Re-membering Joy, NaNo Week 1 Recap, and Holly-Hauling

Well, it has been a week.

I—along with everyone else in America, and apparently around the world—have thoughts about the current political situation. A lot of thoughts. And I don’t know that there is anything to say that hasn’t already been said, so instead of spewing thoughts (except to my husband, who is committed “for better or worse” so he has to deal with it) I am trying to turn those thoughts to prayer. I pray that we will trust the good work of the people who are making our democracy function (and I pray for their safety from those who have never learned what it means to be told: no). I pray that we will seek unity based in truth instead of in warm-fuzzies about the mythology of our own greatness.

Sometimes I think maybe unity was the real myth.

Or maybe unity is the dream.

Re-membering joy.

I love the word “remember,” and especially when I think of its relative: dismember. If dismembering is chopping things up (yeah, we’ve been watching a lot of Midsomer Murders lately, why do you ask?)… anyway, if dismembering is chopping things up, re-membering is putting the pieces back together.

For the past few days I’ve been overwhelmed by the joy I’ve seen shared on social media. Spontaneous dance parties in the streets. Bells ringing out in Paris. Months ago, people in New York City cheered daily for health care workers; this week they cheered and honked car horns and banged on pots and pans in pure rejoicing.

I realized: I’d forgotten what joy felt like. What it looked and sounded like. We haven’t had much cause for joy. Every day has been a new drama, a new tantrum, a new assault on those in our communities who already suffer most. Every day felt like a clenched jaw; like facing a clenched fist. It caught me off-guard this week to see joy, re-membered.

Maybe I’m being overly dramatic. The truth is, as turbulent as things have been, my life is pretty easy. But my faith says I’m supposed to think of others more than myself—even to think of others as better than myself—so my own ease is not the standard I can dare to go by. “Who is my neighbor?” isn’t just a Mister Rogers question, though he addressed it wisely and well.

There can be no joy in Mudville, my friends, when our neighbors aren’t just striking out… they’re being hit by pitches, one after another after another, and the stands are full of fans who are cheering the ump who is standing by and letting it happen.

Joy comes when we remember: we can stop playing this game, this way. We don’t have to be on the same team, but we can agree to rules that are fair and just, and we can agree to respect and protect every single player. Without that—the game itself ends. The dream dies, the way so many dreams do. Or maybe it turns out it was just a myth all along.

In other news: 13,438 and counting!

*Takes deep cleansing breath*

I have surpassed every other one of my attempts at NaNoWriMo, with a current wordcount of 13,438, beyond the 25% mark for week 1. Yay, me!

Besides trying to “win” NaNo for the first time (“winning”=achieving 50K words by 11:59pm on 11/30), this month is an experiment in what works for me. This is what I’ve learned so far:

  • Write every day, even if it’s below my wordcount goal. Establish the habit. Stay in the story.
  • Be a “Plantser.” In NaNo parlance, a “Plotter” outlines the entire story and then writes it. A “Pantser” goes by the seat of her pants. I, my friends, am a “Plantser.” I’m using the structure from the novel-writing class I did over the summer to set a course, then within each section I allow (and enjoy!) the unexpected. I “plant” one week at a time, sketching out five chapters, then coming back at the end of the week to fill in changes and new stuff before I brainstorm the next five.
  • Word sprints are my new favorite thing. Set a timer, and GO. That’s all there is to it. I’ve followed along on a few NaNo-sponsored Twitter sprints, and I’ve done some on my own. My favorite is a tiered approach: a 5-minute sprint to warm up, then 10, then 15, then 20. I even achieved one “1K30”—1000 words in 30 minutes. I’ve always been a slow and meticulous writer, revising as I go. Learning to speed-draft is both challenging and extremely satisfying.

Onward to week 2 and 50%!

George, Buddy, and Holly.

I justified listening to the Last Christmas soundtrack a couple weeks ago because it only has one Christmas song on it… the rest is more or less a George Michael greatest hits album. (That’s what I told myself, anyway.) But this week we went a step further and watched our first family Christmas movie: Elf.

Even my husband (who tends toward Scrooge-ish-ness, at least until after Thanksgiving) was on board. I guess sometimes you just need to find a smile.

And within the next couple of days I should finish my Haul Out the Holly sweater; look for a fashion show here next week! (Just don’t ask about my tennis elbow—I don’t want to talk about it. But we can definitely chat about how good knitting is for mental health. #worthit)

I’m not going to decorate for Christmas until after Thanksgiving, but our Christmas stuff is buried deep in the basement storage room anyway—we’ve known we’d have to do a huge cleanout at this time of year, just to find Christmas in there. So this week we’ll start looking for Christmas—which feels appropriate, and necessary in so many ways.

Wishing you dance parties, Christmas songs, non-fake smiles, and true joy this week, friends. I know it seems buried deep in storage. I hope we can all find it.

Stay well. 🙏🏻

One thought on “Re-membering Joy, NaNo Week 1 Recap, and Holly-Hauling

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