I find that when I’ve been away from blogging for awhile, I want to write a big blog post with all of my thoughts and events since I last blogged. To do so would be dizzying and likely rather boring, so I’m going to constrain myself and write about two lovely things: almond cupcakes and Downton Abbey.
Last weekend was my girlfriend’s birthday, and when I told her to let me know what kind of dessert she wanted, she said almond cupcakes. I searched online, looking for the right recipe.
Lo and behold, finally, I found the perfect recipe via The Modern Domestic. Almond cupcakes with amaretto frosting. I love using booze in baking, and amaretto is a great one to use. To sweeten the deal (ha! get it?), I got to use the mortar and pestle I got for Christmas, grinding those toasted almonds to perfection.
Even though I mixed up steps in the recipe, the cupcakes came out great. Next time, I think I’ll double the cupcake recipe because there was enough frosting for a whole other batch of cupcakes.
My mom emailed me last year when season one of Downton Abbey first came out. She raved about it and insisted I rent it. I assured her I would, yeah, yeah, yeah, whenever I get a chance. And then I forgot.
Now that season 2 is on, and it’s apparently a thing with several of my Facebook friends, I’m playing catch-up. My highly indulgent girlfriend has agreed to watch it with me. (More reasons to keep her around: she doesn’t judge me for my weird escapist love of period British movies and shows, particularly literary adaptations.)
While we were watching season one, episode two last night, there’s a moment when Lord Grantham and his new heir, Matthew Crawley, are walking the grounds. Lord Grantham looks back at the impressive house and says to Matthew that he knows Matthew still only sees mortar and brick, pipes and servants and grounds to be tended. He sees a thing to be dealt with. Matthew is surprised that Lord Grantham doesn’t see it his way. “Don’t you?” he asks. Lord Grantham says, “No. I see my life’s work.”
Sometimes, I have Matthew moments, and sometimes I have Lord Grantham moments. Here lately, I’ve waffled back and forth between the two with exhausting frequency. As I prepare my taxes and find that freelancing presents a tricky tax situation, I see my writing life as mortar and bricks, the way Matthew sees Downton. I see numbers and forms and schedules and charts. I see credit card statements. Things to be dealt with.
And then I step away. I look out a window at the beautiful (though weirdly unseasonal) Virginia day we’re having today. I drink some coffee. And I begin to see my life’s work. I see it the Lord Grantham way. Something to be tended to, yes, that presents challenges, but ultimately, something I love. Something I am grateful for. Something I need to protect and care for.
We finished watching the episode, and I thought, what a colossal thing it must be, to write a novel – it’s what I want to do, and yet, it seems so big. Insurmountable, really. I began to think of it in a Matthew way: I saw pages of crappy writing, hours spent in front of the computer, hating myself because I can’t figure out plot or character. I saw defeat before I even got started.
But today, I can see it the Lord Grantham way. There’s a blank wall behind my bedroom door, and I sometimes imagine putting into practice an idea that my friend Auzelle told me she had: to start with a few characters, a basic plot, and some rules. ___ chapters, at ____ pages per chapter. I think of listing them on index cards and taping them to the wall so that I can see it in front of me. So that I can see the wall I’m pushing against, the way I can move its pieces around, making it a bit less solid. I can exercise control over the wall rather than letting it stand in my way. I can turn it into a door.
I can turn it into my life’s work.