There is a point during the calendar year when the idea for my holiday card just hits me. Sometimes this point occurs in the summer months, when I’m working on the girls’ birthday invitations – the other time of the year when the horizontal surfaces in my house are taken over with x-acto blades and piles of slivered paper. Sometimes it’s later in the fall when I start to formulate a plan. One time it was really, really late, and I had to force myself to sit in a chair and will myself into a plan of action. I keep the ideas in my sketchbook in my purse, and I doodle on them sometimes on long trips. Occasionally it just takes looking at a particular shade of paper color, or the shape of an envelope to get the wheels turning.
This year, the idea came to me early. I was pretty excited about it, and the prospect of getting a head start on the holidays and the production line. In fact, I would need to be ahead of the game because the idea sort of related to an advent calendar, a kind of countdown to the season, but with a little bit of a twist. It would necessitate an early mailing, but I could handle that because I’d just start on the cards in September, and then I’d magically find myself with so much free time come December that I could break out some of the craziness of past years – the detailed cookie decorating or the endless pints of ice cream gifts.
My idea of a countdown has completely shifted now, along with so many other things. Name them if you wish – priorities, desires, motivation, hopefulness. If I had to describe the undercurrent of all my anxiety at the moment in one word I would choose “numbered”. I’ve used “fragile” and “fleeting” and countless other words that dance around the real root of my ever-present fear, that our days are numbered. Letting go of a child will do that to you – that number is way too low, maddeningly low. Not enough days with her, hours with her, minutes with her. Not enough visits, or gift openings or holidays. There is no way that my cards are going to count down to anything this year.
And here’s the rub. I need to make cards this year. It’s a centering exercise for me – and one that helps put me in the mood to celebrate. The season is really about preparation, and I’ve always found that the quiet time I spend cutting paper and assembling cards to be an important part of how I engage in the season. I just don’t have the energy for any of it – the trees, the presents, the baking – and I’m not sure how to tackle something of this magnitude without just a little bit of drive and motivation. Or a new idea.
I’ve stewed over this conundrum for the past week, and I’ve settled into a spot that I think I can work with. I spent almost an hour in the paper store on Sunday, sorting and stacking and counting and purchasing. There are fresh #11 blades and glue and envelopes. There is an idea, no more (or less) ambitious than any of the others. I’ve been telling myself all week, as I procrastinate in my planning, a line similar to the art teacher’s line in Peter H. Reynold’s “The Dot”. Just make a mark, and see where it takes you.
Just make a cut in the paper, Kristin, and see where it takes you. That’s all you can do.
I do not have a clear picture of how these holidays will look this year. I can bow out now, and no one will fault me for it. Or I can put one foot in front of the other and see where it takes me, one little, and then many, many, many more, cuts at a time.