It will come as no revelation to those who know me that I like – no, need – to have a lot of control in my daily life: over the space I am in and the events that involve and surround me. Some might say this springs from a bossy temperament, which I won’t deny I have a tendency towards, but I think my need for control has other roots as well.
Every day I work within the framework of women’s stories of violence and abuse. These women have little to no control over the world around them. The institutions and systems that are supposed to help them fail again and again to keep them safe. I often don’t know how their stories end. When I leave that work, I want to enter a world of order, one in which I feel that I have some control.
Each year, as the festive season approaches, I get out my planning notebook as I contemplate what we might do. There is nothing I like better than giving a party, so as I begin my planning I always assume I will be at the centre (aka in control) of whatever plans I come up with.
This year, I sent my usual festive season planning email to our kids in October — no doubt irritating to those who prefer not to think about the festive season until it is almost upon us, although, in my defence, I will say that finding a date for a three-generation blended family to gather is no simple matter. When I did so, I assumed this event would take place at our house and that I would plan the meal, decorate the house and do the cooking.
When my daughter responded with “Would you like to have it at our place this year?” I initially could not even imagine such a thing. Me, give up the control of having the gathering at my house? Not a chance! I knew better than to respond in this tone, so instead wrote back something like: “That’s an interesting idea.”
The truth is, it was an excellent idea. Her house is well suited to the kind of gathering we want to have. She and her partner have both a rabbit and a small dog, which provide great entertainment for our youngest grandsons, as well as a dart board and ping pong table. They like to entertain and have a built-in bar in their basement 1970s style rec room. After a day or two, I thought, well, why not?
I then thought I should ask people what they would like to eat rather than making that decision on my own. Pizza, it turned out, would suit, because by the time we have our gathering in early January, most of us will have had our share of turkey, ham and the like. Pizza also means we can accommodate everyone’s food likes and dislikes.
On a roll now, I decided that I would also invite people to prepare parts of the meal. My partner and I will create the bones of the meal: the pre-meal snacks to be nibbled on while we play games through the afternoon, the dough, tomato sauce and cheese for the pizza and, one tradition I am not ready to let go of, the festive meringue for dessert. But, the kids are each bringing two pizza toppings and something to contribute to the dessert buffet.
Lest you think I have managed a complete personality transformation, I will tell you that I have asked people to share ahead of time what toppings they are bringing, because I can’t bear the possibility that we might end up with pounds and pounds of bacon and nothing else for our pizzas.
Now, for the first time, I am merely one of the contributors to this day, and, so far, it feels really good. Maybe I will be able to relax and let the day be more about the time we are all spending together than ensuring every last detail is exactly as I think it should be.
One more thing
When I began writing this blog almost three years ago, I said I would write two blogs a week, posting them on Tuesdays and Fridays. I have done just that, excepting one break when I took my grandson to Costa Rica, and have produced 272 articles to date. It has been a great structure for me, knowing I was committed to producing two pieces of writing every week. I continue to love this writing, including the regularity of it. It feels like a place of calm in my otherwise sometimes very unstructured worklife.
My notebook and online file are brimming with possible blog ideas, bits of quotes that I know I will find the right place for eventually, slips of paper with thoughts scribbled on them, and lists of books and articles I want to read so I can write about them. I have a stack of books in my office, covered with stick-it notes marking interesting ideas for future writing.
In 2020, I am going to approach my blog writing somewhat differently, because I want more flexibility in how I can use my blog to respond in real time to events around me.
I will continue to write one blog a week to be posted on Tuesdays. In addition, I will write blogs as events inspire me to do so. Some weeks, there will be two blogs, some one, maybe even, occasionally, three.
If you have signed up on my website, my blogs will continue to pop into your email inbox as I post them; just a little more spontaneously than in the past.
Happy festive season to you all!