Merry Christmas, and Thank You!
To all my readers who celebrate it, a very Merry Christmas!
It has been a desperately hard year for most of us. It has been, as the poet Stanley Kunitz put it, a “feast of losses,” and most of us live with keen awareness that there may well be still more painful losses, and soon.
At the same time, there is hope. We have the promise of the vaccines, and the sanity-restoring inauguration of a new president. The first will take a long time — too long, for some — to reach all who need it. The second? Perhaps the best we can hope for is that we will be embarrassed and dismayed a little less often.
Forgive me for, as always, filtering so much through the lens of my own experience. When 2020 began, I was struggling to cope with the persistent grief and trauma left behind my own spectacular fall from grace. Everything reminded me of what I had thrown away. A former student would say hello on Facebook, and I’d torment myself by remembering when he or she had first sat in my class. A public figure would be cancelled for their shortcomings, and I would relieve the firestorm of 2013. Worst of all, I suspected that this obsession with the past would never lift. Like Miss Haversham in her decaying wedding dress, I would let what was left to me of my life be defined by what I had lost.
My children and Victoria — who became my fiancee in February — continue to give me reason to work to break out of the spell of nostalgia. It was COVID, though, that shifted everything. In mid-March, schools and colleges shut down, and panicked shoppers overwhelmed the grocery stores. At Trader Joe’s, we were asked to work overtime, trying desperately to meet a demand the likes of which we had never seen. It soon hit me that I was more needed breaking down pallets than I would ever have been teaching history; it hit me too that if I were still teaching, I would only see my students “guttering on a screen.” My one chance for the face-to-face interaction I have always needed was to be exactly where I was.
Many people who have struggled with mental illness and addiction thrive in crises. It is not always so, but for many of us, the greatest pain is when the serenity and cheer of the outside world is at odds with the chaos in our brains. When the world itself becomes chaotic and unstable, we feel a strange and even satisfying congruence between our insides and the great outside. Folks who’ve been touched by fire have seen all this before, and worse. Though I long every day for a return to normalcy, or even better, a post-COVID “new normal” that is more kind and generous than what we have known, I also know my brain seems to work best when the world is destabilized. I was made for moments like this.
It has been wonderful, too, to return to writing under my own name — and even, for the first time in a long time, to make a little money that way. I am very lucky to have a side gig in freelance and ghostwriting, but for many, many years had assumed that my own name was simply too toxic to appear in public once more. I am so grateful that it has, so far, proved otherwise.
Thank you for reading; thank you for your support. I wish you and yours much comfort and joy and resolve.
Merry Christmas Hugo!! Thanks for coming back and writing to us all again. We shall Fight On!! So long as we are standing upright, breathing and have made it out of bed we’ve won half of the everyday battle. Love to you and yours ❤️💚❤️💚🙏🙏🙏🎄🎄🎄