How To Visit Your Family For Not Quite The Holidays, Part II

You laugh and laugh and laugh.

You laugh so hard your stomach hurts.

You play video games till 2 in the morning even though your whole body is screaming GO TO BED NOW. You ignore your circadian rhythms. Your highly specialized health regimen is off the table now because every moment counts and sometimes those moments are best between midnight and two am. And you all complain that "for some reason" none of you has been sleeping well these past few days and it shows on your faces but none of you would dare suggest you do anything different.

You endure your eyes almost swelling shut from cat allergies. And the dry air made worse by the stale cigarette smoke. But you take it because they make you laugh so very hard and you realize that this whole trip is worth it just to be able to laugh with them for just a few hours every day.

You look down at your distended, swollen belly and tell it, Just two more days, ol' girl. Just two more days of eating this way and then you can go back to eating wheat free everything. And you can stop drinking beer. And whatever else is making you so upset. Just give me two more days because it's going to be another 360 before I see them again and I need you to hang in there.

You shop for clothing with your mom and realize that she actually DOES have an eye for fashion. And that she has an indomitable spirit. And you ache to tell her at lunchtime in the middle of that diner that, even though she put you through hell all those years ago, she really did a fine job of raising you. And that you appreciate all the things she's taught you. And that, on most days, you cannot fathom how you chose the path you did and how she chose the path she did. But that right now, as you sit in a vinyl booth off a major highway in New Jersey on a freezing cold morning, it doesn't really matter.

You have dinner with your dad and you pay special attention to the subtleties in the way he talks, the lilt in his voice, and you see it: THERE, there is where your flair for the dramatic comes from. And that flair, that ability to infuse a story with all that passion, that's okay. That's a talent, in fact. Especially when you're talking about his grandfather, who was an inventor. And the pride shines in his face just for a moment and then fades just as quickly and you're betting he feels his life is pretty dull by comparison. And you wonder if he has done the same calculations you do every night when you lie awake in bed and ask yourself: is this the life I am supposed to be living?

You see your family, your funny, talented, smart, sensitive, wonderful family, as much as you can, and you laugh and laugh. You think: Who cares about the small bed and the gunshot and the rest of it? I have this awesome family that makes me laugh.

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How To Visit Your Family For Not Quite The Holidays

First, you wake up to gunshot.

And your first thought is: why is someone beating a carpet in the freezing cold? Because, you're still half asleep and, in your save-the-children, non-video-game-playing, I-don't-own-a-TV, dreams-of-living-on-a-remote-island-where-things-are-simpler life, "beating a carpet" is the closest corollary your brain can make with this sound. And as you come out of your early morning dream fog, your brain goes digging through its memory banks like a nutty professor with a hoarding disorder and suddenly your eyes blink open and you're very much awake because you realize THAT sound is one thing and one thing only. Gunshot.

And you whisper to your man-friend sleeping next to you, is that gunshot?

And he whispers, yes, it's the cops target practicing across the reservoir.

And you are relieved, but now very awake. And you would really much rather be sleeping.

Because now that you are awake, things much more disturbing than gunshot come into focus. For example: you and your man-friend are sleeping in his childhood bed at his mother's house. You try very hard not to liken your life to that of a very sad sitcom character who finds herself sleeping in the childhood bed of her boyfriend at his mother's house. But you soon realize that your life IS a sitcom character's and now you're mad at yourself for not having thought of "Everyone Hates LoLo" first. You wonder if you will look back on this when you have grandchildren together and laugh... or if you will pack your bags and leave this relationship, because, let's face it: adult girlfriends should not have to sleep in a room where a Brooke Shields poster and skateboard promotional schwag once counted as "decoration".

And then the phone rings and words are exchanged and there is a mad rustling of sheets and hurried movement in the hallway and you hear the words "lots of things are going wrong" and your manfriend announces that he has to now go put in a few hours at his parents' business because things are falling apart and they need his help. And there goes your quality time this morning. This morning that you were supposed to have a leisurely breakfast and make a Christmas present list and get all warm and fuzzy thinking about the approaching holiday.

And again you find yourself scratching your head and asking yourself, why aren't I getting paid royalties to live this life?

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The Aftermath, and the Afterglow

What I celebrated with:

Shots of Polish grain alcohol. Fresh from the back of the 'fridge. One for me, one for CLH who made too many late night bowls of popcorn to count, and one for Cousin Rob, who I all but ignored the whole time he was here because I was busy writing. Sorry, Rob!

And this the -how shall I say this?- FOOD that was stuck in the plug of my mouse:

Not in the mouse. That would make sense. This was stuck in the plug part, the part that gets put into the port of the computer. Don't ask me how it got in there. All I know is that it was covering the contacts. Which made the left button stick or not work at all. Which slowed down the writing progress. Which made me hiss at the mouse and then angrily throw it at the floor.

And this is what my desk looked like last night when I finished:

Like my "laptop stand"? Known in other circles as "a cardboard box"? My laptop was being treated to a spa day and a manicure, hence its absence from the picture. Oh, and see that white capped bottle just behind the open can of nuts? Yeah, that's my caster oil. You know. For my old lady problems. It's a little known fact that Hemingway wrote while wearing a caster oil pack. Yup. Dostoevsky, Emerson, Hawthorne... they all wrote swathed in greasy
t- shirts. Looks like I can take my place alongside the Greats.

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With All My Love

To all my friends who have answered my whiny phonecalls
My emails about how hard this is,
My blog posts about how much I have wanted to throw in the towel:

Thank You.

You have no idea how inspirational you have been to me.
Your encouragement means the world to me. And not just the hang-in-there-tiger stuff, either. The Fuck-it-just-go-get-a-latte-and-stop-beating-yourself-up-about-it kind has been a soothing balm as well. It is amazing how many iterations of defeat and triumph this novel has dragged me through. I feel like I actually understand much better the creative process. I understand that I should have been ignoring the dishes a long, long time ago, and giving in to the need to scribble notes to myself in the middle of the night. I understand that this is a full time vocation, that I can't really ignore everything that needs writing down anymore. This is the most difficult thing I have ever done creatively and also the most rewarding. I feel alive and I feel capable and that's how I know I've come home.

So, thank you all so very much. I had no idea what comfort you would be to me. Or that you would cheer me across the finish line when all I wanted to do was sit out the last lap.

We're rounding the bend, coming into the final stretch.

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