Hi, loves. 🌿
In the meantime...
When you’re a cynic (it’s me, hi), it is very hard to watch the social media holiday happiness parade unfold across your tiny screen (and into your mailbox). I tend to believe nothing. I look at so-called happy family moments and think only of what the “real” caption might be, what was lurking just outside the frame or in the moments before the photo was taken or in the mind of the person in the picture or behind the camera.
I’m sorry! I can’t help it. I will rain on any parade apparently.
Or perhaps it’s not raining on any parade; it is refusing to buy the one-dimensionality of it all, even when I sometimes wish I could. (This goes for my photos, too.) I am just never that interested in the layer we choose to share and always want to know more about the one we don’t want to expose, the one pushing up inside of and behind and in spite of what we are trying so desperately to show to the world around us.
It’s made me think a lot about holding contradictions, and weirdly the phrase “in the meantime” has been popping up again and again. “In the meantime” to me feels like: and also. Not only. At the same time. Simultaneously. Both/and. This, too.
Our holiday week was one of those both/ands, as I’m sure everyone’s was. We went glamping (?!) with friends near Santa Barbara and it was absolutely gorgeous. Our daughter roasted perfect marshmallows and enjoyed hot chocolate by the fire first thing in the morning and laughed with friends up in a loft bed past her bedtime. We ate deliciously charred hot dogs and walked down to a beach filled with soft, slick rocks and toasted Tartine bread on the fire and got away from the grind of regular life for a few days and drank glass after glass of wine with beloved friends and laughed a lot. This is what the photos will show.
And also: my back made it hard to stand in the cold making dinner and the bed was a pile of mush that made it hard to get out of it in the morning without being in agony and it all made me worry I was setting myself back on any small improvements I’ve made over the last few hard weeks and the smoke and fire irritated my husband’s lungs and at a certain point, I just wanted my kitchen and my bed back and I wasn’t sure we’d ever bring our kid on another camping vacation again.
Both were equally, unequivocally true, the fun and the discomfort, the ease and the difficulty. A therapist once told me this view I had — of seeing all sides of everything — would serve me very well as a writer. He never told me that it wouldn’t serve me well as a person, but I’ve come to feel this way, that I am almost categorically incapable of just experiencing the joy of something, of pushing the other feelings out; of letting one reign, glorious and golden, for even a moment.
Yesterday was my 45th birthday. None of my grand birthday/going away plans have come to fruition: so many cancellations because of my body, so many plans not even attempted for that same reason. I’ve tried to have a life in the meantime. To not wait to resume my life when I am totally well again, but to somehow get on with it as best I can, to rest and also not just rest. To know that this, too, is life. But anyway—I digress.
My point: On Sunday night, my husband made dinner (this is always my job). He made my mother’s carrot cake (also, my thing). He and my daughter frosted it. They put candles on but forgot one to grow on and I insisted on adding it to the others aflame before me before I blew them out (I am nothing if not paranoid) and our daughter decided that this should be a new tradition — the birthday person adds the last candle, one to grow on. This felt like such a lovely and true metaphor: we can be fêted and loved and cherished and propelled into a new year by others but, in the end, we can only take the steps into the next day and the next and the next alone. Might as well take responsibility for them.
And while it wasn’t the best meal of my life or the best cake I’d ever tasted, I felt only joy: that this person I love and have bound my life to had poured himself into the making of these things for me, imperfect as they were, imperfect as all things we make are.
Perhaps that’s all I ever want to celebrate, to announce to the world: the imperfections, all of them, rising up to meet us, every which way we look.
✨ ABBY’S SECRET SUMMER SCHOOL IS BACK! FOR JANUARY, as WINTER CREATIVITY CAMP. Beat the winter doldrums with a beautiful, secret writing community. We had so much fun last summer writing together that I thought it would be a lovely way to bring in the new year, alongside a bunch of brilliant women writing their hearts out.
✨ Winter Camp will run January 9 - February 6, 2023.
✨ Registration will open *next Tuesday* and will ONLY stay open until Dec 21. Read more about it here.
ALL THE THINGS I inhaled (pun intended) Aimee Bender’s absolutely gorgeous The Particular Sadness of Lemoncake and am onto Kaitlyn Greenidge’s Libertie. I also am going to brave Rob Delaney’s A Heart That Works (what a review). This remarkable poem (get ready, writers!). I am also belatedly into Anderson Cooper’s podcast, All There Is (sorry, also dark).
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Thank you, thank you, thank you again for this newsletter.
Love this, Abby. Do you ever run summer school *not* on IG?