Sunday, March 23, 2008

messy writing

By the time I ever get up the inspiration to write, I've been sitting on my couch in the living room, curtains drawn, watching mindless television and drinking cups of instant coffee for so long I'm restless and I need to get up and do something before I feel like a complete failure. A sloth.

'Go to the gym, you lazy ass', I tell myself. 'Are you even gonna leave the house today?'

The phone rings periodically and car horns beep on the street below, which irritates me more, furthering the sense of urgency. It's as if people are waiting outside for me. Life beckons and staying in to write is a waste of time.

"You're not even going to take a shower? Your hair is in knots. Filthy knots', I continue. I can be mean.

'Your a mess. The apartments a mess. Do something!'

All of this usually coincides with a moment of inspiration.

It's always a dirty back room deal, my writing.

If nothing else is on the schedule, if no one else wants me, only then do I have permission, if you can even call it that. It's uncomfortable. It's crack filler.

Like today, a few sentences in.

'You should clear off the coffee table.'

It's a modern dark brown table where I do almost everything. Sitting on the couch, I eat there in front of the television, especially for breakfast, and so I am in the habit of leaving a black placemat for my coffee cup and dishes on the table so I don't scratch the surface. But this morning, as I look up from the screen, I notice how dirty the placemat looks.

'It always does', I add. Sometimes I hate myself.

However, in all fairness to the part of me I hate, the placement does show up everything. I wash it, I shake it out over the sink when there are crumbs, and yet, like a black car, even a speck of dust is annoying.

I take it away, shake it off and put it back on top of the fridge with the others. No more. I will risk a scratched table. While over there, I clear the dishes from the counter into the sink and fill it with soap and hot water to soak. I go through the pile of mail on the counter, determined suddenly to put everything away. There I come across a T4 slip. I go to the closet and pull out the other tax documents. I decide I need to organize this stuff right now, knowing that if I do it, I'll feel better.

But first I should at least brush my hair and put it in a ponytail so I don't feel so grungy and uncomfortable. In fact, maybe I should just shower now, but then I want to go for a run in a little while, so it would be a waste.

'Of what? Water?'

Well yes, in fact it is a waste of water. It is also drying to the skin if I shower twice in one morning, and bad for my hair.

I pull my hair back and return to the kitchen where I come across a long hand-written letter I got from my father before I went away, which reminded me of one my mother wrote me many years ago, when I was in my late teens; pages of lined paper folded into thirds and stuffed into a small envelope.

Is it me? Do I have some flaw that brings pleading letters out of people? Forces threm to desperate measures?

My father's letter was long and very neatly written. My mother's too, as I recall. It's funny, no matter how hard I try I can't write neatly. Almost no one can read my writing.

My father always wants something from me. The letter was just another angle in. It is always the same. He wants to erase history and create storybook endings. He wants to eradicate his guilt. I suppose one of these days I could let him have that. It's probably time.

I stopped cleaning the kitchen, sat down at the computer and logged into my email to reply to my father.

Dear Dad:

I came back from Cuba last week and started my job and with the long weekend I finally have a few minutes to write you. So far things are going well. I had a two-day general orientation and then I spent a couple of days getting familiar with the project I will be working on. It seems like it is going to be interesting and probably a pretty busy place to work. So far so good.

It was nice to get a letter from you. It arrived right before I went away. Nice card too. Loved the photograph on the front.

It sounds like turning 60 is a good time of life for you. It seems like its all coming together. I hope you will be able to continue on with that and fully enjoy how far you have come for many many years.

In your letter you said you hope I don't feel that you are indifferent with me and with what I am doing. I can assure you I have never felt that way. While there have been problems and differences of opinion between us, I have always felt you were proud of me and interested in what I was doing. I appreciate that.

I think that the hardest thing in the world is to live in the moment and not focus on the past or the future. Just as difficult I think is to be true to who you are. I think the best thing a parent can do is set an example. You are doing that by taking this trip you are going on in May, enjoying life in the moment, and contributing to the world through your charitable work. I think your kids will learn a lot from what you are doing, each in our own way.

I look forward to hearing about your trip. Be well.

Love Rachel

It felt a little like sandpaper writing that, and although I didn't tell him everything he wanted to hear, I didn't ignore him, which is what I would have done in the past, inadvertently taking all of the guilt for myself.

What he wanted me to say is that yes, I think we should get to know each other, spend time together, make our relationship into the father-daughter relationship we have probably both wished we had, but I didn't say those things.

And after I sent the email to him, I stayed seated and I wrote this out. I needed to write, more than I needed to clean. Turns out I did both. Also turns out the two are really not that different.

No comments: