I spent some time with my parents today doing odd jobs for them. I love my folks, and I consider them to be good friends. Their’s is easy company to keep due to decades of shared experiences; large swaths of the weaving in our individual tapestries look and feel so similar we can either drive each other mildly nuts or wrap one another in safe humor and care. I’m grateful to know them at all, but especially fortunate to have such an honest and true relationship with them.
So….the odd job thing happens once a week; and frankly, it’s a mixed bag for my emotions because I’m helping them with chores for pocket-money during this unemployed state of mine. (Or to be more precise, for gas money. Because I vowed that I would only use cash to put petrol in the tank until I land a job. The credit card is slippery and scary right now. But I digress…what’s new?) Yes. Mixed emotions over accepting payment from my elderly parents for chores I ought to simply be doing because I love them, and they’re my elderly parents. How’s that for an inner conundrum – not to mention some blatant blogging honesty?
I’ll tell you though, if I had the means – I’d pay THEM for these hours shared. They are a wealth of thoughtful conversations and wisdom that pulls at me for hours and even days past the time we’ve shared ironing their curtains or cleaning shelves in the garage. They are pure source ideas that – shot into the waiting vein of one with writer’s block – could unleash some seriously good shit. Take the five-minute exchange I had with my dad while doing a small task in the dining room.
“Are you doing much writing lately?” he asked. I shook my head at him without looking up. “You should write a novel, Martha.” He pointedly said to me. I snorted cynically.
“Right Dad. That might require income so the kids could still eat while this so-called novel is being written. What on earth would I write an entire novel about?”
“How about a woman from the Midwest who marries a wealthy lumberman…”
“Sounds like you already have this story figured out, maybe you should write it yourself. Besides, I don’t do well with fiction. I tend to write better about what’s real.”
“But it is real,“ he pressed. “This woman marries a wealthy but very overbearing man and they move to a small town with their children, and…..”
“There is no fucking way I’m writing a novel about that family,” I interrupted and laughed at my father. (“That” being code for a real name.) And he grinned wickedly at me and said, “Why not? It would be a great saga with a lot of drama.”
“Get over it, Dad. It’s not happening.”
And it’s not. At least, the “epic” novel of my father’s twisted humor isn’t going to receive my attention. But the conversation did get me thinking about how I write, and if I were to truly sit and write about what’s real these days, then I’d probably write about the bumpy days of being unemployed – or more specifically, the experience of going through hard times. Even more specifically, I started thinking about the practice of writing about what is “real,” and the fact that it often involves writing out loud about things that most people would prefer only to whisper of. “Out loud” writing puts things “out there” (or even in your lap) where everyone can see. I did it once before; I wrote audibly when my son had cancer. It was uncomfortable for some, was avoided by others, might have been a guilty pleasure for a few (like ambulance chasing), and was truly appreciated and even gratefully received by others. Let’s face it. Reading about nasty crap like cancer is not for the faint hearted. But it was real.
I can write about Real. I’ve posted parenting reflections, confessions of human imperfection, adventure vignettes, passionate love poems, photos of damned near anything I could get my amateur lens around, and yes – I have written about what’s icky. I think I have only ever posted one fictitious piece of writing. I’ve had family members threaten me if I ever use their name or post their image. I’ve had strangers walk up to me and thank me for blogging. I’ve had to learn to write and wait and think before hitting the publish button (and those of you who know me know that patience is not my strong suit). I’ve been hired for my writing, and ironically – I’ve recently considered shutting down all my public links so that I don’t offend someone who might be a potential employer. I reconsidered though, because if I can’t be myself, it’s probably not the right employer anyhow….
So…..all this leads me back to doing odd jobs for my blessed parents once a week for gas money (that I accept with a guilty conscience). I am learning a ton about financial stress these days. I feel a little ashamed at how NOT clued in I have been in the past when friends have expressed worry about money. I mean, I’ve never been flippant or rude, but I certainly had NO IDEA how much a steady income can make or break the quality of one’s sleep, not to mention overall general attitude about life, liberty and yadda yadda…
My mom reminded me today that I’ve dealt with much worse than this. She’s right. Thanks Mom. I’m trying to be positive. And Pops, yes – I’m writing. Stay tuned for more of what’s real.