What Will You Miss?

I'm within one package and a few cards of having my holiday obligations taken care of, and I kind of don't know what to do with myself! I'm used to drowning in guilt for missing these family deadlines.

Nobody likes guilt, right? How I've handled that in the past is declaring, "Our Christmas will be in January." Or telling myself "Better late than never!"

But sometimes, receiving the right gift in the right way--under the tree, in the stack of gifts after you blow out birthday candles--magnifies the value of the gift. It's a big part of the fun. Plus, there's a satisfaction in meeting deadlines other than those imposed on me--deadlines I choose for myself.

So imagine my surprise to learn that I actually miss the guilt from being behind.

Similarly, I spent a good part of this past year pulling together a nonfiction manuscript that I've been working on for twenty years. TWENTY YEARS! Twenty. Years.



I've received excellent feedback on that manuscript--part permission to let go of one or two previous visions I've had for it, part counsel for how to proceed, part responses to the value and emotional heft (or lack thereof) of the work itself. So fabulous. I'm really grateful for that.

Now I have a sense of my next steps. I feel energized because This Big Project is no longer sitting in boxes in my basement. It's not whispering "When are you going to do something with me?" Or giving me a false sense of investment--I can no longer think "Well, if all my new work stinks, I can go back to that"--a sort of creative form of money in the bank.

And guess what: I miss feeling the weight of all that baggage. It had been my companion for years. Of course, it's also great--really freeing--to know that I'm allowing those decades to transform it as they have transformed me.

But just as I miss the clamoring guilt over not getting the holidays done, I also miss the poking from this longstanding project.

Of course, I won't miss it for long! For one thing, a novel has taken its place in those boxes in the basement. It's more than whispering to me--it's wheedling "Only three weeks--four tops--would fix me right up!"

And here's the best part: any new space that's opened up from getting clear on this nonfiction project is slowly filling with possibilities--ideas and half-formed thoughts and images and colors and chocolate/salted caramel that may become new work.

Thanks, Big Project; so long, guilt; hello new stuff. Given the rest of the disasters this year has brought, I'm ecstatic to have had this experience this year.