The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible - Vladimir Nabokov

There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you - Zora Neale Hurston

04 November 2010

Rich and Poor

I read this great post by Julie Bush and was moved to say something, alot of things, but I'll try to keep my thoughts from going off on too many tangents. A bit of background: Julie writes with raw emotion. Sometimes I steel myself before reading her stuff, knowing I'm going to feel uncomfortable, but that's what I love about her too. This time she made me feel shame, hope, and even a bit transcendent all at once. She was talking about growing up in poverty, not ghettos of South Africa poverty, but the American version, where everyone around you seems so much better off with their shiny new cars and perfect teeth, while you're too embarrassed to even let friends see your house. I know exactly how that feels. I grew up on food stamps, wearing dollar clothes from the Salvation Army, and my house was so trashed you could barely tell where the junkyard next door ended and our place began. Even if my beer-swigging, always-red-with-rage, stepfather had allowed us to bring friends home, I wouldn't have dared.

But Julie has great friends who won't let her dwell, and they told her to write about being rich. Rich and poor are states of mind. She told a story of being a struggling writer, whingeing online about being unable to afford one thing or another, and how a screenwriter in LA looked up her address and sent her $300. Six months later, she moved to Hollywood, paid him back, and has worked as a screenwriter ever since. That guy gave her the money, not because he expected to be paid back, but to show that he valued art and artists...Okay, this is when I started crying. And where I felt ashamed.

My junkyard environment was not conducive to the arts, and I haven't even mentioned to my mother that I write novels on the side. I was told I spent too much time with my head in the clouds, a dreamer. She never expected any of us kids to do anything with our lives. I think she hoped for it, making her life seem less grim in comparison. She's not the reason I went to college, got a PhD, and moved to Australia--that was all for me--but it doesn't hurt that 'I showed her'. And what I'm ashamed of is not so much fearing to talk about my writing dreams with family or colleagues, who'll think I've got my head in the clouds, but of how I talk about my husband's art.

I have always, always encouraged him to follow his dreams, to paint, to enjoy life because it's over too quickly, and I haven't minded being the chief bread winner since I graduated (I'm a patron of the arts after all!), but I never talk about it like that to others. Friends ask how my husband's degree is going, and I say great, and they ask what his plans are, and I say he hopes to teach...It's what they want to hear, but I feel dirty every time, knowing I'm lying. He's severely dyslexic, how is he going to get an education degree to go with his arts degree? He's only sold a couple of paintings to acquaintances, so we can't rely on the art either. I see other people buying houses because they have two incomes, but I can't. Deep down I'm fine with it. I know if things ever got really tough, my husband would get whatever job he could and work hard to help out. He supported me through ten years of college doing hard labor 12 hours a day, so I know he's no slacker. But I made a choice to support a dream, whether something comes of it or not, and I'm not about to tell him to give it up so I can have the same luxuries as my colleagues.

Thanks to Julie, I realized I'm letting others make me feel poor when really I am so very very rich:

  • I have the best husband in the world, and we're still madly in love after 21 years
  • I'm going to have a baby!
  • I have a wonderful brother, several wonderful friends, and two beautiful cats
  • I have a great job that allows me to support both me and my husband's dreams
  • I'm healthy, well fed (unlike my childhood), with a spotless house, and I never want anything but chocolates for Christmas because I already have everything I truly need
  • I'm a writer! To be published someday (fingers crossed)
  • and all those terrible, strange, beautiful experiences of childhood are fodder for the imagination--it's all good in the end
I'm rich in every way that matters, and from now on I won't be ashamed to support an artist. More people need to. Most importantly, I'm happy, and it's not 'stuff' that makes me feel that way. How about you? What makes you rich?

01 November 2010

She's Alive!

I know my last post was (geez! has it really been that long?) 3 months ago, but I'm BAAACK! Almost in time for Halloween. I've peeked at a few blogs during my absence but haven't commented (bad me), not because I don't still love all of you, or because I've given up on writing (never!), but because I've been trying to focus all my energies on the task at hand, and it's worked--I'm going to be a mummy!!! (That's the Australian version of mommy, by the way). I'm so excited... and sooo sick all the time. Why didn't anyone warn me? Oh, right, they did. After 7 long years of trying, needles, and all the rest of it, I can put up with a bit of morning sickness though.

Now that I'm no longer freaking out about every cramp and strange new sensation, I'm rolling up my sleeves and getting back into that fantasy manuscript of mine. I've been reading George R. R. Martin, so I've stopped calling mine 'epic' fantasy (you could insulate the house for winter with his novels), and I've been devoting some of those sleepless hours in the night to thinking about improving my characters' voices and motivations, so hopefully I'll make some real progress before the little one comes.

Good luck to everyone doing NaNoWrMo! And I will be shambling about my favorite blogs soon to check on you all and say 'hi'. It's so good to be back.