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I’m back from D.C., after a flight that was long enough for a very long nap, two movies, much conversation and then one very short nap. The weekend was a sharp reminder of much that is good in life: friends who make you laugh until you might pee your pants, a sense of play and joy, the friend who gives you the secret five ways to de-stress and includes sex in the list twice, the moment when you see someone you haven’t seen in a year and he’s wearing that smile–that, “Jesus, I’m so glad to see you, friend” smile. Remembering that there are women out there who get you. Remembering that there are boys out there who love to spend time with you even though they’ll never “get” you. Connection beyond the bullshit. A sense of how wonderfully large the world is, and how thankfully small it can be. And, finally, that feeling when you walk in your front door, back to your real life that’s waiting for you patiently, with big eyes and homemade sauce and coming-home sex. It’s never so good to be home.

I’m also mostly back from the myriad personal and family and work issues that have plagued this new year. I try not to get too personal on this blog in terms of those kinds of things, because I feel that this blog is really about the work of being a writer and how I do (and often don’t) succeed at that. Granted, all of the personal behind-the-scenes things affect the way I work in the world–they alter my ability to write, change up my schedule and often kill my dedication, my attention span and my word counts.

On the other hand, personal is well, personal. And as a writer, even my personal writing becomes a story, grows to something larger than itself and takes on an element of mythos. Because that is what I do. Tell stories. Take what I think I understand or what I know or what I’m experiencing and retell it in a way that is most interesting, that helps me understand the experience while also, hopefully, giving something to the readers. Great when I’m turning it into fiction. Not so great when it’s happening to you and you’re trying to make sense of it in public. And in many ways, doing that is just not fair to the people who only know me from afar, or people who know me well and worry, or any of those people who just want to visit this blog and read about the writing process.

So, let’s just say that on a personal, family and work level, it’s been a stressful year. I’ve lost people this year, in more ways than one, and that’s the thing that weighing on my mind most recently. I think I’m just about to arrive at the clearing on the far side of the dark woods, but I’ve thought that before, so the unease rides with me like a splinter in my thumb. There are a lot of changes coming as well, but I think the ones that ahead are ones that I have some idea of how to tackle and that makes me feel like I can breathe again.

Baggage. We’ve all got it, yeah? It’s all in how well you pack. This year has asked me to take out every bit of baggage that I’ve ever had, pull out all the crap that’s stuffed inside and then refold every usable piece of underwear, every stocking, every bra. I’ve thrown out the ripped shit, the stuff that’s too small or too big or too wrong. I got rid of the memories that no longer have batteries, the feelings that shock me when I touch them, the photographs that have burnt edges. I’ve still got baggage. Yeah. But it’s a lot lighter to carry around now.

Which brings us all back to the writing. Which brings me back to the writing. To the thing that lifts me, sustains me, makes me whole. Words to myself: Move forward. Step into the clearing. Put down those bags. Pick up that pen. It’s lighter than you think.