Until the early 2000s, we celebrated Christmas as one big squabbling family. I personally made sure that the TV would stay off. Smartphones weren’t a thing yet. There were always fifteen or more of us, kids and adults from various parts of the country. My uncle would tell fascinating stories about his ulcers – I didn’t mind, it was just good to see him that one time in the year. Some got married, some were heading for a divorce that was not discussed at the table. At the centre of everything was my Grandma. I’d sit on the ground with my chin on her knee and just feel that… that thing that I thought of as Christmas. I did that when I was six and I still did it when I was twenty-something. We were not like a TV family – too much drinking, too much politics, too many ulcers – but even before I turned 20 I wasn’t stupid enough to believe that adverts and movies presented the real world.
Fifteen or sixteen years ago I came out as gay. I was assured that nothing would change, that I was loved as I was, and since I had a boyfriend I thought that meant he’d be treated the same way my cousins’ girlfriends were. My aunt, whose house was the only big enough to accommodate the whole shebang, told me that we were not welcome – it was fine for me to be gay, but only as long as I wasn’t being gay in her presence. That was it. I never even found out whether the rest of the family asked and/or were told why I suddenly stopped appearing.
Our family, with one or two exceptions, considered themselves atheists, but very few people in Poland didn’t celebrate the holiday. For us, Christmas had nothing to do with the church or Jesus. It was about being together, consuming a lot of calories, laughing at the kids that were nearly unconscious with excitement because there were presents. It took one short phone call – I was only going to ask whether three p.m. was good, or should we arrive earlier or later – to lose all that. I have never seen some of the family members again, those who lived so far away we only ever met on that one occasion. The end of December, however, didn’t get cancelled worldwide to make things easier for me.
I’ve been asked to provide some insight into my creative process. This made me feel like a total ~*hipsté-artisté*~ – I never really sit down and open my laptop thinking “ooh, it is time indeed to engage in my creative process” – but it coincided with a curious event.
The book I am now working on, Children, will tell the stories of Magni, the son of Thor, and Maya, raised by Freya – and the stories of Thor donning a wedding dress to recover his stolen hammer; of a giant blacksmith building a wall around Ásgard, the world of the Gods; of Loki seducing the blacksmith’s horse, then giving birth to the eight-legged stallion Sleipnir; Thor’s duel with the giant Hrungnir and his subsequent dealings with the wise Gróa. The follow-up, Land, will tell about the first journey from the Nine Worlds into the tenth, a journey the goal of which will be the discovery of the new Ásgard.
At this point Children is slowly heading where I want it to be and Land is a sketch of a first draft with plot outline. Land will take much less time, since it will be a sequel, but by now I have rewritten Children more than ten times. I don’t even feel ready to send it to my editor. A part of my creative process is that I’m an obsessive perfectionist.
The great unknown
My beta readers reported that they were confused by the names of the Norse Gods and the setting(s) – the Norse Nine Worlds. I was surprised, because I believed that everyone must have seen the Thor movies. Not that I’d recommend them as a primer on heathen faith. This added an extra part needing to be written: an index and possibly a companion e-book. It was also another conformation that the beta readers are indispensable. Sometimes when I rewrite something ten times I forget that I took things out and it isn’t until a fresh pair of eyes lands on the text that I find out what I’ve done.
Part I • Part II
…and after all this fun and games I sort of broke.
Living with an invisible chronic illness that limits your energy means that there are limits to your energy. (In)conveniently, I never remember that until the red lamp is not even blinking in a warning, but is the only part of my body and mind that remains functioning. I can’t rest in advance and I can’t just “push myself”, I know it never ends well when I try, that I must take a break. I even know the definition of insanity. I always do the same thing. I am yet to gain any benefits from that.
Surprisingly, this time was not an exception. I pushed and pushed until I reached the absolute, unbreakable limit, then broke it too. That was it for my participation in the move, as I became a near-literal deadweight. Husby took care of the rest whilst I was plopped on our new sofa, staring melancholically at the garden outside our window. But I did get an unexpected benefit. A magical one.