Yes, yes I do. In fact, it was a crucial part of working through my depression and anguish and slow healing when my first marriage imploded, not to mention dealing (at long last) with a number of other issues that bubbled to the surface when I finally got help. Read my archives from 2009 and see what I mean.
Writing is a release for me, but I have discovered that I need an audience in order to write effectively. Private journals are worthless. Emails to a handful of people feel...insufficient. Blogging is a perfect solution, right?
Except that the anger and stress and anxiety with which I am dealing right now aren't mine to share with the world. Well, I mean, they're my emotions and whatnot, but they're about people and situations that leave me voiceless here. To write about what's going on would violate people's privacy and, quite possibly, make the situation worse.
So I'm usually silent. On here, at any rate. And Facebook.
(Because I'm not going to be one of Those People, that's why.)
Christmas is a shining light in the midst of this swirling darkness, let me tell you. Or, more aptly, an array of twinkling lights. We have pledged not to go so overboard financially this year (I got a little carried away last year), but there are ways (other than the obvious wallet-related one) in which that's better anyway. I am thinking more carefully about what to get for each person, and I'm making a few as well. I'm also working with the kids to choose gifts for MTL and each other, because I believe strongly that children should give and not just receive.
I love making gifts for Christmas. It takes me back to my own childhood, when my sister and I rarely had any money of our own to spend on gifts for our parents or each other. We would make a sign for our bedroom door declaring it official Santa's Workshop territory and denying entrance to everyone else. Then we'd take odds and ends of this and that, raiding our mother's extensive craft cupboard for much of what we needed, and we'd make all sorts of amazing gifts. Looking back, I'm rather astonished by our creativity. Two different years we created panoramas for our mother. The one I remember most was this extraordinarily detailed rendition of a market stall, with "bolts" of fabric on the walls, little drawers made from matchboxes containing bric a brac, and people made from twigs and clothes pegs and beads. There was a woman with braided hair trying on a shoe (a singleton from a Barbie pair), a male merchant displaying cloth, and a woman unmistakably meant to be our mother examining the fabric.
This, my friends, is what happens when kids have lots of free time and no real access to electronics of any kind. IMAGINATION. CREATIVITY. FUN. <insert cantankerous grumbling about "kids these days">
I'm fairly certain the month leading up to Christmas was the one time of year my sister and I actually worked or played together in Peace and Harmony.
So this year I'm making a few gifts, and I'm helping my little KlutzGirl, who is never so happy as when making or drawing something, to make a few as well. In those moments, looking at the work of my hands and knowing that I'm demonstrating my love for the recipients in a very tangible way--that's when those lights twinkle brightly enough to drive the shadows aside for a breath of time.
Part of the challenge of blending families is blending holiday traditions. MTL and I have been fairly fortunate. We aren't in direct opposition with any of it, especially since his traditions are more general and mine more specific. Last year I introduced a number of Christmas traditions to my new family, including putting an angel on the top of the tree, making Christmas Eggs for breakfast, and forbidding the children to leave their bedrooms on Christmas morning until they hear Christmas music start playing. When they emerged at last, impatient and excited, they found the Christmas tree piled 'round with presents, candles lit, and hot chocolate waiting for them.
They seemed to enjoy it, but one never knows how kids will react to New Ideas. On Sunday as we were waiting in the car for MTL to join us, The Padawan asked if we were going to do Christmas morning the same way this year.
What do you mean? I asked.
Like the music, he replied. I liked waiting until I heard the music and then coming down. Oh, and are you going to make those egg things again?
You mean the Christmas Eggs? I asked.
Yeah! Those were awesome.
Yeah! I liked all that too! chimed in KlutzGirl. And the hot chocolate and the candles and stuff. Are we doing that again?
As if I'd miss the chance to see those smiles on their faces!
This morning I proctored the first half of the PLAN test, since it's being administered to all the sophomores today and my first class of the day was a sophomore class. As I wandered up and down the aisles in the gym, I felt a sudden surge of warmth wash over me. These kids, these teens...they're annoying and frustrating and obnoxious as hell on a daily basis, but I love working with them. It's hard to remember sometimes these days, surrounded as we are by such negativity and derision directed toward my profession. I'm even looking into a new career path, because realistically I may not be allowed to remain in my career for sheer financial and political reasons. It's an ugly time to be a public school teacher, people.
But this morning, as I looked at row after row of faces, many of which I know, I felt the warmth and worth of what I do (yes, even when proctoring a damn standardized test), of working with these children caught on the cusp of adulthood. They are worth the sweat and tears and stress and time we pour into them every day, every week, every year.
I don't know how much longer I'll be a teacher, and I won't feel those warm fuzzies every day, but no one can make me regret the years I spend here.
It's a rough road I travel, at times. As my dear friend Amy said a couple of weeks ago, we are not women destined for smooth and easy lives. It would be lovely to win the lottery and not have to worry about money or debt any more. It would be lovely for the politicians to all have epiphanies and start working for the regular people instead of the corporations. It would be lovely for certain individuals to either undergo miraculous personality transformations or just....disappear.
I don't think any of those are likely to happen, alas. Life is not that neat and tidy.
But there are compensations. There are rewards for the pain. Sometimes the twinkling lights and silver linings are dimmed by the shadows and mist, but they exist.
They shine in the moments when my students understand a new concept, get excited by a piece of literature, and find safe harbor in my classroom.
They shine in the smiles on my children and stepchildren's faces, can be heard in their laughter as they rough and tumble with each other each afternoon after school, siblings in action and deed rather than just name.
They shine in the touch and looks and words of my beloved husband, who laid his head against me last night and told me he had never dreamed he would ever find his Home.
Twinkle on, Life. Twinkle on.
...laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph
And death i think is no parenthesis
--e. e. cummings