Coffee shop ambience. Silent meditation circles. Sitting with a loved one in grief. Writing sprints. There is something soul-sustaining about being in the presence of others who exude love, focus, hope, creativity, inspiration, or any other energy that fills up our spirits while we journey alongside one another on solitary paths.
Something about autumn pulls us inward, to reflect upon our own personal moods, dreams, and goals, but also together, as we long for cozy companionship. As more people finally receive Covid vaccinations and cases continue to decline after a nasty peak, book clubs are coming back together. Families are reuniting for long-delayed weddings and memorial services and looking forward to holiday celebrations. We are starting to grieve and to dream again, together.
Personally, I am looking forward to having my daughter, the last little member of my family, vaccinated so that we can celebrate with a "vaccination celebration bucket list" our daughter started for the family--going out for sushi, visiting a cat cafe, going to the zoo at a crowded holiday time.
I can also feel more relaxed about going out and meeting friends for conversations over coffee or shared meals, attending live musical performances, and maybe even scheduling local author events to promote my novel.
These past two years, it has been a comfort to many of us to feel that we were somehow together in our lonesome commitment to keeping at a distance and doing our individual parts to keep ourselves and one another as safe and healthy as possible through the pandemic of the century.
It will be a joy, and a balm to our grief, to be with each other more intimately as it becomes safer to share physical space and air and uncovered smiles and conversations unencumbered by masks.
It is fascinating for me to look back on the post below, which I wrote in the late 2000s in preparation for NaNoWriMo, when, as a child-free young woman in my 20s, I longed for the same balance of focused solitude and camaraderie but had to direct my efforts in the opposite direction--getting my friends and family on board with leaving me the hell alone and taking care of their own business. Friendship, fun, stimulation, and inspiration we had in abundance, so we teamed up to create more solitude for each other, so we could focus on pounding out words for our manuscripts.
This year it's the opposite for me--I have had plenty of time to complete projects of all kinds, from renovating my house to publishing a novel, and I have had so little stimulation from the outside world that I have been forced to sustain my soul on daily text conversations with my most interesting friends, streaming exciting and boundary-pushing films from all over the world in my lonely basement TV room, rereading my personal library of favorite old books, and deepening my relationships with my beloved husband and daughter. I think that I have spent my time wisely and benefited from those activities, and yet I am now yearning for a change.
It was the same, but opposite, when I wrote the post below at about the same time of year, many years ago.
Honor the Ancestors and Get to Work
I attended the Lansing NaNoWriMo kickoff on Halloween along with friends Aida T. (as a dark fairy), Miss Moppet (as the Red Pirate Roberts), and about 20 other local WriMos.
I made sure to have a good time on Halloween, knowing full well that there will be no more social life for me until December 1st. For the next 30 days, my friendships will be strictly virtual.
Mr. G is on board with the endeavor, promising to do all the chores in support of my imminent noveling success and inevitable movie deals, fame, and riches. He also dressed up as a disgusting ghoul and promised to eat my face if I fail.
But not to worry! On Day One, I celebrated Dia de muertos with the family and also made time to pound out the first 2,000 words of my story. It's now Day Two, and I have the whole day off work to get a massive head start! WriMos, if you are reading this post, you'd better get off the Blogger post-haste and get to work before I leave you in my dust! Wahahaha! Good luck, and (mostly) goodbye for the month. I will not be posting much of anything this month except bragging about my impressive word counts.
Jean Michelle Miernik is the author of Leirah and the Wild Man: A Tale of Obsession and Survival at the Edges of the Byzantine World.