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My head is officially empty. I can hear the beginnings of thought in there, rattling around like marbles on a vast tile floor. Some have argued that these marbles were lost long ago. To quote Bart Simpson, "Au contraire, mon frere." They are in there Ė but are unable to connect with each other in any meaningful way. It was that kind of December. For the past couple of days Iíve been trying to come up with my word for 2006. Itís a tradition that I lifted from the Austin American- Statesmanís Michael Barnes, who I used to have lunch with on a fairly routine basis as part of a group of area arts writers. Each new year, Barnes and his partner write down the word that they will focus on in the coming year. Since I know a wonderful tradition when I see it, I co-opted it as my own.

Given the sorry state of the inside of my head, I canít quite remember what all of my past words have been. I know I have written about this before but canít even begin to remember where. The Internet is no help, nor are the piles of crap I have on my desk. If my current state of empty continues, Iíll need to leave a bigger trail of breadcrumbs in the future.

If I recall correctly, 2004ís word was ďpatience.Ē Patience went OK, frankly. I finally began the process of being patient with myself Ė something I suspect Iíll be relearning every damn day until I drop dead. Some demons were calmed via patience, not so much by actively fighting them but by accepting them for what they are. Metaphorically, I knitted little sweaters for my crusty, scaly demons and made them objects of both affection and mockery. While I canít recommend this course for everyone, it worked for me.

This yearís word was ďcreate.Ē I am certain about this, because I suffered from a rare case of good sense and wrote it down. Iíve had more success with this one. In 2005, I made a whole new person, who is now starting to show us who he may be underneath the uncoordinated and helpless baby costume. So far, heís a lot more mellow than his sister ever was. Thatís not to say that heís a breeze Ė I mean, heís still a baby Ė but all of the things that ticked the Diva off as a babe just roll right off of our Dudeís back. He abides, mostly. The one exception seems to be travel. The Dude detests being strapped in the carseat, much less being forced to sit in it for longer than 30 seconds. We are hoping that he will overcome this or that we will all learn to not hear the screaming.

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I also made a book this year, which is actually going to be published by a real live publisher in the summer of 2006. This is something I never, ever thought I could do. While I can craft a moderately amusing essay, the prospect of connecting over 50,000 words -- much less adding a beginning, middle and end that anyone would give a shit about -- was terrifying. But a little heart-stopping fear is an excellent motivator, as are deadlines and contracts. Only a few know what is between the proverbial covers at this point. This baby, so to speak, has been delivered, and now we are cleaning it up before it gets introduced to the world. Itís a weird, thrilling limbo. Like any good mom, I think my baby is the prettiest baby ever. The world, however, may disagree. Also on my list of things to create was another book, one of fiction of the space opera sort, complete with vast alien landscapes and feats of derring-do. This didnít happen, what with the new baby and the new book and the old day job. Frankly, I look back on what did get done and I am amazed. The trick, Iíve decided, is to just not stop to examine the daily chaos too closely. The muse likes to visit those who are moving. One day, this philosophy may bite me in the ass. It may not, though, and thatís what keeps me content.

Iím at a loss, however, for what this coming yearís word will be. ďRestoreĒ tempts me, especially given my current lack of intelligent thought and deep unwillingness to go look for it. But I know me too well. If I try to focus on restoring for too long, it will become utter lassitude, where even leaving the couch becomes too great an obstacle. Some would argue that that is what my body and soul need, if that is all it wants to do. It isnít. There are just a few short hops from melting into the couch to collapsing into a full-blown depression. That much free time gives me too much room to wander. I start imagining all of the bad things that can happen and am convinced that my children have some dread illness. I donít do down-time with any grace. I am a Doozer, not a Fraggle.

That said, I've taken the last few weeks to do nothing more complicated than baking a few cookies and knitting a few gifties. By February, Iíll be itching to move again. My restoration periods donít seem to last more than a few weeks. If I try to extend them longer than they want to be, nothing good will result. Committing a whole year would be silly. There is just too much I want to do.

My hope is that Iíll know what to do next by the time Iím actually ready to do something again. The idea for the book I just wrote came to me in a flash and felt inevitable. This may be a once-in-a-lifetime thing. But Iím waiting for another flash, where the universe (or, more likely, my subconscious) tells me what to write next. I have four or five ideas that I like equally well. Iím waiting to know which one will finally be ripe enough to bonk me on the head like Newtonís apple. I have to trust that this will happen.

Iíd like to pick ďtrustĒ as my word but that would be too easy. Iím already pretty trusting Ė not gullible, but trusting. Iíve also been tempted by Ďpurge,Ē but that is something that I already do. I donít like to be a slave to my stuff and know that if I have too much of it, I canít find anything, which renders everything useless. Really, Iím pretty good at chucking things that donít add to my life. What I save are pictures, books, warm clothes and yarn. The rest is just in the way.

As I type this, the word ďlistenĒ wanders through my empty head. It echoes, a bit. ďListen.Ē It has promise. I donít listen enough Ė to my kids, to myself, to silence and to chaos. I think you learn more when you listen, even if it feels less rewarding than talking. Up here in the vast wilds of upstate New York, we are entering the quiet season, where the sound of snow falling has its own aural texture, one that canít be duplicated in any other climate. Yes, listen seems like the way to go. Perhaps the sound can help fill the emptiness.
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About the Author:
Adrienne Martini  has been a theatre technician, apprentice massage therapist, bookstore bookkeeper and pizza joint waitress. Eventually, someone started paying her for her words and an editorial mercenary was  born. She has written theatre reviews and features for the Austin Chronicle, blurbs about tofurkey and bottled water for Cooking Light and a piece about  knitting summer camp for Interweave Knits. She is a former editor for Knoxville, Tennessee's Metro Pulse and recently picked up an AAN award for feature writing. In July 2006, her first book Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood will be published.  During the day, she fields freelance gigs and crams knowledge into the heads of college students in Upstate New York. At all hours, she is mom to Maddy and Cory, and wife to Scott. 



 

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