I have been out of work for four months. What a strange phrase to use. Let’s rephrase: I have not been paid or going to an employer for four months. Work is continual and takes different forms.
I was/am beginning to feel a little despair, desperation.
I have always believed things happen for a reason.
I also have wanted to take this time to clear up around the house. I had let everything go when I had a job. Plus, I have hoarding tendencies. I literally took everything off the top of my desk. I found a little pamphlet that a friend gave me about 25 years ago. I did warn you. The pamphlet was an abridged “The Power of Positive Thinking”. My parents had the book. I can picture it in the bookcase at the top of the stairs. As they aged, they moved things and got rid of things. I don’t know that is a book I ever would have kept. I never cracked its spine when I was growing up. But now, I found this little pamphlet and threw it in my bag when I was going into NYC for an interview. I started to read it. Last time I was without work and my first marriage was breaking up and I was probably clinically depressed, my mother typed up a prayer for me. It helped enormously. There it was in the pamphlet! A good sign. The pamphlet was making sense to me. I do have a deep faith sometimes. Sometimes, as is natural, it wavers. I also read and am a huge fan of Julia Cameron – Good Orderly Direction. There you go and I am off to the races.
Next event: I am in the car and hear the beginning of an interview with Marlon James, the first Jamaican to win the Booker prize. I am half Jamaican and read Caribbean literature at uni. I dabble in it from time to time but had stopped. So I decide to get the book from the library. Of course, I don’t remember its name. When I do the library search, other West Indian novelists show up. I order some Colin Chaner.
I was a student of Earl Lovelace’s years ago. I had no idea who he was until 10 years or so, maybe even closer, a friend of mine mentioned him. I immediately read him and adored it. His writing was never mentioned or touted at school. He only taught for a year. I just found out that a book of his came out to serious acclaim a year after I studied with him. No one said anything at school. In retrospect, I wonder. Was it racial? Or was it “intellectual”? This was a department that touted Coover and McElroy. I decide let me read some more Lovelace. Another library search. Ha, there is a book on Lovelace and Caribbean literature on Goodreads. The library doesn’t have it. I go to Amazon. Well, I am not working so I can’t buy it but I will. I read the blurb and information on the author. I call my friend and tell her I should have written that book. I could have written that.
Onto next topic. Since I have been at home, I have realized that somewhere along the line, I stepped off my life. I had older women friends that believed I could and would run a major US corporation! That had not been my interest for years. When I was much younger, I had had three major ambitions. First, right out of high school, I wanted to be the next Henry Kissinger. Then, I wanted to be the next Calvin Klein. I had a therapist point out that I wanted to be men. It never crossed my mind. It was the position, not the gender. Last, I wanted to be either president of Macy’s or Saks. I am not aggressive enough and lost that dream. Still corporately, I was chasing that vice presidency. I started the job that just ended, in 2000. I knew I wasn’t going to stay there. Ha! I was there 15 years. I stopped and stepped off. I can’t figure out the complete why. Yes, my parents died. My father’s death left me responsible for my mother. She had dementia. I severed relations with my brother. I married. He’s an alcoholic but presently in recovery. That was pure, utter living hell. And I developed this condition. Ok, I guess putting it down on paper, it’s enough to derail most people. But like my mother used to say, “Is your name everyone else?”
Next, there’s an annual short story competition that I have submitted to in the past. Three years ago, the topic was complicated families. I was excited and drafted an outline of related stories. I had a central piece firmly in mind. Work intervened and I put it aside.
Full disclosure: my father was a writer. I was always intimidated to write in front of him as it were. He was very critical. When he was older I used to take him to the Edgars, the mystery writing Oscars. It was always filled with “auteurs”. People always questioned me on what I was writing, shop talk. At the last one we attended the year he died, we spoke about it. He knew I wrote at home and wanted to know what was going on. I told him that I really didn’t think I was going to do anything till he was gone. He told me to write and write now. It was the greatest gift he gave me. However, he died a few months later and it sort of sucked everything out of me.
So, I am home, not going into work and I am going to finish this complicated family 750 word story and I can’t. I am blocked. I do not like the way I am writing. I call my friend and she suggests I write around it. I am cleaning and praying (due to the Power of Positive thinking).
Next, a friend from high school is also clearing and comes across her journals where my name is mentioned. I tell her you must be in mine, too. I pull them out but can’t touch them. Two weeks ago or so, I am writing in my current journal and my husband questions me about the whole concept. I pull one of the high school ones off the night table. An unfinished letter to this very woman falls out. Queue the Twilight Zone music. I start flipping through this decades old book. I find writing that is excellent and then realize it was mine! Talk about squandering gifts. It is disturbing to me.
Next: Plan B. As I was doing this clear out, I came across folders stuffed with my old writing. I decide I will type or retype this material. This will put it in a more stable format than yellowing, crumpled sheets and may rekindle writing. Now, over the past few years, I have been talking to my friend about the great Carib- American novel and we have also discussed themes of the immigrant experience, what you take, what you leave, what you bring back. Yesterday, I reach into the drawer to start my project . I am stunned. It is the “great Caribbean-American” novel, outlined and with some pages! The ideas are outlined in some detail. I have no recollection of starting this. I don’t remember writing this at all. It is decades ago. It’s not bad, in fact parts of it are good!
The universe has sent me a clear message. It’s time to write.