“I loved words. I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them.”
– Anne Rice
So far, 2020 has been one of the roughest years in the lives of many people. Not just here in the United States, but across the globe. For me, it’s been extraordinarily tough. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I became leery as my savings dwindled. My freelance writing career hasn’t proven as successful as I’d hoped, so writing gigs have dried up. My mother’s stroke at the end of January sent me into an emotional tailspin. I felt incredibly guilty sending her to a rehabilitation center. But, as her own health failed, I realized she was entering the final stages of her life. She finally passed away June 22.
My mother worked in the insurance industry her entire adult life, retiring in 2003 at the age of 70. She was earning pensions from the last two companies where she worked. One has already informed me there was no final beneficiary payout, and I’m waiting to hear from the other. They have to (snail) mail me some documentation that I have to complete and sign and return to them with a copy of her death certificate. Okay, I’m thinking, this is the 21st century. Did they not get the memo? It’s like much of the Southeastern U.S. with the Civil War. But it’s not financial; it’s an issue I have to resolve from a legal perspective in order to probate the will and get this house transferred into my name.
Still, I remain unemployed, with little financial backup. I’ve had to delay utility payments – something I’ve never done in my entire life. Now my truck is showing its age. Like a dog, 14 is old for a vehicle.
Moreover, I thought briefly I had contracted the dreaded novel coronavirus. Symptoms like fever and a persistently runny nose alarmed me. The lethargy overwhelmed me. I kept thinking (hoping) these were the effects of allergies – a constant plague in my life. Or perhaps I’m simply recovering from the stress of caring for both my parents. Maybe it’s male menopause. (I’ll be 57 in November.) I didn’t know. But a friend recently suggested another problem: a lack of exercise (which I’d already admitted) and/or an iron deficiency (which I’d already suspected.) Thus, I purchased some iron supplements and have become determined to reinvigorate my various exercise regimens. I’ve been out walking along an exercise trail behind my home these past couple of weeks. During one of those I actually made an attempt to jog – and promptly stopped. You just can’t go months without running and then expect to break into an Olympic-style sprint! I’m watching middle age gently fade from my soul in real time.
That same friend, however, said something to me last week that offended me more than anything else he – or most anyone else – has ever said. We’ve always had a sometimes-contentious, yet brutally honest friendship. But he coyly criticized me for spending so much time on my writing – and this blog; that I’m wasting that time and energy on my creative pursuits instead of trying to find a full-time job.
His comments stunned me. I promptly reminded him of my previous years of employment; where I slaved away over hot computer keyboards during weekdays, before turning to my creative writing endeavors in the evenings and on weekends. I’ve always felt a greater sense of responsibility to myself and my community than to suffer for my art and live off the grid and on the edge.
I write because I enjoy it. I feel I’m good at it. It’s the one thing about myself in which I’m 100% confident. Writing is mostly all I’ve ever wanted to do with my life. It’s therapeutic. It’s kept me from hurting myself and others. I understood long ago that my chances at becoming a famous author were slim. But I don’t write stories in the hopes of becoming wealthy and renowned. I fully realize the odds of that are incredibly rare. I’m not naïve – or irresponsible.
I continue to search for full-time, even contract or part-time, work. And I continue to write – on this blog and my stories. I’m not writing now just to piss off my friend, which would suck up too much of my energy.
Once more, I write because I love it. It’s who I am and who I always will be.
There are some parts of our souls upon which we can never give up.
Image: Fernando Doglio