Kind of a holiday post

Today, I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. Showered. Picked up some prescriptions. Waited on a shortish hold. Walked the dog. Cleaned the kitchen. Made tea. Wrote some more. See, I’m currently, unexpectedly in that “obsession/consumption state” with a new literary project. This one a collaborative endeavor with my other literary artist friend, Mike. Who I have spoken of before. He’s one of my bffs. I have three to five bffs, and he is one. And it helps that he’s a literature/language/performance addict like me because when we put our brains together sometimes lucid thoughts are formed that can then be structured in such a way as to become a piece of art. This weekend we had one such breakthrough. What is it? It’s a text. I can assure you it is a text.

An exciting collaboration with another artist? That’s about as good as it gets for Christmas. Also, Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and so forth if those things mean something to you. They seem to mean very little to me these days. You know what does mean something to me? Winter break, yo. And I am currently very much on the winter break — mugs of hot cocoa and profanity, carrot cake and video games, robes . . .

But today was not for video games, carrot cake, or robes. Today was for getting shit done. Making art is “getting shit done” and don’t let anyone ever tell you differently, and people will, particularly American People.

I can tell you Mike and I are making a text. And that text is very much informed by another text which in turn references many other texts and it’s all very meta and complex, the band you’ve never heard of. And yet it’s not. It’s all about laughing at that shit — the idea of “bands you’ve never heard of” and bullshit snobberies that are useless to those of us who believe, as Mike and I both do, that capital T-Truth and capital B-Beauty both exist wherever you find them — whether on Broadway or a street corner in Tucson, Arizona. Whether you’re “attending Harvard in the fall” or “taking a class at the community college” — Truth and Beauty are wherever you find them. Truth and Beauty just are. Full stop.

And I’m lucky because right now, I have a little guilt-free time off where I’m feeling well enough to do the work required to research and write for “the project” aka “the text.” Good timing, universe.

I won’t be overly oblique. The idea started with this simple question, “Is The Wasteland even good anymore?” And of course “good” is so subjective, so we had a great time laughing about how to define that for our purposes as writers reading The Wasteland “for fun” during winter break from the schools where we respectively teach texts and the construction of texts to children. And Mike and I bonded, early in our friendship, over a mutual disdain for the way so many teachers “teach” texts to children, say nothing of how said texts are selected. I say text because at this embryonic phase of our project’s development I don’t want to limit the work by naming the medium too specifically. And also, do any English teachers strictly, only teach “books” anymore? I think not. I mean, I’m fairly sure our medium will never involve clay, pottery wheels, or pyrotechnics, but outside of that anything might fuckin’ go. Maybe not circus animals, either. Probably not circus animals. Do circuses even exist anymore?

Mike and I leveled up our bff-ship with matching mala beads from an art fair in Tucson.

So here’s the holiday portion because I plan to throw all my other written efforts, after this post, into “the project” and fun stuff like learning tarot (haters gonna hate) and playing video games (haters gonna hate) and sleeping whenever my body wants to sleep. Last Medium of 2021. Here goes:
1) Please be nice to my book, Transference, when it drops (February, I think?) with Tolsun Books. By nice, I mean buy a copy from the publisher and if you absolutely hate it you can burn it or trade it in and/or write me to say how loathsome you find me as a writer and/or human being. I don’t care. I also don’t think you’ll hate it. I realize this is a terrible “plug” for my work, but this part of being a writer/artist has always been difficult for me. I’m from Midwestern America. I was raised to not be boastful.
2) My health is holding steady. I am grateful for that. I am trying to be kinder to my body, my soul, my mind. I am not perfect. I fuck it up sometimes, but mostly I am better at caring for myself in 2021 than I was in 2020. I still have metastatic breast cancer. I still take drugs for that and will for the rest of this life. I will never be “well” until there’s a cure. If you donate money to medical endeavors, consider doing the research and finding an institution or organization that is doing real, meaningful work to find a cure for breast cancer — do not give your hard earned money to an organization/institution/company that spends more on producing and peddling pink goods than on researching a cure. I don’t know what that organization would be as the only time I spend in “breast cancer patient” mode is when I’m taking pills, scheduling appointments, enduring scans, having blood drawn, being physically examined, waiting on hold with radiology, waiting on hold with health insurance, waiting on hold with pharmacies, feeling a certain way and wondering if it warrants a call to the doctor, wondering when I will have time to schedule this procedure, that appointment, this test . . . And what I mean to say is that I am in cancer patient mode a lot, so when I don’t have to be in cancer patient mode, when I don’t have to think about breast cancer or the ravages of the disease, you can probably find me teaching, writing, reading, or playing Legend of Zelda.
3) I quit drinking in March of 2021 and have not had a drink since then. I believe I had a problem with alcohol that was exacerbated by emotional distress caused by, you know, everything. Though I sometimes miss drinking, I don’t miss drinking at all. When I quit drinking, I quit an entire way of thinking and being. And in the letting go of the “old ways” of being and thinking, some facets of my life grew more complex while others softened significantly into a marvelous simplicity.
4) I never want to go back to the way I was before March of 2021. I respect and love all prior versions of myself but I have no desire to “return to” any, and the elements of “prior iterations” of myself which were, are, have always been essential to who I am as a human being, returned to me once I quit drinking and quit dwelling in the darkness of thought and behavior that the drinking endlessly perpetuated.

This made me laugh because it is true.

5) Things I returned to in 2021, in no particular order: love of nature, of others, of myself, of God. Love. The power of love. Yes, just like the Huey Lewis song. And speaking of Huey Lewis . . .
6) Music. The only constant in my life. (For the record, no one in this house listens to Huey Lewis.) Before language, before stories, before poetry: music. I keep telling myself I’m going to pick the piano back up again, or learn the guitar, and then my American life keeps happening all around me into which I struggle to fit pianos and guitars. Also, that Beatles documentary totally stressed me out. What about you, reader?
7) I started a new job this year. I like it very much, and it is very difficult because teaching in America is very challenging this year. And this is by turns terrifying, exhilarating, immensely gratifying, and unbelievably exhausting. Also, it’s middle school which since the beginning of time has been, you know, exhausting.
8) I know the best people. And as I open myself to more experiences, I meet more and more people and most of them, so far, are pretty damn good. And this is encouraging. And yes, there are the occasional inveterate assholes, but I have mostly-for-the-most-part weeded all inveterate assholes from my life and really only encounter these types in social media and retail situations.
9) I really, really dig Tucson. This afternoon, walking Abe in a light hoodie and sweatpants, in late December, I thought, “My God, I don’t know if I ever could go back ‘home’ again.” Seriously. How did I deal with all that cold for the first 37 years of my life? And it’s more than the weather — Tucson is delightfully peculiar in a way that “new peculiar” to me. There’s really nothing like Tucson. This from a woman who, on her first visit to NYC, referred to the city as “Dirty London.” (My appreciation for NYC has grown with subsequent visits, and I’m pretty sure I take that statement back now . . .)

10) I’m looking forward to new discoveries. No trips are planned, no vacations scheduled, no “big moves” on the horizon, and that’s okay. My morning mantra for Winter Break has been, “I wonder.” Meaning, I wonder what will happen next, now that I’ve arisen into a new day. If I start the day with a sense or an idea of “wonder,” I find that my anxiety decreases, my depression fades, my energy increases, and I struggle this time of year, mightily, with depression and anxiety — as do so many — and my energy levels are often unpredictable as my body adjusts and readjusts to chemicals used to treat cancer.

But this post doesn’t get to end with “cancer.” I think it should end with a flourish, like my thoughts on the Beatles’ documentary: stressful, tedious, upsetting, awkward. I mean, maybe I just don’t really love The Beatles the way I’m supposed to as a white American. I’m not saying the music is bad, I’m just saying the film left me feeling by turns bored and nervous and the very nature of my American life already makes me feel by turns bored and nervous and so I really don’t see the value in a film, during a boring and nervous time, about people who were bored and nervous during a time when they had positively no reason to be bored or nervous. Know what I mean?

Hope your calendar year wraps up nicely. (Should I work for Hallmark? Yes. Yes, I should.) And I hope to see you on the other side of 2021 which, allegedly, is going to be 2022.
I wonder what that will be like . . .

Be good, hooligans.




Educator, essayist, feminist, human.

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Allison Gruber

Allison Gruber

Educator, essayist, feminist, human.

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