You’ve Only Made One Friend

That’s such a cheery way for Livejournal to greet me.  Especially when my only friend is my othe self. Ah, me!  🙂

But that’s not really what I was thinking about tonight at all.

I had a long day today, one with no writing at all.  I’ll still get my 1000 words tonight, but I’ll get them late, when the rest of my world is asleep.

Today I devoted to the other half of my life.  One grand-daughter helped me pit an immense bowl of cherries that my other granddaughter had helped me pick the previous day.  Then we made a run to find a set of black sweats and some pink gloves for her to wear in her role as Mole in her day camp play.  We also picked up donuts and went by her home, where her dad and our neighbor were installing new carpet in her bedroom.  There we picked up her sister, and came back to my house to install some new software on the old beater computers the kids play on.  Oregon Trail and Cinderella’s Castle.  Then the older girl went off with her dad to buy trim for the bedroom walls and the younger one helped me make a cherry pie and a batch of cherry-blueberry jam.

And we just really had a nice time today doing some very ordinary things.  Which made me wonder why I decided to be a writer.

Being a writer, for me, has always meant that my life is divided.  There was the homework/housework part of my day of being a married woman with children.  And there was the part where I worked outside the home to bring in some money.  And there was the part where I finally had time to sit down at the keyboard and put somewords on paper.

In the early years of trying to be a ‘real’ writer, from the time I was 18 on, that time was stolen time. It was taken most often from sleep and housework.  It was sandwiched in whenever I could, on breaks from waiting tables at Sambo’s Pancake Restaurant, or sitting on the floor beside the bathtub while my kids splashed and washed, or writing in a spiral notebook on a sticky table while the kids were skating around and around the rink.  There was never enough time to write as much as I wanted.

There is still never enough time to write as much as I want.  I can remember when I hated having to stop to eat because I knew that I could have spent that time writing.  I remember writing poems about what a waste of time sleep was.    Sometimes, I still feel that way.

Being a writer has meant, all through my life, that there was an edge of anxiety and frustration to everything else I did.  No matter how many words I got on the paper, I always wished I were free of housework and wage-work and yes, even the drudge part of childcare so that I could just write.  

I remember in the early 70’s, when we lived in Idaho, there was this big billboard I had to pass every day on the way to work.  It was a message from the Church of Latter Day Saints.  It showed a woman in a suit going out the door with a briefcase while her children, sad-eyed, stared out the door after her.  The big lettering read, “No Success Can Compensate For Failure In The Home.”

I was in my early twenties then, with a husband, a child, a full school day and a job.  And I wanted to write.  Sometimes I would look at the billboard as we drove past it, and think of my writing and wonder, “At what cost?  At what point does it become not worth it to try to find the odd moments to put the words on paper.”

Tonight, as I wound up my day, cleaning up the kitchen, running a last load of laundry, packing my grand daughter’s lunch for daycamp tomorrow, and making a list of tasks for tomorrow (balance checkbook, transfer funds, make doctor appointment, nudge painter, weed flowers) I wondered  what my life would have been like if I hadn’t always been mentally adding ‘and write a book’ to that list.  My spouse would not have minded.  He never even pushed me to have a job outside the home, let alone be a writer in my spare time.  I could have opted simply to be a home maker, with the kids and the house and the garden.  There would have been a lot less stress in my life if I had.

Or what if I’d had a regular job, an eight hour a day, once-my-shift-ends-I-quit-worrying-about-it job?  A job where there was a predictable amount of money each month for a set task.  I did have those jobs–I waited tables, I delivered the US Mail, I sold stereo components and women’s clothing.  

But all the time I did those things, I was always burning to get home and get to the typewriter.  How much more peaceful and enjoyable would my life have been if I hadn’t had stories eating through me like acid as they tried to get out and onto the paper?  What would it have been like to come home, eat dinner, tidy the kitchen, watch television and fall asleep?  That’s a life I’ve never had.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood . . . .”

It’s an odd thing to wonder about at the end of the day.   

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