Making sense

Anne Lamott, on writing ...

"We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.”

Monday, September 9, 2013

Regrets? I've had a few, but fall at MacDowell is not one of them

It's been a summer of reflection. The heat here in the Midwest is oppressive, and as such I avoid going outside. I become delirious with rage when I have to venture out. Friends know not to request pool visits, or even porch talks; a movie invite is accepted, or perhaps a dinner in a highly air conditioned restaurant, but only if the parking is close, or I am dropped off at the door. Every August I ask myself, Why the hell do I live in Missouri? I am not blooming where I have been planted; I am withering on a hellish summer vine.
I want to go back to New Hampshire. I was preparing my suitcase this time last year, to head to the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough. At MacDowell, the grounds were beautiful, decked in fall foliage; the New England air was crisp and lacked humidity. When evening came, I opened my studio windows inside Mixter and reveled at the keyboard as my fingers cramped from the cold. I slept with the windows open and awakened at seven to cold tile in the bathroom and fresh excitement as I powered on the Asus. When temps dropped into the forties at night, I went into town one morning to purchase fingerless gloves that some enterprising soul had knitted.
Bliss, bliss, bliss, writing in a quiet and cold studio.
And here I am, not writing and unable, even, to finish reading books I have begun because I'm cranky all the damned time because it's so fucking hot in Kansas City. Normally I would use a more polite modifier, but when I am miserable in the heat, fuck is my favorite word: It is so fucking hot in this car I am going to fucking lose my fucking mind. Please turn on the fucking air conditioner right fucking now.

I have other regrets. Inside time spent in front of a fan, a cold washcloth in hand, offers time for reflection, and my rambling regrets have boiled down to this: My life has not turned out like I had planned. When I was a fourth grade girl sitting crossed-legged on my chenille bedspread, mapping out my future, which was a color-coded virtual map/timeline, brought to life with colored pencils that I sharpened frequently, that future did not include sweating my way through a grocery store half a million times, anxiety building at the register that I wouldn't have enough money to pay for meat and produce and dairy; that future did not involve barking dogs who demanded to be let inside and out, inside and out; that future did not once account for being consistently broke and forced to use inferior bath soap and generic laundry detergent; and most certainly, that future did not feature being married to a man who rarely talks. Also, I had not planned on having a menopot and wiry chin hairs.
My hopes were grand, and chief among them was being famous. When one is told repeatedly by elementary teachers that one is different and exceptional and talented and filled with creativity, one does not accept easily a struggling middle-class existence featuring four-door sedans and too much month at the end of the money.
I thought I would be a famous writer who went on extensive book tours and slumbered in fancy-schmancy hotels. I thought I would be wealthy enough to own purebred dogs that hired help would take outside for the pooping and the peeing; I thought I would have someone to cook for me and ensure that I was consuming green leafy vegetables and delectable fruit plated on china dishes that were drizzled with high-quality chocolate sauce imported from Switzerland. I thought I would live in a high-rise apartment building in New York City or possibly LA; I thought I would marry a witty man who wore argyled sweater vests and corduroys and sported an attractive five o'clock shadow. This professorial gentleman would buy me expensive jewelry, read to me aloud in the evenings as he puffed on a highly scented cigar, and compose love poetry on the fly. (Alternately, I thought I might never marry and instead compulsively date compulsively charming men who held important positions with banking or architectural firms.)
I have none of this. I have a dusty and hot house situated on a concrete cul de sac in a middle-class suburban neighborhood; I have a husband who gets excited about football season and a sale on bratwursts; I have some spare bucks in my coin purse now only because I hocked my class ring last week.
Like I said, I have some regrets.

Here's where things started to unravel: College.
I invited boys into my door room and fornicated. (There was alcohol involved.)
I got pregnant before I became a Missus and got married at nineteen because my parents made me. I wore a marked-down wedding dress from Penney's Outlet, which my mother bought without my knowledge or approval.
I became a mother at twenty and promptly changed my major from journalism to education, thinking that June, July, and August would be good for the baby, that I would be home for those extended weeks to cut up grapes and hot dogs so the wee one wouldn't die before she started preschool.
Soon, two more children followed, and before I knew what was happening to me, domestic life took over. I became Mommy and the little fourth-grade girl with stars in her eyes crawled into the dark recesses of a closet and stayed there for the next twenty-eight years.
Like I said, I have some regrets.

Now what?
I'm forty-eight, dumpy-fat, virtually unemployed save for part-time nanny gigs (which I do, really do enjoy, because it turns out I'm fantastic working with children), I'm married to a non-talking man, and, and this is the kicker, I am very, very EXTREMELY not famous.


Buffywnabe said...

But you love your children and husband! And see I thought I'd be married with children by now and loving being a teacher. Yet here I am alone, with no hope of ever getting married or having kids. Teaching wasn't like what I thought it would be at all. I do have dachshunds, which I knew I would have to have. I always knew I would not be very rich as I planned to be a teacher, and that's all my relatives had to say was why did I want a job that paid so little when I was so smart and should be a doctor or lawyer. Your writing in this blog post is so wonderful and colorful, I think you just need that perfect hit for your book. Keep writing! And keep sending out queries!

Kathleen Stander said...

Thank you, Lisa. Yes, I do love my husband and children. We're all stuck with each other, which more often than not is a fine predicament. It's just funny-strange to me how our childhood plans so rarely come to fruition.
I am happy for you that you are finally in a library. God knows you inhale books like most people suck oxygen. As for the no-man part, it's entirely possible that Mr. Sometimes Right (all men disappoint at times) is right around the corner.
Thank you for reading my blog and for responding :)