I generally adore Christmas. The music, the gentle scent of gingerbread wafting wherever I go, the bustle of shoppers, the movies. This year, however, I cannot get into the Christmas spirit and I don't know why. In order to force myself to be non-Scroogey, I have tried the following:
But it has all been for naught. As I sit here on this Christmas Eve, a fire blazing and snow drifting from an unforgiving steel sky - the frozen tears of despair, I have a heavy heart and a blasé attitude (I don't even care enough to make sure the accent on blasé is facing the right direction). Is this a function of getting old? I am on the downward slope to 50 and then toward inevitable death. Perhaps I've reached the "is this all there is" phase of life and it's not pretty. Maybe I just irrationally feel sorry for myself. Or, could it be that I find Blake Shelton being named People Magazine Sexiest Man Alive issue anathema (were the Russians involved in that vote as well?).
I did an informal poll of those around me to see if my gloom was just contained to myself or if it were a global emotion. My results showed a mixed bag. Some blamed Trump, the loss of net-neutrality, an overall ennui with life, and the death of loved ones as reasons for their bah-humbugness. Others cited the stress of the season. The giddy ones included those of perpetual good cheer, moms of new babies, and travelers to far-flung, exotic locales.
I will move forward, cook the Christmas Eve feast, spend the holiday with dear family members (though my mom's absence is felt more each year rather than less) and try to understand what's off. Teacher Perks means I have two weeks off to do just that.
I wish you all a superb Christmas holiday (and to those who don't celebrate - I wish you a tremendous National Holiday Off Work)! Be well and merry, and take another gulp of "adult" egg nog for me.
Because I don't have enough to do as a teacher, mother, and novelist (LOOK FOR MY WORK COMING SOON THROUGH A NEW PUBLISHER! MORE ON THAT LATER), I decided to audition for a role in a Christmas production, the It's a Wonderful Life Radio Show, a delightful presentation of the classic as a 1940s radio program in which I would portray a voice actress doing several characters. When people asked the real reason why I wanted to be in the play, the answer came to me - I love being somewhere in which I am simply Courtney, not so-and-so's mom or so-and-so's wife or so-and-so's teacher. Also, theater is the one place I don't have to pretend to be anyone but myself. Except on stage, of course. I also feel I'm on the cusp of being a minor local celebrity, and want to ride that wave as long as possible.
And, as president-elect of an Indianapolis social theater club, The Players (which is decidedly NOT a swingers club, despite the name), I figured I should get on the stage from time to time myself, if only to remind myself of the sheer vulnerability and risk of major embarrassment and shunning, should one not perform up to standard in front of a live, paying audience.
At the auditions, I earnestly presented my very best accents and projected my effervescence, winning myself several different voices in the show, including a dense but sweet secretary with a Boston accent; snobby east-coast wife; shrill and angry mother; and loud Italian pub owner. But I did not garner the coveted main female part. Though I long ago realized that I am "quirky, supporting actress" in both the theater and in real life, just once I'd love the spotlight...but I digress. I effusively accepted the role, and gamely threw myself into rehearsals and my role.
First, I had to develop my radio actress character. I decided she should be Violet McBride, an Irish immigrant who was once quite the looker, but is aging and now has the body/face for radio (again, a nod to real life). Being one of 16 children, Violet decided to remain single and throw herself into her career, not thinking about how aging is the death knell for women. After a few weeks of rehearsals, work, and juggling the kids/spouse, I wished I had tossed "narcoleptic" into my character's description, so I could take cat naps on the stage between my characters. This led me to the idea for my next novel, The Narcoleptic Actress, since it's hilarious to imagine a worse career choice for someone with this condition. Perhaps she'll be provided with an electric collar to jolt her awake? Or maybe my fatigue is causing me to once again find things funny that aren't.
Community theater (theatre? I'm never sure) people are the absolute best. They, like fellow writers, are my tribe. Creative, fun, weird, intense people who crave something more than, well, I can't really quantify it. But they all understand. It's a strange symbiotic relationship. We all need each other to make the play work, and it's like losing a friend when the run of the show ends.
The play opened a couple of nights ago to rave reviews. I felt electric as the work we put in buzzed through my sad, middle-aged body. The audience reactions brought me out of my stupor and made me want to entertain them even more. Is it sheer narcissism to love it? Or to thing people want to read what I write? I shall ponder these things, but not stop because they bring me joy.
SHAMELESS PLUG: If you live in the Indy area, you can some and see this terrific show, whose cast members include some of the most talented people I've ever performed with. We are at the CAT Theater in Carmel, IN, for the next few weekends! It's great for the whole family, and supports the local arts. Click HERE for ticket information.
Courtney is a most fabulous writer and teacher of gifted middle school students. She is the author of two novels - see the "Cate Books" page of this site for information! Watch for updates about future books that need to be part of your personal library. In the meanwhile, enjoy her pithy life observations.