Monthly Archives: January 2019

January: Beginnings and Endings

January is always a bittersweet month for me, but this month there’s a sharper edge.

Certainly January is the first month of the year, a new beginning.  Thus there’s  something very hopeful about it, automatically.  Even in the dead of winter (though that’s not very wintery here in Southwest Louisiana, or at least not usually), there’s a turn to the future, to a whole new year.  The weather may be cold and wet, but you know that spring is coming.

It’s possible to think of turning a page, of closing the book on a year that was, perhaps, a painful or difficult one in ways.  The calendar opens up to 12 months ahead, rather than closing in as it seems to in December.

It’s also when a new semester is about to begin.

All of these things are positive, and I’m always glad to see January for those reasons. However, January is also bittersweet for me.  While it is the month when my younger sister was born (and that’s a happy thing), it is also the month when our brother Phil died of cancer.

That anniversary is something which no longer makes me depressed, though it does make me sad and always nostalgic.  But the few days before and after come and then pass, and so also passes my sadness.

This month is quite different, however.  In the past week, a dear friend and colleague has been been tentatively diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and the prognosis isn’t good.  As with our friends and colleagues I’m in shock.

When a younger friend receives such a diagnosis, it’s always unsettling, to say the least.

Just why does this have such a sharp edge, you might wonder.

My brother had a brain tumor that metastasized to his spine.  He underwent an experimental protocol at MD Anderson in Houston; it was not successful.

In the few days since the news spread about my friend, I’ve had flashbacks to the days and nights at MD Anderson all those years ago (late 1995).  I’ve dreamed about my brother.  I’ve found myself weeping at times.  I haven’t had this sharp grief in years.

So I’m trying to keep focused on the new year ahead, on the spring that’s coming.

It’s hard.

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So, it’s been a few years since I posted anything.  What’s up with that?

So much.  So much.

I was writing regularly, even after my dad died and my niece moved in.  But life has a way of becoming complicated (what an understatement).  And so it did for me, in ways that I don’t need to go into.  Let’s just say that I had to pay attention to life.  Writing was just frankly not possible, at least this kind of rather public writing.

With everything going on in my life, I just didn’t have time or energy.  And after awhile, I found that I had lost myself, sort of.  I felt adrift.  Purposeless.

Routines helped.  Coffee with friends.  Time with family.  Reading.  Pets.  Annual traveling to my other home in Greece for nearly three months each summer, which has become my personal retreat time.  Greece offered me refuge after my brother’s death in 1996 when I left two weeks afterwards to spend six months away,  teaching American literature on a Fulbright.  It’s still my refuge.

Returning to part-time teaching also helped.  I returned to the classroom in spring term 2016, teaching literature at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where I’d taught from 1981-2011.  Without committee work, or worrying about tenure or promotion, I was free of “career” for the first time in decades.  I teach for the joys of teaching.  I love the classroom interactions, the give and take of discussions about literature.  Or about grammar.

Returning to teaching helped me locate myself again … to find who I was.  It’s not that it defines me 100%, but it is part of me, and provides a kind of routine that’s useful for me.

I’ve also been spending time on my new avocation of crafting jewelry.  From making simple earrings through putting calibrated stones into purchased settings, I progressed to wire-wrapping earrings, and then to wire-wrapping cabochons for pendants.  Then I was able to take some workshops in precious metal clay (I’d read about it for a couple of years before I had any opportunities to learn).  In the last couple of years, I’ve refined my metal clay skills and expanded into traditional metal-smithing.

That hobby has taken on a life of its own — and shifted from hobby to business.  I formed an LLC for my business (WareWorks) and have been selling at local craft shows and fairs.  With a couple of friends who also make jewelry (though different kinds) I’ve found another kind of community.  We meet as often as we can, working on our own projects simultaneously while talking (a lot), drinking coffee, and serving as sources for each other in terms of techniques, or as critics.  We even work together at craft shows (as Rock, Paper, Silver — emphasizing an element that each of us focuses upon).  It’s been fun.

Now I’m working on a webpage for my jewelry business, trying to set up an online shop.  I’m a member of an online jewelry academy (its physical home is in London, and I took week-long workshop series there in May 2018).  Online, I’ve worked through a couple of classes.

I wasn’t totally lost for the last few years.  I had anchors of family and friends, traveling, reading, and then added teaching to the mix.  Somehow, I am “back” with myself, and my voice (in writing) is back.

I’ll be writing again, though I’m not sure it’ll be more than once a week.

Retirement — it wasn’t quite what I anticipated (though whatever is?), and it’s both wonderful and seductive.  There was a period where I discovered that I could easily become a hermit — as much as I like people, there are times when I need to be alone, to recharge.  The problem was that if I didn’t get out, if I stayed home, I just read, ate, watched television, played with the pets.  I was too disconnected.  I needed routine in retirement, and I’ve found the components of that new routine (or sets of routines).

Now if I can just make myself pay attention to the housework….Oh well, that’s a topic for another day’s blog.

I’m back.  It’s nice to write again.  Hope you stay with me!

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