Sleep, Elton John, and The Value of Brain Candy
Sleep and the movies cure most ills. That’s a hill I’m willing to die on.
When I got home from teaching at YouthWrite a couple of weeks back, I slept ten hours a night for two nights. It was glorious. I slept well at the writing camp, but not enough. I spoke to no one but my husband for an entire weekend. I was talked right the hell out. I thought I might never talk again (there are surely people in my life who would wish for that, but I don’t want to know who they are).
I got caught up on my work and was nearly back on my horse (not that I ride horses, but you know what I mean) when my husband and I found out that a man we adore had died. He had lived with us in the early ‘90s when he was going to theatre school in the program where I worked as the production stage manager, and he and Stu appeared on stage together a couple of times.
Life throws us loops all the time. I believe we can only do the best we can to cope with something that feels surreal and deeply sad, and cut ourselves some slack if it puts us off schedule for a week or so. This post is late. I forgive myself. I could have been writing it on any number of days this past week. I had the time to do it, but my brain was frozen. All I wanted was sleep, Scrabble with my sister, and the movies.
When life hits me hard, one of the first actions I take is to buy movie tickets. Stu and I go to a lot of movies together, but I love going by myself and always have.
I’m not a devoted Elton John fan (though I will always sing along when one of his songs comes on the radio), so I knew that the movie Rocketman couldn’t offend me. Five minutes into the film, I said out loud to the screen, “I’m in.” I sang along, teared up when I was manipulated into doing so, and completely lost myself in the movie.
To me, this is one of the best things about the movies. It’s a cliché to say that they can take you out of your own head and your own worries, but like all clichés, it’s true. They can.
While I was watching Rocketman, I wasn’t worried about my paid editing work, or a long-overdue round of edits on my own woefully ignored work in progress. I just let myself be in 1960s London with some gorgeous actors who were no trouble to look at for two hours.
So, how to honour my friend and keep my sanity. First things first: write to the family. Take a few days off. Look at old photos. Remember the zillions of guitar parties we held nearly every weekend for years. Remember our friend playing his guitar in our tiny dining room night after night. Cherish those times. Commiserate with friends who also loved him.
Me talking to myself: “Don’t worry about work. Work (how I make a living) and work (my own writing) will always be there. It’s okay to take a few days off.”
#amwriting is insidious as it reinforces the notion that if we’re not writing all the time, we’re not writers. Well, no, dear Tweeter: you’re not writing. You’re futzing around on Twitter.
Same with #amediting. If I’m not editing my own work or someone else’s for a few days because I’m grieving, am I still an editor? Of course I am. Is my dentist still a dentist when she goes to Vancouver for a wedding? Yes, she is.
I do call—and always have called—bullshit on the idea that if we’re not writing all the time we’re not writers. If we’re not editing all the time, we’re not truly editors. I invite you to let that notion go and to take care of yourself if you need to.
Plumbers don’t cease to be plumbers when they put their tools away and go to see Rocketman. Nor does this editor cease to be an editor when I go to the movies. The work will always be waiting for us when we’re ready to head back in.