Give Me Just One Reason

Ah, as I pen this post I’m surrounded by the sights, smells and sounds of the holiday season.

Several weeks ago my husband and I climbed into the attic and trudged down with a bajillion boxes of Christmas decorations. There were wreaths, two trees, outside lights, centerpieces, stockings and fancy trappings of a holiday that seems to expand more and more each year. I dutifully fluffed branches, refastened glittering bows and searched for those darn ornament hooks (where DO those suckers disappear to every year?) And after a day and a half -and several trips to Lowes – I had festive, warm holiday décor from the guest bath to the front door. Christmas candles flickered almost in tune with the music streaming into the house via satellite radio. All was perfect, all was bright.

Except I felt nothing warm and festive.

In fact I actually had the thought (a very grinchy thought) that I wish Christmas wouldn’t come at all this year.

Yeah. First time EVER in my life I wished Christmas would have blown past without even honking its horn or tossing out a single gift.

Bah, humbug couldn’t touch what I felt. I wasn’t a Scrooge or a Grinch…or was I? I weathered the office party thrown at our house, bought all the Christmas gifts and wrapped them and still…nothing. I made gingerbread houses with the kids and faked the Christmas spirit the entire time, humming along to Bing and saying things like “Isn’t this fun?” But thing was…it wasn’t. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me (and I won’t delve into my spiritual life because I KNOW very well what the true meaning of Christmas is). Was I tired? Had I finally grown up? Or maybe all the crap of Christmas blocked the joy for me.

I didn’t know.

Now, I know you’re thinking to yourself that this is supposed to be about writing. I’ll get there eventually, but first you have to hold on a bit more.

So this past weekend, I volunteered to take my 14 year old son and several of his friends down to New Orleans to see their high school play in the state football championship game. His historic high school has not been to the state championship in 51 years, so it was a big deal for the school. Almost everyone went down with cars painted purple and gold. Yellow Jackets were going to the Dome (Super Dome) and I was playing chaperone. And just like my attitude about Christmas, I was less than stoked. But I faked it. So we went to the game…and lost. And though I did enjoy cheering and wishing and praying the Jackets would pull off the upset, I wasn’t particularly emotional about the game. After very little sleep (did I mention five 14 year old boys?) we awoke and decided that before we headed home, we’d play a bit in the French Quarter. The day was cold but sunny, and after a terrific shrimp po’boy at Maspero’s and poking around the shops (and finding some cool historic NOLA t-shirts), we headed back to the ‘port (Shreveport). The five boys were in fine form, and -okay let me stop here and say this – my son has been particularly difficult lately. He’s been doing his whole independence thing which means he’s pretty much an ass most of the time. Those of you who have raised boys know this stage – they know everything, they disdain every suggestion you make and pretty much only need you when there are no more potato chips or they cut themselves shaving. So my former sweet-as-sugar, I-love-you-so-much-mommy boy has been not quite a horror show but close for the past five months. Okay, back to driving home. So we stopped and ate at Waffle House and after the boys got enough carbs and caffeine in their system, it was time to plug in the ox cord and sing.

Now this is totally crazy, but what happened over the next two hours changed my heart.

They started with regular teenage crap. You know, stuff that made me cringe. I had to decree no more music with the “F” word or one that called girls the word that rhymes with witch. And I didn’t care about freeing Lil Boosie. So then they moved on to Natasha Beddingfield. Yeah. They knew all the words. Then it was “Unwritten.” Honestly, I laughed till I cried. Then they went to John Denver’s “Country Road” and Celine Dion’s “The Heart Will Go On.” There was ecstatic moves to “All the Single Ladies” And as we exited off the interstate, finally home, they had saved the best song for last – “American Pie.” They knew ALL five minutes of the song.  It was several hours of sheer beauty. Not so great singing. But sheer wonderfulness.

And it was a good enough reason to have missed several hours of sleep, spent a couple hundo and failed at working on the novella I’d declared will be finished by Christmas.

Sometimes all we need is just one reason to smile. Just one reason to press on and to remember the good things in life…and in writing.

Writing is hard enough without worrying about the business of writing. If sitting down and writing a book that has great characterization, controlled pacing, brilliant plotting and hooks at the end of each chapter is hard, then releasing the book into the cold bitch world of publishing is the devil. You can control nothing and sometimes you feel as though you are washed up against rocks, your forehead tapping a rhythm against the wet sand. It’s hard and sometimes you wonder “Why am I doing this?” or you think “Why bother?”

But all you really need is one good reason. Maybe it’s cathartic and the only validation you need is the beauty of your own words. Or maybe it’s a contest final just when you wanted to trash the sonofabitch manuscript and call it quits. Or maybe it’s a reader letter that says just the right thing. Or a call from your agent telling you the editor wants to see the rest of the book. Or maybe its getting that first contract. Whatever it is, we writers exists for that one little reason to keep tapping away like a woodpecker on crack, creating, pouring our hearts into something worthwhile.

It’s a stretch. I know. Five kids singing “Drove my Chevy to the levee” made me feel good things were possible. Made me laugh. Made me look through the rain-spotted windshield and see the Christmas lights strung across houses in a different light. Perhaps it’s silly, but it was reason enough.

And, really, that all you need – just one reason to write your story today. Find that reason….and if you want me to send some silly 14 year old boys up to sing Cher (yeah, they did “Do You Believe in Love” too) I can arrange it for a fee.

Wishing you a happy holiday…and wishing you a bit of joy in the midst of the chaos!


22 responses to “Give Me Just One Reason”

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    Such a sweet story–it’s amazing how the littlest things can bring us back our joy again!!

    Take those boys caroling….

    • Liz Talley says:

      Ha, I should, Elisa. As long as the neighbors didn’t mind atypical carols. Drake and Lil Boosie probably wouldn’t be good choices. But John Denver? Rocky Mountain High would probably work 🙂

  2. Vivi Andrews says:

    I’ve been slow to catch my usual Christmas spirit this year too, Liz. I’m hoping that when I fly home this week it will hit me. I’m glad you found your reason for the season. 🙂

  3. June Love says:

    Liz, this is just what I needed. I knew this Christmas would be difficult for me, so I’ve had to struggle to really “feel” the spirit. I bought my gifts early and I have them wrapped and under the tree. I’ve decorated the house. I’ve taken up some of the Christmas baking that mother always did each year. Still, like you, I needed that reason. I finally found it this past Friday by giving into the emotion and concentrating on past Christmas memories. Trying hard not to remember how it was before wasn’t working for me. Living each day and smiling, sometimes crying, at the memories is what fills me with the Spirit of Christmas.

    Now, for my writing…well, I’ll have to admit I haven’t wanted to write. Call it depression or whatever, but the desire wasn’t there. Hadn’t been since Thanksgiving. Now, this is the kicker. After my revelation on Friday about my Christmas Spirit, I began thinking about my story. About writing. About the next story I want to write. The itch to sit at my laptop began spreading through me. It’s a wonderful feeling to find that reason.

    Thank you, Liz, for this revealing heartfelt post! Merry Christmas!

    • Liz Talley says:

      Sometimes you just need a good cry in order to move forward. Remembering your mother and sister and how much they enjoyed holiday time with you is so very precious, and I’m glad you let yourself feel the sadness and the sweetness of loss. It clears way for the warm memories that will always be a part of you, that made you who you are.

      Catching the Christmas spirit isn’t like catching a cold. Sometimes you have to be intentional about it. You have to put forth the effort.

      Huh, that sounds a lot like catching that muse by the tail. You have to want to catch it. Glad you’re writing again!

  4. Tamara Hogan says:

    Liz, that trip sounds amazing! What a wonderful example of refilling the emotional well – and I bet it’s a trip your son and his friends will remember for the rest of their lives. 😉

    • Liz Talley says:

      It was an amazing trip and I do think he’ll remember it forever. It’s not everyday you by security headsets and walkie talkies at Academy and pretend to be hotel security.

      Yeah, they did that too. Totally silly. Totally a memory maker.

      Glad I went and participated in the joy of youth and I’m glad I had my own room. Hotel room after 5 boys have stayed in it. Let’s just say we had to tip the maid well.

  5. Hahaha, I LOVE THIS!!!! And I will so take you up on that offer, Liz! As a procreator of boys as well, I understand and offer my services as co-commiserator. This story is just so sweet. I love me some boys, especially when they engage in lively sing-alongs.

    The title of this post struck me as interesting. This weekend, I was driving to my RWA chapter’s annual Christmas party (it’s about 4 hours away from me, sadly) and I switched to a radio that was playing a song from the 90s. Out of the blue, I thought about Tracy Chapman and Macy Gray and wondered what had happened to them. Over the next hour, they played both Tracy and Macy, and the Tracy song was Give me Just One Reason.

    So, being who I am, I’ve decided there is a deeper meaning in this post for me. Something spiritual. Otherworldly. LOL. Okay, I’m certain there is. My son gets to come home for a week for the first time in almost a year after making some very bad decisions and almost giving me and the DH a fatal case of anxiety. Stress kills, people! But it’s the little things that got us through that very hard time. He is our son again and I can’t even type this without tears rushing forth to blur my vision.

    Okay, now I’m just babbling. I just appreciate this post. Thank you. And I hope you have a very very very merry Christmas. Kiss on that boy until he screams for backup. <3

    • Liz Talley says:

      I’m so happy to hear you’re spending Christmas with your boy. No matter how big they get, they’re always your little boy.

      I actually thought about that song as I was posting (along with the Pink one that the radio stations have played too much). Music is speaks to our situations in different ways. Never fail to hear a song that meant something different years before, but now is so much more relevant. Merry Christmas, D!

  6. Amy,

    Thank you so much for this timely post. I have tried to carve out time to kindle the holiday spirit this year, but only end up creating more anxiety for myself because I’m not writing. But when I’m writing, I’m missing the concerts, and the light stringing (and re-stringing) and time with my family.

    I don’t know if I quite have the holiday spirit yet, but it does help not to feel so alone in my slightly Bah, humbug feelings.

    Wishing you comfort and joy. Cheers, EE

    • Liz Talley says:

      Yes, Elizabeth, there is that horrible feeling that when you’re doing one thing, you should be doing the other. I hate that feeling. But as in everything there has to be balance. If you do one thing well enough, it leaves room to do the other thing well enough. Choose stringing the lights. Only get to do that once a year 🙂

  7. Rita Henuber says:

    Boys! HA! I’m not saying anything.
    This has been a weird year for me. Some pretty low down stuff. But, hey I’m here. I survived. I can do the Rocky Balboa victory dance. Writing is very much like life. We CAN get through the bad parts to be appreciative of what we do have. As for the holiday spirit, yes. Thanks to listening to window rattling music everyday and not watching any TV. (Well except for Homeland) No news and no commercials make me very happy.

    • Liz Talley says:

      Sometimes checking out is a very good thing. You’re lucky you have that option. It’s hard when you have young children because checking out for even a nap is a luxury. But I can see the wonderful benefits of tuning out what is not important. I need more of that, Rita. Glad you made it through 2013. Wasn’t my best year either, but it could always be worse. Here’s to 2014 being a good year!

  8. Hi – I know that feeling. My soon to be 14 yo son is horrible. But there are moments when we laugh until I cry and it reminds me why I wanted to be a mom in the first place. It’s a bonus when it happens when I have all 3 kids involved.

    I totally agree that as writers we need to hang on to that one thing. For me, this year it was writing my first book under a real deadline and not only making the deadline but loving the book. I had a blast writing it.

    Great post!

    • Liz Talley says:

      Ah, Shynnan, raising a 14 year old is not for the faint of heart. It’s not even for the strong of heart, but I suppose we have no choice if we’re going to get them to sane adulthood…or what masquerades as sanity.

      I now cherish those moments when he’s not grumpy, hormonal or on his blasted phone. They are so very precious to me. We have to cling to the good stuff.

      Congrats on meeting your deadline. Such a notable accomplishments. Thanks for dropping by and sharing 🙂

  9. Gwyn says:

    Aw, hon, you made me cry. Not tear up; actually cry. Now, before you get angsty, I’m so darned tired lately, it doesn’t take much to stampede the old emotions, but you made me remember Christmas past, and I miss them. Christmas has always be an favorite time of year for me. We took out all the stops, just as you did, but for the second year in a row, The Grinch has been to visit our house. Last year, flu. This year, more health related stuff. So, when I read about the boys singing American Pie, I just had to smile. Made me remember my little sis’s wedding. They started to serve dinner and the DJ made the mistake of cutting the song off. He quickly put it back on so we (and I’m talking many people) could finish singing it! Thank heaven most of us can find a key and stick with it.

    So, tears aside, thank you. Sometimes life is just overwhelming, but then something small gives us the impetus to move on. You just did that for me. {{{Hugs}}}

    • Liz Talley says:

      Aww…I’m so glad I gave you a good thing to remember. Sounds like a fun wedding, and somehow surgery, illness and general yuckiness conspires to steal even the jolliest bellringer. Being sick and taking care of the sick is hard. Hope you find the spirit in the next few days. Sometimes all it takes is one good belly laugh or one fond memory. Love ya!


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