December Delights: Monthly Missives from The Dream Pedlar

Looking ahead to the new year and the wonders it holds in store for us ...

December Delights: Monthly Missives from The Dream Pedlar
Photo by Ananya Bilimale on Unsplash

Hello, Dreamer!

How exciting it is that this missive has arrived in your inbox on the last day of the year!

It's mid-December as I'm writing this. School will be out for the winter break tomorrow, and I'm looking forward to spending time with little D and my partner KrA, taking a break from work and taking the time to rest and recharge.

As I think about the new year, the excitement of the holidays leading up to it, the promise of a new year coupled with all those warnings about how New Year's resolutions are doomed to fail, something from many years past has been coming to mind.

Almost twenty years ago, KrA gifted me an iPod shuffle, pre-loaded with many of my favourite songs. I remember being thrilled at first to have such easy access to my favourite music.

But the initial excitement quickly gave way to dismay as I realized that I wasn't in control of which song would play next.

"It's so random!" I moaned.

"But that's the point," dear wise KrA replied.

assortment of colour pencils
Random | Photo by Pierre Bamin on Unsplash

Standing on the precipice of a new year, I can't help but think of my very first iPod shuffle as an analogy to life.

We don't know what's going to come next, we have no control over what's going to happen next. Who knows what 2024 will bring? Who knows what even tomorrow will bring?

But ... that's kinda the point, isn't it?

KrA was focused on the delight of the iPod playing a favourite song I may not have heard in a long time, whereas I was focused on the disappointment that would ensue if I were fixated on listening to a particular song and had to click past several random songs to get to the one I wanted at that moment.

(On an aside, one could argue that at the end of it all, the iPod still had all my favourite songs in it, whereas life deals us both good fortune and blows. To that, I'd say that no song remains a perennial favourite. We grow and change and evolve, and so do our tastes and likes. So a long-ago favourite could very well sound clichéd and silly in the present moment.)

I've struggled with this uncertainty and this fear of not knowing for a long time, and have actively sought ways to cope with it. Meditation. Keeping a gratitude journal. Making a plan. Visualizing. Focusing on what's in my control (my actions) and what's not (the outcomes).

But the one thing that has been most effective at helping me keep perspective is remembering how fleeting all this is.

How brief our lives are. How quickly a lifetime flashes by.

How our lifespans of 50/70/90 years, however long we have, are not even a blink of an eye when compared to how long stars have been ablaze in the skies, how long life has flourished on earth.

How our individual existences are like blips in time.

Here now. Gone the next instant.

And so I have a guiding word for the year:
a word of wisdom for 2024!
Choosing a guiding word for 2024

For one thing, the word sounds beautiful to me. I love how it feels in my mouth when I say it out loud.

Moreover, when I look at my days and at life through this lens, I find myself worrying less about outcomes but focusing more on the moment I have right here and now, for its own sake, not as a means to some end that may or may not materialize.

What about you? What are your hopes and dreams as you step into 2024? Are you too inspired to come up with a word or a phrase to guide you through the next year? Write to me and let me know, and we'll encourage each other on this journey.

Tales for Dreamers

all in a year's work

On this last day of the year, I invite you to revisit an old favourite and a timely read for this time of the year. I wrote this more than a decade ago and it remains a favourite amongst all those who've read it.

tales for dreamers: all in a year’s work
Have you ever wondered how the months came to have a rather unequal distribution of days?

wish chimneys

This year, I also bring to you another brief tale. On wishes and desires. On second chances and the freedom of choice. On new beginnings.

tales for dreamers: wish chimneys
Everyone knows about presents sent down chimneys on Christmas eve. Did you know you could also send undesirables up the same way on new year’s eve?

Books You May Love

December has been a great month for reading. I picked some gems from the library and was treated to an incredibly vast variety of stories. This is probably the longest 'Books You May Love' section you've received from me in a while.

After having devoured the delight that was The Sea Elephants by Shastri Akella, I fell into a bit of a reading slump. Nothing seemed to hold my interest, so I turned to an old favourite.

I returned to Charles Todd, but this time I chose not an Inspector Rutledge mystery but a book from the author's Bess Crawford mystery series. Crawford is an English nurse serving during World War I, so I returned to the familiar haunts of Todd's writings, only from the perspective of a new and delightful character.

Hardback copy of A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd

A Bitter Truth is the third book in the series, I found out belatedly, but that didn't take away from the delight of reading it. Crawford is back in London from the war in France on a Christmas leave, but is compelled to make a trip to Sussex to help a woman who turns up at her door.

Naturally, a murder takes place at the woman's Sussex home and Crawford is embroiled in it. It was an exciting read, and I'm happy that there's so much more of Todd's writings to return to whenever I find myself wondering what to read next!

Hardback copy of None Of This Is True by Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is another favourite author of mine! Imagine my delight when I got my hands on None Of This Is True! It was packed with suspense and a deep sense of foreboding ran throughout the book. I couldn't help but tear through it.

In this one, Alix Summers is a podcaster who interviews successful women and their struggles en route to success. While celebrating her forty-fifth birthday at a pub, she meets a woman called Josie Fair, who is also celebrating her forty-fifth birthday that very evening.

Josie tries to meet with Alix again later and proposes that Alix interview her for her podcast. Josie promises her life story is intriguing, and Alix is unwittingly drawn into the web that Josie weaves, blurring truth and fiction.

Hardback copy of Mister Magic by Kiersten White featuring an old television screen against a pink background
"Your favourite childhood television program feels like a fever dream."

That is how Mister Magic by Kiersten White begins. And from thereon, the entire book reads like a fever dream. I don't even know how to describe this book; reading it was like being on one wild acid trip.

It begins with thirty-something-year-old Val, whose father dies, and at whose funeral two men turn up and claim that they all used to act in a children's show decades ago before an accident brought the show to a halt. The only trouble is Val has no recollection of any of this. Yet, she agrees to go with the two men to reunite with the rest of the cast for a podcast that's set to be recorded about the show.

It is a dark fantasy, a horror book, not outrightly horror but deeply unsettling and terrifying. It beautifully addresses many larger themes around childhood, parenting and societal constructs. At the end of the book, the author mentions that the book was inspired by her experience of trauma in leaving a a religious group that she had to follow as a child.

Many parts of the book resonated with me deeply, and I share below one such excerpt.

Javi holds out his drink. "May we recover from how bad our parents fucked us up, and never find out how badly we're fucking up our own children." He takes a long swig.
Jenny laughs, but it's not the bright bray of earlier. It's low, gasping and bleak. "Oh, I know exactly how I'm fucking my girls up, because I'm making them into me. I look at them and I love them so much I want to eat them whole, and also they're such little shits I want to strangle them. And they don't care about either feeling, because they don't care about my feelings, because I'm not a person to them."
Marcus has one arm across his chest, his hand on his own shoulder, cheek resting there. "No one tells you how hard it is to be a parent, but they also never tell you how terrifying it is. My ex has our son half the time and I spend every minute he's gone vaguely panicked about whether he's sad or scared or hurt, and I don't know about it and can't help him. And then when he's with me—" He pauses to take a long drink before continuing. "When he's with me, I sometimes count down the hours until he's gone again, because at least then I know what I'm afraid of. When he's with me, I'm still afraid and I don't know why. Or how to be what he needs. What he deserves."
Isaac nods. "Are you ever terrified you're not protecting them? That there's something obvious, something easy you should be doing, but you haven't done it and they're going to suffer because of it?"
Jenny gestures to the night around them. "The fact that we're out here in the middle of the desert trying to unearth our own childhoods rather than taking care of theirs is probably all the answer you need. Bad mom. I'm a bad mom."
~ Mister Magic by Kiersten White

It's a thing of beauty, this book.

Hardback copy of Yellowface by R. F. Kuang

Ooh, and then I also read the book that everyone's been talking about off late. Yellowface by R. F. Kuang.

You've probably already read it or know the premise by now. When successful Asian American author, Athena Liu, dies in a freak incident, her struggling peer, June Hayward, a white woman, steals Liu's recently completed manuscript about Chinese labourers in World War I, builds on it and passes it off as her own. Hayward reaches the dizzying heights of success and also faces intense backlash on her brazen act of cultural appropriation.

The novel is written entirely from Hayward's point of view. Kuang's writing is so amazing that I could sympathize with Hayward's perspective, I could understand the delusional arguments she uses to convince herself that her deeds were not wrong, not really. It was a wildly entertaining read, and as an author whose mental dialogue reflects much of June Hayward's, it was also a deeply satisfying read for me.

So those were the amazing books I read this month, and even as I write this I'm in the midst of reading yet another spectacular book. I can't wait to write to you about it in January's missive!

Well, dear Dreamer! How is it that time has a tendency to fly when I'm penning this missive to you? How is it that 2023 has flown by, and 2024 is already knocking on our doors, determined to find its way into our lives?

Thank you for taking the time to read these monthly missives. I am very grateful for the space you allow me in your inbox and in your thoughts.

As we slip from one year to the next, what I wish for you and for me, for us all, is a year of taking life as it comes, responding to it to the best of our abilities, and trusting that is enough.

So here's to a year of not trying to hack life into submission or predictability. Because when we let go of our ideologies of how life should be, we're in a far better place to remain open to what life has to offer us.

Sending much love and wishes of joy your way!

~ Anitha