A Little Yuletide Shove

Dear Richard,

Your write about not being able to sleep – and of course, wouldn’t it be that now I’m sleeping far too much. 10 hours most nights. I’m trying to give up looking for reasons or explanations. Unsure whether to give in entirely, or fight it: force myself out of bed on time to write and run before work. I’m not feeling myself.

So much darkness. In the mornings, I walk to the train in the pre-dawn half-dark, and after work I walk home again in the dark. Today I had E.’s car and drove home in the sunset. A layer of landscape, a layer of blue, jet streams low near the horizon, under pink stratus clouds. Above those,  white cirrus clouds – like scattered feathers left by some mythical beast that must have been galavanting across the sky while I was inside the black box all afternoon.

Black box, as in black box theatre. I teach movement twice a week. I think you knew that. It’s a nice break from theatre history and production. It keeps me humble – and paranoid enough to force myself out of bed for a run  – on most mornings.

There are days I envy you getting to work from home. Except I think I’m too introverted for that to work out well. I tried briefly when the boys were small and I got to the point where I wouldn’t go outside to check the mailbox. I feared I would stop changing clothes eventually. I believe my nature is too much like the inanimate objects of the universe: at rest unless acted upon, in motion until stopped. This time of year I need a good, solid shove.

I had to give up on the script I was planning to write. I contacted the author of the work I was going to base it on, and she has already sold the rights to a “major motion picture company”. I’m comforting myself with the reassurance that I can spot a good story.

Did I ever tell you about my novel? Everyone drinks coffee. That is, in nearly every scene people are drinking coffee. Or wine. It is really kind of awful. There is a drunken sex scene. Fade to the morning after. He is drinking coffee alone.  The children don’t drink coffee, though. They do stuff. Maybe I should write a novel about children. Except I’m not terribly fond of children.

Seriously, I learned a lot from writing the novel that’s stashed in my drawer. But I’m still not sure why I wanted to tell the story. That story. Do you think about things like that? I even killed off the character most like me in the prologue to be sure I wouldn’t be telling the wrong story. Is thinking like that going to save me from unwittingly exposing a horrible truth about myself? Or is it simply self-sabatoge parading in pschyobabble?

This is the typewriter I bought in Berlin. We four should meet up there when we are rich, and before we get old.

It is odd that I thought you would have a reference for The Little Engine that Could. I don’t think of you as an American. Or even as an Englishman much. It is odd, isn’t it? How we are both tethered to, and out-of-touch with culture(s). I have been feeling that a lot lately. Not only the America/Norway thing, but which America?

By the way – The Little Engine That Could is probably one of the most evil children’s books ever written in that it convinces children that if they just try hard enough they can accomplish whatever they put their minds to. It’s the book Willy Loman (theater reference, sorry) read as a kid, I’m sure. It’s why the old, unemployed salesman winds up a suicidal wreck  – but for all his self-confidence and positive thinking. I think Americans are brought up to be self-flaggelators at the alter of that particular secular superstition.

I wrote last time about banging pots and pans and getting ready for Christmas. I haven’t done that. I guess by now, from the tone of this letter, that is pretty obvious. I did pull out the Pete Seeger Christmas CD set. And as I typed that sentence, as though he’d read my mind, E. lit the candles here on the table. Now he is eating a cookie. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. He is definitely not reading my mind now. Marriage. It is all about balance, isn’t it?

A famous novelist (I will tell you who later) – a feminist of sorts from a country with few of them – had two pieces of advice for me. 1. Find a partner who loves you more than you love them. 2. Get a wife.

So, ignoring the first bit of advice, which I just find very, very sad: yes. I wish I could hire a “wife”. There is a pile of laundry downstairs. And last week we had a couple over for dinner. It did not go well. The chicken wasn’t cooked properly, and when I stuck all the food on the table “family style”, they looked at it, and then at me like I was asking them to eat with plastic sporks. E. didn’t pour the wine in the glasses, just handed the bottle around.

I figure: we had a lovely evening, all four of us – and if I judge right: they won the competition for best host and hostess. That makes them feel good, right? That is a good deed.

And besides, if I could carve a chicken and delicately place it on a plate without it landing in someone’s lap, I would have made better tips as a waitress, probably not held out algebra to graduate college, never moved to Norway… it is all part of the big plan that requires no positive thinking: merely creative rationalization. Life is good.

And although neither E nor I have a “wife”, the tree will be put up… eventually. The halls will be decked. Tomorrow evening we are going to a friend’s annual Christmas sildefest, which is always so much fun. We’ll walk downtown and see the Christmas lights around the harbour first. H’s wife is a singer and choir director, so there is always music. Six different kinds of herring, and laughter.

It will be the shove I need.

Much love to you and M. and the family.
May you get a good night’s sleep soon. (And I have an eye out for the music).


Richard’s Reply

This is one of a series of weekly open letters to friends – friends who write back to me on their own blogs. Please click through.  Category: Correspondence.

If you’d like to catch up, read the letters in chronological order here.


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