Apr 20, 2012

A Real Job

Musings today.

I am trying to be a writer.  Well, you might say, you're writing a blog, doesn't that make you a writer? Well, sure, but...I shuffle my shoes and look down at my feet.  And don't you write poetry, too, some of which has been published in some darn good journals? Yeah, but...not as many times as a lot of other people have been. And haven't you even won some awards for your writing? Yeah, but never first place, always second.

Man, the excuses piled high and deep. Actually defining myself as a writer proved to be elusive, even though I have been writing for more than a decade.  I can't be a real writer, I write part-time.  I can't be a real writer, I have no published book.  I'm not successful enough to stand tall and shout "I am writer, hear me roar."  Why the hell not?  Good question.  I had more ways to lose confidence than there were ants on an anthill.

But a couple of months ago I went through a two-part process that resulted in me finally trying on the title of "writer" as self-definition and profession. This time, it tentatively fit.

Part one was deciding and accepting that I would never have a "real" job again.  I have fibromyalgia, and my experience of the condition is that one day of stress equals two days of recovery on the couch.  I am lucky that my husband has a good income and I don't need to work, so I do have a choice. The bottom line is that if I actually got a job, our quality of life would go down not up, what with me moaning on the couch all the time I wasn't at said job, and him having to bring me dinner on a tray and refill my water glass, and generally play nursemaid.

Coming to this 'never work again' realization/decision was a long time coming. Although I spent two decades raising my children without holding a job outside the home, and I've only done a bit of contract teaching in the  four years since my younger daughter left home, and that adds up to about twenty-five years of no real job, still, I had this nagging, back-of-the-brain, feeling that I ought to work, an anxiety. I thought I might be missing something in the real world, that I was just a wimp, that I ought to get back on that decades-old horse and ride.  Finally, when I was whining, maybe not for the first time, to a friend about my feeling that maybe I ought to get a job, my dear friend asked me "What the fuck is wrong with you?  You haven't worked in decades.  You don't need to work.  Who the hell in their right mind would get a job?" Oh.  Right.  Thank you for the much needed slap across the face.  My life, my job, my life, my job.

Part two was realizing that if I let myself, I already have a job.  I'm a writer. Letting go of the "a real job is one out in the world" illusion allowed me to redefine myself and accept myself as a writer.  And if writing is my job, then I have to show up for work.  I blocked off my mornings as sacred time to write. No more doctor's appointments, no more walking, no more social activities or errands before noon.  I had to put my butt in the chair and write.  Do I write every morning for several hours?  I do not.  But I go into my office, in the vicinity of my notebook and my computer, and eventually I end up doing something that resembles writing.  Some days I edit a poem, some days I send out my work to journals, and some days, like today, I write a blog post.

Apr 12, 2012

The Drive Thru

Today I was sitting in a coffee shop that had drive-thru service. From my seat inside, I could see the drivers just after they received their cups of coffee. As they pulled forward from the window they fumbled (DWF: Driving While Fumbling), one hand on the wheel and one hand feeling for the molded plastic cup holder between the seats. Some were already trying to drink the hot stuff, and one was on her cell phone.

Then I looked the other direction and saw a preschool directly across the street, with the telltale pintsize playground equipment. Perhaps preschools and elementary schools should not be placed across from drive-thrus of any kind, unless we want to radically reduce the population. But I’m thinking killing off the really cute little ones is not going to be a popular way to curb population growth.

Of course, if you’ve ever had to drop off or pick up your child at school, you know that it’s a miracle any children are still alive. The loading and unloading area around a school is possibly the most dangerous place in the world to walk, drive, skip, or run. At least, that was my experience in the years and years and years and years of dropping off and picking up my two children, an era that ended five years ago. Here’s how I remember it:

Parents are always late and they careen down the streets to school like NASCAR drivers snorting meth.  They do not line up patiently and wait their turn (as their children are being taught to do all day every day). They drive their SUV within range of the school and tell little Johnny to leap out (Don’t forget your lunch!) and make a run for it. Johnny dashes across the road while cars dance in and out of the drop-off lane. The precious object of their devotion, the special little someone they’ve protected since he was the size and shape of a cashew in mama’s womb is essentially told to play dodge ‘em with the cars of all the other parents.

Every one of the adults is frantic to drop their darling before the first bell rings because getting your children to school late, now that’s considered bad parenting. Mothers, all very nice people, who in their spare time volunteer at the church rummage sale, bake cupcakes for PTA functions and pledge to the Save the Children campaign, honk and scowl at the other mothers and fathers who happen to have arrived a nanosecond before them. Once they’ve dropped their progeny, they make a wild swing into oncoming traffic and hit the gas, doing at least 35 mph in the school zone, trying to get to work or yoga class.  They trust that Johnny has been through one dangerous part of his day and they can rely on the school to take good care of him until the swarm of parents descends on the school at 3:10 that afternoon and the second dangerous part of his day occurs.

I, of course, was not above losing my temper at the other drivers (a saintly driver myself) and I once let the word ‘asshole’ escape my lips, my two astounded children in the car to hear me, and because I had been really surprised at being cut off, my head snapped to face the other mother when I let the word slip.  She read my lips.  It’s amazing my daughter ever returned to school.

Apr 2, 2012

Exercising, Part Deux (Pronounced Duh)

For years I've heard rumors about diet and exercise, diet and exercise,  but I never paid much attention. People were flappin' their jaws on all the talk shows: use it or lose it, aerobic activity, optimum heart rate, blah blah blah.  I usually changed the channel and opened another box of bonbons.

But now, as you know from my last blog post,  I've gone and hired a personal trainer to help me exercise.  What was I thinking?  Just like in the movies, he says things like "give me ten push ups" and "just three more." To my surprise, the exercise actually feels good. I'm pushing up and pulling back and lifting with my legs and balancing on one foot, all new territory for this out of shape middle-aged body.  Of course, I can't do actual push ups. My trainer has me push up from a bar set several feet off the ground, so my body's at a great angle from the floor. I push up about four inches, back down two inches, up an inch, down a half inch, etc. until he'd need a magnifying glass to see how much I've moved. And when I started the rowing exercise, my trainer had to take twenty pounds off the already wimpy sixty pounds resistance he'd set.

I seem to be in a baby steps class all my own.  If this were skiing, I wouldn't even be on the bunny slope.  I'd be on a large flat area, maybe a Kmart parking lot hours before the store opens, far from the bunny slope, with an instructor who wanted me to prove I could just stand there without causing a disaster before he let me anywhere near an incline and small children in cute ski outfits.

In my first session with the trainer, he asked me for an inventory of every injury and accident I've ever had.  Hmmmm. No one's ever asked me that before.  Accidents and injuries?  I've had plenty. This body took a real beating in my twenties.  (It's no coincidence the injuries occurred in my twenties, my wilder, more clueless years.) Oh boy did I have car accidents. There was the time I rolled a car, hitting my head each time the driver's side of the car impacted with the ground.  There was the winter I fishtailed on the road, hitting the rear of a stopped car with the wildly spinning rear of my car.  Then, in my no-longer-wild thirties, about eight months pregnant with my older daughter, I got broadsided by a Mack truck and was pushed down the street about twenty feet with nothing but the grille visible in the driver's side window.  I had to climb out of the car over the stick shift.  Eight months pregnant.

No wonder I'm not allowed on the bunny slope.  Next post I'll tell you about the time I fell in a manhole.  Oh, life was interesting back then. Dangerous but interesting. But dangerous.