A New Baby
Welcome to springtime!
I’m in Minnesota at the moment, where spring has been goosed along by a string of days in the seventies—even once tiptoeing up to 83 degrees, which was really just the weather showing off for us visiting New Englanders, I felt—all resulting in a bunch of greenness popping out just about everywhere you look. We go back home to Connecticut tomorrow, and I can only hope that some green sprouted there in my absence. When I left, it was pretty much mud, mud, mud.
But even better than spring is the fact that five-month-old Mila is here! And she is spectacular, as all five-month-olds are, having a real appreciation of the finer things in life: milk, sleep, bouncing, and the words “Boom boom boom” being delivered in a certain staccato way, preferably with head shaking involved. It is the height of hilarity if you can repeat these words several times…then pause…and say “boom” once more with gusto. A five-month-old will give you the equivalent of a standing ovation for that. Comedy gold.
A New Book
In other news, I am writing a new book. Well, let’s be honest here. I signed a contract based on a great idea I had, and I WAS writing it. Really. I even promised my editor that I’d have it finished by January. Then I came to Minnesota and started saying “boom” all the time. My theory was that I could write three pages a day while I was visiting and still have plenty of time for comedy routines for babies—but that has not been the case. And now when I so much as glance over at my book, there in the open file on my laptop, I can’t imagine what I was thinking I would do with these characters. They have completely washed their hands of me and wandered off…and I know that when I get home, I will have to coax them to come back and tell me their stories once again.
My friend Jamie Cat Callan wrote a wonderful newsletter a few months ago, saying that the novel you’re supposed to be writing is like a house you can visit. Especially if you haven’t been there recently, she says, you should just make time for a little social call. You might have to bring along muffins as a treat. You don’t have to even stay long, she says; just show up, and leave the file open while you play a little music. Then later, she says, you’ll look over and see a sentence that might be a little awkward, and you’ll know what to do to fix it…and then you’ll think of something else and something after that…and then before you know it, you and your novel are good friends again.
This makes sense. Today, maybe I’ll just do a little no-pressure visit. Reintroduce myself to the main character whose name is Billie, a fun-loving, scattered, hippie-type woman of sixty who has a daughter who is an Instagram influencer attempting to lead a perfectly curated little life. I was thinking they might like some blueberry muffins. I’ll reassure them that it’s fine if they keep working on the plot by themselves until I get home. Then they can tell me everything I need to know.
In the meantime, I hope you are having a fine introduction to springtime. Suddenly the world seems so much more optimistic, doesn’t it? Vaccinations, warm weather, laughing babies, green things growing around us. People near me are venturing out. My loved ones are getting vaccinated, and I hope yours are too. When I had my second vaccination, the nurse said to me, smiling, “Enjoy your new immunity!” And I burst into tears of relief.
Stay safe through this stretch, which still seems fraught with uncertainty, despite everything.
Blix wants to hear from you!
Blix is anxious to get back into gear, handing out advice and love. By the way, she would LOVE to hear your questions, too. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I promise to pass them along to her.
I know the pandemic has been horrible for many, many people—but, Blix, I learned some things during lockdown that I don’t want to ever forget…and now that it might be coming to a close, I don’t ever want to go back to regular life!
Like the fact that I may be an introvert. Or at least more introverty than I ever thought.
Before the lockdown, I was out all the time. ALL THE TIME. And there were people everywhere, people peripheral to my real life but adding something just the same. Between coworkers, friends, acquaintances, walking buddies, other commuters, wait staff in restaurants, shopkeepers, cashiers, bank tellers, veterinary assistants, baristas, I was in about 300 million conversations PER DAY. I knew strangers’ breakfast favorites, the reason for their divorces, even the reason their Uncle Jack wasn’t welcome at any more at family events. (You do not want to know.)
But then…BOOM. Covid arrived, and on March 16, 2020, I started working from home. No more commuting. No more in-person meetings, happy hours, girls’ nights out, book clubs. I talked only to my husband. ONLY TO MY HUSBAND, Blix. And who knew he would turn out to be interesting now that he isn’t commuting all the time and isn’t always tired and grumpy? I stopped shopping. I wore pajamas most days. I took off my pajamas only to put on sweatpants. Instead of eating out, we cooked together. My hair grew long and the color turned out to be gray. My eyebrows sprouted their own eyebrows. And I didn’t care!
So, Blix, do we HAVE to go back to “normal life” when this is over? Is it wrong to be mourning the end of something that was so awful and never should have happened? Now that I’m vaccinated, do I really have to start seeing and thinking about the problems of the dozens of peripheral people in my life again, people who don’t mean all that much to me, no offense to any of them?
A FORMER EXTROVERT
Dear Former Extrovert:
There, there, dear. Take a deep breath. And now another.
Listen, sugar plum, if you want to be an introvert now, you absolutely can. It’s fun to try on new personas. But, take it from Blix (and Walt Whitman), we all contain multitudes…and possibly you aren’t a total introvert any more than you were ever a total extrovert. Maaaaaybe you just fell into the habit of talking to people all the damn time out of an idea that this would pleasantly fill up all the time between birth and death, and now that you’ve had that spell broken, you’ve discovered that it’s also kind of lovely to be alone with one other un-grumpy person and also to let your hair go gray and your eyebrows go feral.
The thing to remember is that all of it is fantastic! Lots of people crowded around a dining table, laughing and talking, is one kind of wonderful… and so is being with just one person, or even alone, standing at the sink eating frosting out of a can with your fingers. Talking for five minutes to a person standing in line next to you at the coffee shop can bring you an insight you might never have come upon. (Remember how exhilarating certain in-person conversations could be? Every now and then, at least?)
And also, sugar plum, the pandemic isn’t really over yet, despite all the alarming news that we’re going to have to rejoin society again. You still have some time before you have to jump back into the deep end.
I have an idea for how to think about this: Maybe you could see the peripheral people in your life as parsley. (Yes, parsley.) You wouldn’t want a whole bunch of parsley to eat every day…but parsley every now and then is a wonderful addition—a freshener, a beautiful little herb adorning your regular dinner plate. You don’t have to share your entire life story with the parsley, or even find out what its favorite song is; you can appreciate it, take in the moment of admiring it…and then nourish yourself with the real food, which, if this metaphor can be strained a little further, may be the equivalent of going back to your couch. Alone. With your husband. Or with a book.
Maybe what the lockdown did for you is it made you shut up and listen to your heart, Former Extrovert. Now you can agree not to be numb anymore, just going along with others for the sake of passing the time. Stand up for your life. And as George Bernard Shaw once said, “If you don’t appreciate what you’ve got, get what you appreciate.”
And as I once said, “Whatever happens, love that.” Both things work when you contain multitudes.
Annnnnnndd…If you’d like a little more Blix in your life, you might like to know that MATCHMAKING FOR BEGINNERS and A HAPPY CATASTROPHE will fill you in on all the juicy details, starting with eighty-five-year-old Blix Holliday leaving her Brooklyn brownstone and all of her unfinished matchmaking projects to Marnie, a woman she barely knows. The Associated Press called it “simply captivating from beginning to end.”