Chasing away the cobwebs

Yes, I admit it. I get a little blue over the holidays, which for me includes my birthday on 12/29. Basically I spend all of late December revisiting my life goals, trying to tie up loose ends, planning the year (or five years) ahead. That, plus the short Alaska days, can feel overwhelming — like an actual physical weight pressing down on my head, with a little vise-grip action from the sides, just above my ears. Yes, I use a light box. Yes, I try to get outside, running or cross-country skiing. But still.

This year’s appraisals must include the fact that I have been revising a novel since April, and I’m still not sure whether it is destined for bookshelves or a box under my desk. I tell myself that no matter what happens, I am putting in the hours, doing the work, learning as much as I can from the process.

I tell myself that, but you know what helped most today? Cleaning my office just a little, in these hours before the Christmas Eve feasting and drinking starts.

I am not a neat person. And my office is in the cold basement, where I am in a constant battle with cobwebs and dust. There are manuscripts everywhere — piles and piles of paper, draft after draft. There are books and CDs that can’t seem to find their way back into their home slots on the shelves. There are receipts, and sticky notes, and pennies, and keys to who knows what, and a trout-shaped stapler that doesn’t work, and travel mementos from a past research trip that either make me happy or make me glum depending on how the novel is going. There are also two Chinese foo dog statues on either side of my monitor, which I discovered only recently have been sitting in the wrong position all year. (Did this create bad luck?) There is a handwritten letter from an 80-year-old “semi-retired invalid” who wrote to me over a year ago, saying he enjoyed my last book and is looking forward to the next one. (Such optimism!) There is a small dish that might have contained some olives or a cookie a few weeks ago; I suppose that should go back up to the kitchen.

The point is, I spent a little time cleaning just now, and I recommend it highly. I fooled myself by blasting some Coldplay and saying I’d sort papers for only a few minutes, and then a few became 30 or more. Finally, those stacks of paper are in a box and I can see my desk again. I even vacuumed the dusty rug.

Now it looks better, and my head feels a little more clear. The vise has loosened; the weight has lifted. Just a little.

If you are feeling extra festive today, I send you warm wishes. If you are not feeling festive, I send you even WARMER wishes. And to everyone: may you have a happy, productive, decluttered New Year.

1 thought on “Chasing away the cobwebs”

  1. Buddhists believe in cleaning everything, physical and metaphysical, before New Year’s Eve so that you go into the new year with as much opportunity as possible, nothing weighing you down.

    Come what may, and although it is none of my business, I hope the novel is not destined for a box under your desk. It would be nice to have another book by you to read.

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