—how is that different or better?
I understand Cinder.
Sean understands Flora.
Ender… he’s a mystery.
Sean: He’s love.
He is love.
The year ends much as it began. Some changes. Some statis. Some joy. Some pain.
A sudden clarity, followed by fog and clouding.
May you be full of gratitude.
—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA
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