The elevator was quiet yesterday. I stood there with four of my co-workers, and we all just sort of stared at the door, listening to the trippy foreign voice telling us we were going down.
"What's wrong?" we all said. "It's deep February. It's Monday. We don't know."
It's deep February, and the markets are tanking farther every day, and there's no freelancing. The mood reminds me of my senior year of high school, when I was deep in the throes of my eating disorder and everything seemed as bleak as the Midwest landscape. I was always cold. I remember distinctly standing in the high school cafeteria after school one night, talking to a guy I knew with long, brown hair who always wore black concert t-shirts, no matter how cold it was. This time, in my memory, he was wearing a Long Cold Winter t-shirt, and I was wondering how he could stand to wear short sleeves when it was freezing outside. He seemed unfazed, but then, I don't remember ever seeing that kid get upset. I didn't know him that well, but in a small school you can get a sense for someone's personality even if you don't talk to them all that often. I thought to hell with the long, cold winter -- I want spring! But even spring wasn't good enough back then, because back then, I was depressed.
I'm not depressed now, I'm just tired of the bad news, tired of the long, cold winter. I'm tired of hearing there's a cold front coming to Kansas City and that the markets lost another 300 points today. I'm tired of hearing about the unemployment rate and how we haven't yet brought our troops home from anywhere, not even Vietnam. I'm tired of it being tax season and still not having the slightest clue whether we will owe thousands or get a refund. I'm tired of things hanging over my head.
Now that I've graced you with my pity party, I'll tell you what I plan to do with all this angst. I'm going to work on my new novel outline. I have a novel in my desk drawer from 1997, but I don't have the energy to rework it. Many writers have told me to run away from the old desk-drawer novel, and I'm going to take their advice. However, I need a nice angsty writing project into which I can pour all my wah-wah and attempt to find a good story worthy of a little dejection.
I had lunch with my friends from writing school last weekend. My friend J. said she wasn't writing anymore, that the market had squeezed it out of her. This is a bloody shame, because J. is a fabulous writer. E. admitted she still pulls over to write down ideas, even if she hasn't had time to do much with them. The other E. (only an "a" away) claims to have not written in years, but we suspect he's still just attempting to appear a brooding genius, hiding away his writing until it's perfect. K. doesn't identify as a writer, even though she teaches business writing at the collegiate level. I sat there chattering on about the children's book I'm shopping and wondering if maybe I'd sold out, maybe in the effort to actually get things published I'd lost my art, but I don't know. I don't think so. I hope not. But when I think about it, the only place I write daily is here, and I don't know that this could be considered art. But these are my stories, just as the first novel was my story and the second novel will be my story and the children's book is my story and Sleep Is for the Weak included some of my stories. All my short stories, never read by more than my sister and writer's group, are my stories. It's not easy to tell a true story, even harder to make one up, so these stories are squeezed from my long, cold winters. As much as I love the sunlit days of spring, the long, cold winters are when I start longing for something to look forward to, somewhere to put all this impatience with deep February. I should treasure this time, really.