You know… I’m finally coming to the place in my head and in my heart where I understand that I need to just stop fighting my own reality and give in and do something about it. I’ve spent a night dreaming and thinking and crying happy tears… and here I am.
Many of my most vivid memories of growing up… of being me and doing what I enjoyed… surrounded playing with and using words. I love writing. I love to find the shades of meaning in words and playing with that meaning.
My first real writing was when I was in forth grade. We had a project for language class, write a story. So I did. I wrote The Cat, The Dog and The Jellybeans. My teacher thought it was wonderful. My family thought it was so cute but so impractical.
In fifth grade I spend as much time as I could in the creative corner in Mister Davis’s room. I wrote about tying my shoe. Everyone in my class made fun of me because I sat and wrote and re-wrote and re-wrote… and in the writing and re-writing I tied and re-tied my shoes. It got me an A, and my family thought it was cute but so impractical.
In Junior High School (what my kids now call Middle School) I was on the school literary magazine. I published poetry and short stories in every issue. Some were good. Some were turned down. Looking back I understand why they were turned down. They were forced and awful. I loved being on the staff of The Pen’s Point. It made my heart and my soul soar. And my family thought it was cute but so impractical. And now I was getting old enough to understand that impractical was the part that really mattered.
I told everyone that I wanted to be a writer. I was told forcefully and often that “People Like Me” don’t write, if you write you hide it and you don’t get published and if you ever get published YOU are going to have to pay THEM, they will never pay you. So I squirreled away composition books and notebooks. I hid in the orchard and wrote. I hid in the barn and wrote. I hid in my room and wrote. I overheard conversations about how cute it was that I thought I was writing but it didn’t matter what I loved, it was cute and it was incredibly impractical.
In high school I wrote for me and I hid what I wrote. A couple people found my notebook once and they liked what I wrote. But it didn’t matter. By this time, I understood that it was silly and stupid and I was never going to be able to do anything with it. Dreams were stupid and doing what you loved was pointless. Practicality was all that ever mattered.
I was supposed to be a teacher (a science teacher and an agriculture teacher and maybe in my free time I could be an english teacher because that might make my silly stupid dreams a little less stupid. Didn’t matter that I would have had to go to school for ten years to meet just these dreams that other people had for me) and in my free time I was supposed to take secretarial classes in high school (I took three classes independent study already, what was seven or eight more) in case I ever got married to the wrong man and he ran up a lot of debt or ran off on my at least I would be able to feed myself and my ten kids… yeah… it was couched in those terms. I could go to fifty different colleges, but no one had the money for ALL of those applications and no one would be able to afford to send me to college and I better figure out how to make my way in the world.
It took me a while but I figured out how to make my way in the world. I went to school as a non-traditional student in Information Science. It was PRACTICAL!!!
Trouble was, I had to take English classes. Gary Lutz taught my freshman English class. I wrote an essay about drivers. Not the way drive, technically but the people they are based on the cars they drive and the way they drive. He wasn’t going to allow that subject. In class, he said he was glad he had because it was a great essay. He pulled me aside one day after class and told me that no matter what I thought I was supposed to be doing, I had talent and I was supposed to be writing.
YEARS of being told how impractical that was and hearing that even being an English teacher who dabbled in writing wouldn’t make enough money to support a family comfortably enough… and I discounted what a professional writer was telling me.
Skip forward several years and I was working in computers and I got angry about not being able to find a book that I needed to do my job. So I wrote the book I was looking for after I lived through 900 hours in four months, I missed EVERYTHING for four months, and I lost thirty pounds from simply not eating or sleeping in the interest of saving the company money by working myself nearly to death.
I wrote it and it was published. It wasn’t a “real book” it was a geek book (and to this day there is a distinction even in my own mind about the difference between writing technology books and writing things that real people want to read. Flipping burgers pays more than most people make from technology books but I was writing, PEOPLE LIKE ME, can you imagine, and getting published and getting paid for it. Not much… but paid.
Skip forward a few books and a couple years and my hands started to hurt after a long writing stint. I started to hate writing because it was keeping me from being in my family’s life. And it quit being fun. I turned in my last contracted manuscript, got fed up with being BSed to by the publishing houses and I was tired. So I just… quit.
The love of writing didn’t quit. The words chasing around in my brain didn’t quit.
I started blogging. And the words started oozing out. I found out that my son has talent writing and I started encouraging him (I’ll be damned if I will tell anyone else what I was told) and I found out that my daughter hides her talent writing.
I started talking to people on facebook.
I started dealing directly with my rheumatoid arthritis and my sjogrens and my raynauds. I started dealing with my daughter’s epilepsy and her slowly unwinding kidney problems and other health issues. I started dealing with my son’s likely RA and possible epilepsy and everything else that is unwinding in my family’s life.
And I started writing. I started a couple of e-books. I started writing essays. I started writing poetry again. I put stuff “out there” for people to read and sometimes people read and sometimes people follow and sometimes people comment. And the comments touch my heart and make me smile… or make me go hmmmm… okay….
Yesterday, though (and this FINALLY circles back to the beginning of the blog post.. LONG trip, huh?) I was looking at RA Guy’s Show Us Your Hands Project pictures of all of the RA hands from all of the people who willingly send in pictures of their hands… and I thought of all the stories that went with those hands. All of the faces of the people, young and old, all nationalities, all genders, all sexual orientations, all ages, all socioeconomic stations, all of everything that is represented in those hand pictures and I cried and I wrote and I write a poem.
And These Hands was born. And I published it and I thought about it. I don’t post very often in most of the discussion boards that I read. I really don’t figure I have a lot to contribute. The People Like Me comments bit hard when I was young and overcoming them has been a REAL adventure…
And people read my poem. And people liked my poem. And my words touched people’s lives. And I cried.
And this morning (happy new year) one week into 2012 I am re-dedicate my heart and my life to my words. I want to help people. I want to touch people. Kind of like a doctor (NO I AM NOT A DOCTOR, not even if you squint really hard) I want to “do no harm”.
Words can help. Words can bring the whole world closer together. I’ve started to understand (thank you Kathryn) that I may only have my heart and my mind and my words, but as long as I have my words, I have a voice and I can try to bring the world closer together, virtually and to bring just one little smile to someone somewhere.
What are your strengths? Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the right now and in the what is most immediate and not realize that we all have gifts and we need to let those gifts bloom. Who knows who will be on the far shores where those ripples touch.
Happy Sunday. I think it is going to be a beautiful day.