Monday, December 26, 2016

The Threshold

Well here we are. It's the final Monday of 2016. Last week I recapped Reagan's birthday festivities & inundated you with photos of my children & my niece & nephew. The niece & nephew are currently in Colorado celebrating the holidays, & my kids are locked in the garage with their Christmas presents so that I might spend time alone with the new man in my life, Trader Joe. 

The children & I are in the middle of our Christmas Break, the bulk of the Christmas part now behind us. I say the bulk of it is behind us because there are new toys (& the boxes they once called home) everywhere, Christmas decor that may or may not be a part of our lives until February-ish all over the house, & also because we have not yet officially celebrated Christmas with my parents & my sister & her family due to the aforementioned Colorado trip my sister, her husband, & their two children took. I believe the plan is to round out the season with a meal & the opening of gifts at my parents' house on Sunday, New Year's Day, &, praise the Lord!, that is, at this moment, the only thing on my agenda between now & the time I am due to report back to work next Tuesday. My mom & I have discussed taking the kids to see Sing at some point this week but nothing is set in stone yet . . . & I probably won't wear any makeup, & if we go to the earliest showing I may just slip in the theater in the sweats in which I sleep, so that's practically the same as staying home. 

Last I left you I was headed to book club. I have to say, it wasn't my finest meeting with the book club ladies, though certainly through no fault of theirs. I got lost on the way to my destination (that's not a metaphor for anything; I literally drove around for twenty or so minutes because I could not find the home in which we were meeting). I'd been there once before, but it was daylight when I made the drive the first time & in addition to the darkness (the literal darkness that falls so early this time of year) my mind was preoccupied with,  oh, a thousand things. 

I did finally arrive & thankfully a variety of cookies, other forms of carbs, & coffee were still aplenty. I attribute part of my dissatisfaction with the evening to my having not read all of Emma. I still haven't read all of Emma (I am however making nice progress with Dark Places). For the first time ever I didn't have much to say about the book we'd "read" & I hated it; I was frustrated & the self-loathing mounted. 

The second part of the evening, after we'd put Emma to bed, was the annual December selection of the next year's booklist. In retrospect, I was perhaps not overly helpful during the book selection process. I had one suggestion for next year, Kristin Hannah's Nightingale. We read Hannah's Winter Garden earlier this year & (I think) everyone enjoyed it & if I've been told Nightingale is a better book once, I've been told a thousand times. So, I contributed a legit suggestion & should've left it at that. Mark Twain once said, "Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody." I think my dark side began to surface as the book selection process unfolded. I think I went on a little rant about my desire to steer clear of nonfiction. I am unsure of what I said aloud, & what simply ran through my head, but as I drove home that night I began to rethink my words & somewhat belligerent attitude & I wasn't overly proud. 

These last few months my reading time has become almost nonexistent, or rather, my time to read whatever I want has dwindled to almost nothing (I didn't read all of Emma, for example, but I could've led a panel discussion about themes in The Awakening. Or As I Lay Dying. Or I could've delivered one of Hamlet's soliloquies). Apparently fundamental to my happiness is time to sit & read engrossing fiction in which I can lose myself. When you're mentally outlining a book's chapters for quiz purposes & on high alert for themes & symbols, it's hard to lose yourself too deeply in a book.

I usually don't have a desire to read nonfiction, & my distaste for it lately has been amplified. This was another piece of the frustration puzzle that vexed me during the book club meeting, or rather, it's a fact of my life right now that came to a head for me as the meeting unfolded. When I do find time to read non-school related books, I want fiction. I want it desperately. I don't want nonfiction for two reasons: it's usually not as interesting to me as fiction, & it's true. I don't mind sadness or blood or gore or despair or psychotic characters so long as it's fiction; I just do not want to read about real people or their problems or their sorrows, & I think the reason for that is because I read to escape, & real people are not escape enough for me. Libby Day, the protagonist in Dark Places, has a heap of problems & an incredibly sad life story, but she's not real, & she never was, & that frees my mind up to lose myself in her dark & twisted (but incredibly well written) story. Gillian Flynn can write, y'all. I'd be a little scared to be in a room alone with her, but the woman can write. 

So as you can see there was a perfect storm of general holiday stress, self-loathing over the unread portions of Emma, & discontent brewing last Monday evening when I assembled with book club & I lament that our time together was not, at least for me, all that I'd hoped. I am so unsure of what I said aloud regarding the book selection process that I honestly don't know if I owe anyone an apology. I don't believe there were any nonfiction authors present, so I suppose no one took my comments too personally, but I probably could've conducted myself in a more adult-like fashion. 

That was more detail than I'd intended to share regarding the book club meeting, but clearly I needed to work through that for myself. Tuesday was much less interesting than Monday night's meeting (haha, I know, I know). Despite being exhausted when I arrived home Monday night, I didn't sleep all that well, which was tragic because I had a long list of things to accomplish Tuesday. When my alarm went off Tuesday morning circa six-ish, I was already awake. Seriously. I'd slept a little, but my aging, increasingly foolish body sometimes jerks me awake at five am & so I tossed in bed for a bit, stewing over my behavior at the book club meeting, longing for an island on which to read fiction until I can't stand it, & going over the day's to-do list in my head. 

With most of my Christmas shopping (& an oil change!) taken care of on Tuesday, Wednesday morning Trey, Reagan, & I headed to Jackson to see the endocrinologist, leaving Henry behind with his grandmother. Reagan's A1C was a 7.2, which was a fantastic surprise for me, as were both the size & the price of the jeans I later bought at Ann Taylor Loft. Loft was having a wonderful sale & I probably should've done more digging & I could've found a few more steals.

I didn't buy anything at Anthropologie . . . on Wednesday, that is. On Saturday, my cousin & I had a discussion about why it's often better to shop Anthropologie online, particularly their sales (mainly because of their in-store tiny room of sales rack shame clearly designed to force you back onto the spacious sales floor where nothing's on sale but you do have elbow room & ample oxygen). On Saturday, while my children enjoyed their Christmas gifts & their cousin Marykate, I purchased two Anthro tops on sale that are en route to my house as I type.

Wednesday's faces of victory:

Her last A1C, taken in September, was a 7.3. I was hoping to come in under eight last week, what with her recent birthday & various Christmas parties & a couple of nights over the last month during which I slept little, checking her number every hour or so only to never see it budge (& see, there you have another reason I need the fiction).

I don't remember much about Thursday. I am pretty certain the kids & I were at the house all day while I attempted to wrap presents & they performed voodoo rituals attempting to decipher the contents of the wrapped presents. I know when Trey got home that night I immediately left to go retrieve fried shrimp & turnip greens from Scott's. Then I ate the shrimp & turnip greens in my car while listening to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. 

Friday I pulled off quite the coup. Knowing what was ahead on Saturday (back to back family gatherings) I fed the kids their breakfast Friday morning & then put them in the tub. Their hair had to be washed & coifed before all the Christmases began, & my reward for my forward thinking Friday morning was an afternoon showing of Passengers with a good friend. This blog's growing steadily in length & I don't want to delve into a whole long review of the film, but don't listen to people who say it's no good, or you shouldn't see it because Chris Pratt's character makes a horrible, unethical decision & he's a selfish, sexist pig; those people are silly & wrong. Go see the movie. It's Katniss on a spaceship with Chris Pratt; they should advertise it that way. 

Here come the Christmas photos. 

We began at my Aunt Donna & Uncle Bryan's house around noon on Saturday (where, if you recall, I conquered Anthropologie's sale with nothing but my phone & PayPal account). 

Trey agreed to his yearly Christmas selfie (obviously one of my New Year's resolutions is to maybe occasionally wear some of the lipstick that clutters my purse).

Henry resting up in between present-bonanzas: 

That's Trey behind Henry setting up the tripod to capture all the consumer-driven, capitalistic greed about to go down at his parents' house:

I forced them to be still in their Christmas pajamas for a few minutes when we got home on Christmas Eve. 

They wanted to experiment with the flash:

I didn't take a lot of pictures Christmas morning. It was in the morning, & Trey filmed the whole thing, & I'd been up since a little before six in order to put a roast in the crock pot because when Christmas falls on Sunday, Chick-fil-A's not the only restaurant closed.

We had a wonderful Christmas (& there's more to come). The kids love their jeeps, & I love their jeeps because they drive them in circles for hours in the garage. The week that's upon us is just the most delicious week of the year. If you accomplish anything, anything at all, during the week between Christmas & New Years you automatically exceed all expectations of you. I do need to buckle down & figure out what exactly is going to happen in my classroom next Tuesday (aside of course from many tearful reunions). 

This feels like an ending of sorts but I can't just walk away from this year without punctuating it properly. It's been an eventful year for me & my family. Just recently I've (re)discovered how much I love (& perhaps more specifically why I love) reading fiction, I decided after our lunch in Jackson last week that P.F. Chang's is overrated, & just yesterday I learned a punishing lesson about seeking happiness inside a box of the stuff they peddle at Trader Joe's.

I have & continue to enjoy spending more time with my kids than is possible during a busy school week, but I do miss my other kids, the ones who can drive real jeeps. In the year ahead my seniors are going to graduate from high school & leave me forever. I'm going to cry; sometimes I cry a little thinking about how I am going to cry in the future. These young men & women are on the threshold of not only a brand new year, but the threshold of, well, everything. Life. Love. Marriage. Heartache. Degrees. Careers. Babies. Bills. Stress.

In the spring the seniors are going to pretend to marry each other in their Bible class so they can learn how to properly argue over taking out the trash & forgetting to buy milk. While I don't know exactly what all we're going to do in English class, I am leaning toward some fun with Ms. Austen, who has a lot to say about life, love, manners, etc. We're going to read some of John Donne's poetry (& soon, too, as he wrote on the heels of Shakespeare). We're going to read some Tennyson (whom I've quoted above). We're going to begin by stepping briefly out of our exciting timeline of British literature & jump ahead a few hundred years & learn a little bit about C.S. Lewis & his epistolary novel The Screwtape Letters. Don't worry; we will begin with a discussion of epistolary

I look forward to the months we have left. I hope I've taught you a few things, & I pray the spring is a good spring for us. I hope as your years unfold you think of me when you hear Shakespeare quoted, or you read a Tennyson poem, or you smell coffee. Maybe one day you'll be competing on Jeopardy & correctly answer He won the 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature (you all ought to know the answer to that, even those of you not in AP, as he leers handsomely at you every day from his forever perch on my wall).

I'm going to leave you with this quote from Dark Places.

The truly frightening flaw in humanity is our capacity for cruelty - we all have it.

I don't disagree with Ms. Flynn. The year that's drawing to a close has been a hard one in many respects. Humans' capacity to be petty & cruel was on display all too often in 2016. We all have the capacity to be cruel at times, & as you age, Reagan, Henry, students, you will find yourself increasingly in positions of power that afford you opportunities to be cruel; resist that urge. If 2016 taught us nothing else, it should have taught us that while we so often cannot control what happens to us, what happens around us, who falls from & who rises to power, we can control ourselves, our reactions. You control what comes out of your mouth, what you write, what you post online. You control you. On the threshold of a shiny new year, resolve to focus on your own capacity to be cruel, or to be kind, to be a hindrance, or a help.

Thanks for another year of reading, commenting, commiserating. I will, the Lord willing, return to you next year.


No comments:

Post a Comment