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January is hard for me

January 15, 2015

For the past few years, I’ve benefited from keeping winter ‘open’ so that my creativity can recharge — a fallow period. I don’t plan big projects to work on (or if I do, I shouldn’t — because I probably won’t get around to them). I read, I noodle around, I sleep a lot.

But every year I forget just how hard January is to get through.

Our new apartment is much colder than our old apartment: I not only sleep in all my clothes (rather than pajamas), but I often walk around wearing my jacket, and sometimes my (wool) hat, inside. Granted, I’ve got some kind of undiagnosed dysautonomia issue, but I’ve also not been this cold on a regular basis in years. It makes it hard to think straight. It definitely does not encourage me to get out of bed in the morning. And leaving the apartment for someplace even colder holds no appeal whatsoever.

Unfortunately, my best mood booster year-round is taking a walk outside.

The only leaves on trees are dead brown leaves. The only greenery in the landscape comes from conifer needles, and bluegrass. Sunny days might coax me outside, but January is Baltimore’s coldest month, followed by February as the second-coldest.

Warmish days… are usually rainy days. I like walking in the rain when the weather is mild, but that won’t be for months and months.

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I’m waiting on tenterhooks to hear from X. I submitted my work on the very first day, which was at the end of October; the submission period closes today. I have no idea how long they’ll take to decide, to notify. I feel like I’ve been in limbo for 11 weeks already, and it’s been excruciating.

I submitted the first poems of 2015 on January 2, earlier than 2014 by 3 weeks. I don’t expect to hear back until at least next month, and more likely, April.

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I sent winter holiday cards to 6 Twitter-friends. I thought only 2 were likely to reciprocate. They didn’t. The one card I received arrived this week, from someone I didn’t expect to hear from. It didn’t say very much, and it was addressed to my Twitter handle, even though I’d told them my first name.

+++

I’ve turned out to have a project to work on, after all, but I’m not enjoying it. I’m doing a book review for a book written by someone who was born in Vilnius, Lithuania. When I offered to do it, I didn’t realize it was a poetry collection. After the book arrived, I couldn’t figure out what to do about it. I delayed so long that I decided I might as well write the review after all. That’s what I’ve been doing this week.

The poet says that Lithuanians are “easily the most morose people on Earth!” This was news to me. I tend to think of my grandparents and their generation of my great-aunts and great-uncles as being vivid, colorful, vibrant. But of course, all of them were Lithuanian-American. Maybe the American parts mellowed the Lithuanian parts. Their (immigrant) parents died before I was born.

The poet is certainly morose. She can find the grimy lining in any cloud.

She is also Jewish. Her parents lived through the Holocaust, but various distant relatives did not. I feel guilty that I am annoyed about some of the things, related to that, that her poems complain about.

I have no quarrel with it’s a terrible thing that someone’s great-grandmother was killed by Nazis. But her great-grandmother was 102; it’s not like she had a long full life ahead of her. (Maybe I’m just a terrible person. I don’t know.)

In Italy apparently they have plaques on certain buildings saying (something like) “here’s where 100 Jews were shot during WW2, and we’re very sorry about that, because Brotherhood”. But in Vilnius, there are just plaques on buildings saying “here’s where 100 Jews were shot during WW2”. The poet is angry that Lithuanians and Poles and Ukrainians and Belarussians don’t show, through plaques on buildings, that they’re sorry. Words on plaques are just words. Did Italians stop committing genocide? Did Lithuanians uniquely commit more genocides? Genocide is wrong no matter who did it, and whether or not they put up plaques decrying it 50 years later.

Maybe I’m just oversensitive because she keeps talking about how Vilnius is such a Catholic city, and yet all of those Catholic Lithuanians looked the other way while their Jewish neighbors were carted off to concentration camps.

My Lithuanian ancestors were Catholic, but they left Lithuania in the early 1900s. In my family tree on that side is a Jewish great-great-grandmother. Would my family members have committed atrocities? Or just looked the other way while others did so? How my parents and extended family have treated me . . . does not reassure me.

The poet writes, “I wish I believed that people are good at heart / like the fifteen year old Anne Frank.”

When I was 15 myself, I thought similarly. Now I know the world is a lot more complicated. I don’t think I have any opinion about “people”, in aggregate. Except perhaps that very few people are whistleblowers, or will stand up to authority just because something’s morally wrong. I did, and I lost everything. I’ve often thought getting shot would’ve hurt less, and if I’d died from it? Well, my suffering would’ve ended. Instead, it just goes on and on.

I’m not usually morose, but re-reading this book so I could do justice to my review, beyond “I didn’t really care for it”, has taken me to some dark places. Which is a tricky thing in January.

 

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