December 7, 2010
Radvent prompt number seven (I skipped number six): What were your favorite games as a child? What did you like to do with your classmates or the neighborhood kids? How did that affect the person you grew to become?
1. Internet, I am sure it will come as no great surprise to you that I spent a lot of my childhood reading. I was an early, voracious, reader and my first schoolgirl crush was on Jem Finch, or at least the version of Jem Finch that existed in my head. I know now that reading basically saved my life — it gave me something to do and somewhere to hide and even when I was reading the same books over and over it was enriching me.
2. Now, of course, I am an editor and I love it. I mean, I love language and I love being right. Being an editor is my dream job. (Also due to a lifetime of voracious reading habits, I am now extremely good at Scrabble and have been occasionally accused of cheating! To which I say, yes, I am cheating by knowing how to spell a lot of words. I keep them in my BRAIN.)
3. Oh, and I was writing! I was writing the whole time. There are not many stories I can tell about my life where I am not basically writing the whole time.
December 5, 2010
Fifth Radvent prompt: write down the soundtrack of your year so far. Play it for someone who loves you.
I am doing this, but with a caveat: I have genuinely terrible taste in music. Or maybe it is not terrible! (It probably is.) But at the very least, it is low-brow and narrow and self-indulgent. Having said that, these are the songs I loved the most this year.
1. Even The Losers, Tom Petty (live at the Fillmore, 1999).
2. This Is How It Goes, Aimee Mann (live, and not great quality).
3. Gone, Ben Folds.
5. Forget You, Glee (YES THAT IS GWYNETH PALTROW SINGING and I am sorry but I love that song so much. Even more than the original. I SAID I WAS SORRY.)
7. Under African Skies, Paul Simon (the whole Graceland album is amazing, of course. I can hardly believe it’s been in my life for 25 years.)
8. Les Miserables (I have listened to the soundtrack of this show maybe 500 times this year? Mostly while I was at work. And I love it every time.)
The fourth Radvent prompt is about forgiveness: who and what are you ready to let go of resentment toward?
1. When I read this prompt I immediately started thinking about something my mother told me repeatedly while I was growing up — if someone bothers you, it’s because you see something in them you dislike about yourself.
2. When I was in my early twenties I realized yeah, OR MAYBE THAT PERSON IS JUST AN ASSHOLE. Seriously. Sometimes when someone bothers you it’s because they’re a shitty person doing something shitty.
3. In the same way, I assumed for a long time that I was obligated on some societal level to repair my relationship with my mother. Because isn’t that how it works? Towards the end of the movie the characters realize that they have so much in common! And they have been letting little tiny differences get in the way of a real relationship with each other! And they should tearfully make some pie in their artfully lit kitchen! But this summer I finally realized that I am not required to forgive my mother. I do not have to mend things between us or make things right. She doesn’t bother me because we’re so similar or because we have regular-person mother/daughter differences with each other, she bothers me because she’s an asshole.
4. There are other people I am willing to forgive, of course. I forgive my ex-husband for ending our marriage. I forgive those men in China for beating me up and mugging me. I forgive my father for being abusive and addicted and mean and I forgive myself, too, for eating half a jar of dill pickles while I wrote this post, half an hour before bed on a Sunday, which is probably the stupidest thing I will do all month.
December 4, 2010
The third Radvent prompt: write a letter of love to yourself to read in one year.
1. I actually laughed a little bit when I read this prompt because basically every word I write is a love letter to myself. Every entry I post on this site, every story pitch and email and gift guide. Every time I sign my name to a credit card slip I am writing a love letter to myself. It says I AM SO GLAD YOU ARE HERE. I AM SO HAPPY THAT YOU MADE IT. That doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to write myself a love letter, it just means I am aware that for me it is no longer a revelation to be in love with myself. (I am also aware that reading about someone being in love with herself is B O R I N G and sometimes when I am rereading what I wrote on a particular day I want to punch myself a little bit.)
2. Either the upcoming year is going to be full of changes or it won’t. 2009 was a very eventful year; 2010 really wasn’t. When I think about Kate 2011 I want her to be happy like I am now, or happier. I want her life to be full of love. I want her to feel like she belongs in her life, like her whole life fits her like a glove. I want her to be proud and successful and happy.
3. Basically I want her to be me, but better. So when I read this in a year the question I should be asking is, did you do it? Are you better than you were?
December 2, 2010
Today’s Radvent prompt is about organization: Focus on one drawer, table, or surface today and spend 15 minutes making it pretty!
1. I am not going to follow this prompt for several reasons. (One, it just doesn’t blow my hair back, two; I spend my entire life keeping the space around me organized and three, this just isn’t the kind of journal where I take pictures of my desk and show them to you. And yes, I just said journal, because when I started writing online people did not write blogs, they kept online journals.) But I will use the idea of organization as a starting point.
2. I grew up extremely poor in a messy house. It wasn’t 8 PM on TLC-level messy, but my parents were both addicts, my mother was agoraphobic and we had pets. So it was messy. Our entire lives were messy. My father was in and out of jail, my sister was doing hard drugs before she could drive and I don’t think I have talked about this before, but I never graduated high school — my mother made me quit just after my sophomore year ended. Somehow the math works out that if you take a poor kid in a messy house and make her quit high school you will produce one tidy high-achiever who publishes actual, no-shit scientific papers while she’s still in college and then, in her mid-twenties, becomes an editor who corrects and compiles things all day every day. And is extremely good at Tetris. I am not one to brag (yes I am) but I am positive I can beat you at Tetris.
3. There is a part of me that thinks that everything that makes me who I am is a rebellious, tunnel-vision reaction to the awful standards, values and habits I grew up with (this same part then immediately thinks thank god I didn’t come from kind, career-focused, intellectually curious parents because who knows! what kind of asshole! I would be then), but the larger and more sensible part of me knows that many good kids come from good parents and then once in a while there is someone who just gets blisteringly lucky — I mean like surface of the sun lucky — and ends up beating the odds. Right now my father is in jail, my sister is a homeless addict and my mother does drugs and works in a slaughterhouse.
4. So those are the kinds of things I am talking about. When I talk about beating the odds.
December 1, 2010
Someone named meg started something called Radvent (RAD + ADVENT) this year and she’s publishing a writing prompt for herself and others each day of December. When I read about it I thought it was the best idea I had ever heard, and I am super-excited to take part. Here is the first prompt:
What were you doing five years ago today? As the holiday season began? Where were you? Who were you with? What did you want? What did you have?
1. I am pretty sure I have talked about this time before, but five years ago in August I moved to Canada and got married and my best friend died. By the beginning of September I was working as a nanny for a pair of three-year old twin boys which was hands down the shittiest job I have ever held. I mean, the kids were fine (except for being… three-year old twin boys), but the family had gobs of money, treated me like shit and routinely made me feel hopeless about myself and the world. They also had this massive kitchen with black granite counter tops which were impossible to keep clean. I am not kidding when I say I spent an hour each day either cleaning them or feeling crappy and disgruntled after they failed a surprise inspection. As the holiday season started I was full-on miserable at work which was made so, so, so much worse by the fact that instead of giving me a week’s pay as a holiday bonus, the mother of the family gave me a picture of the kids posing with the Santa Claus from the local mall. This was a particularly thoughtless gift because I had dragged the boys to the mall in heavy pre-holiday traffic at the mother’s insistence and we had waited almost an hour in line to see Santa and the mall was hot and full of children and my charges were acting like monsters (actually, it would be more correct to say that they were acting the way that I felt, for which I cannot blame them) and as much as the whole stupid thing annoyed me while I was experiencing it, getting a photograph of it instead of a large check annoyed me infinitely more.
2. So I was miserable at work and then my husband and I got an extremely handsome puppy named Walter. Walter was a very good puppy (and, as I mentioned, extremely handsome) except that he pissed on the motherfucking floor basically every day for a solid year. We were living in a very beige and very boring apartment on the seventh floor of a very beige and very boring apartment building and neither one of us could waver in focus for even ten minutes lest our extremely handsome dog partake in some casual, impromptu urinating just for the pleasure of it. Still, our first Christmas as a family was gorgeous. We both had the day off. Our apartment was flooded with dusty, late-afternoon sun. I came across an amazing Brady Bunch Christmas special that takes place when the kids are grown and have moved away from home on our tiny, rabbit-ears TV. We got the dog some festive tennis balls (to urinate on) and my new husband bought me a couch from Ikea, which he stored in the backseat of his sports car, unassembled, for more than a week. It was not a very large couch. I got my new husband socks, slippers, a wallet and a Swiss Army Knife, which all told were hints 17-20 of the marriage so far that I had actually married my father, although of course I didn’t realize that for years to come.
3. What I wanted, then, not for Christmas, but out of life, was to be happy, to feel productive and lucky and content. I desperately wanted to immigrate to Canada and get a real job; a job that used my brain and made me feel valuable, a job that would never, under any circumstances, involve scraping feces out of a brightly-colored pair of Finding Nemo swim trunks.
4. I didn’t get those things then, of course — immigrating took forever and I spent most of my time alternately terrified, apprehensive, miserable and confused — but I feel that way now, in spades, even though I live alone and have been single so long that my left ring finger is no longer marked by a strip of untanned white skin where my wedding ring used to be. I feel that way in spades. I am the very luckiest person I know. I am full of joy. I am finally where I want to be.