Good Riddance, 2012

Every year is a mixture of good and bad, but I’ll be particularly glad to see 2012 pass into history.

The year wasn’t all bad; we did manage to move into a house that we love, even if the circumstances forcing the move were stressful.  I started working on material for a new band with my pal Hal, and I feel like I’m growing as a musician because of it.  Most importantly, Lannette’s ovarian cancer scare at the beginning of the year turned out to be just a scare, not the real thing.

However, the year has been overshadowed by the death of my mom in March.  When family members die, I tend to grieve very slowly and it usually doesn’t hit me hard until long after they have passed.  When my brother died on January 1, 1996, I didn’t really deal with it until well into 1997, when I was able to write this poem to say goodbye to him and deal with my own guilt about pulling the plug.

When my last grandparent died (I was 12), it wasn’t until months later that I was flooded with grief and loss while sitting on the couch, watching TV.  I just suddenly started crying, scaring my parents.

I have no idea when that cathartic moment will happen in regard to my mom’s death.  I certainly miss her, and I wish she wasn’t gone, but I haven’t broken down yet.  I wish it would happen, though, because waiting for the shoe to drop is stressful, and I suspect that my state of semi-grief has affected my relationships with family, friends, and coworkers over the last few months.  My anxiety has been elevated all year, and I’m convinced that’s partially due to not having dealt with her passing yet.

Here’s hoping 2013 is a happy year for everyone, myself included.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. I took a business trip to Atlanta and got sick in the middle of it, then when I got back, we fell into an opportunity to move into a brick Tudor Revival house that we have loved for years. So, for the last week, we’ve been frantically moving stuff from the old mobile home to the new house, and now that everything’s moved, we begin the process of unboxing and evaluating how much of this stuff we actually need.  (Yeah, I know, it’s a bit backwards, but we didn’t have a lot of time to go through things before moving.)

As always, there are casualties in moving. For me, the biggest casualty has been my signed first-edition hardback of Contact, by Carl Sagan.  It was destroyed by water damage while in storage at the old house.  The book is was worth a fair amount of money, but the sentimental value of the book was much greater to me because it was given to me by a writing group friend a decade or so ago.  There were other signed hardbacks in the same box, by authors like Dan Simmons and Leslie Marmon Silko, and my beloved trade paperback of Silko’s Ceremony was ruined as well, but none of those books held the same emotional attachment for me that Contact did.  Ah, well.

I received my preliminary schedule for MileHiCon 44 today, and will post that later, but for now, I wanted to take the time to just write something on this long-neglected blog.

On Not Being a Writer

I came to grips with something at the end of 2011: I’m not a writer.

Sure, I have some writing skills, and my thirty-odd non-fiction articles and a few published poems bear that out. But having skills is different than using them. Knowing some things about writing is not the same as writing, and that’s where I consistently fall short.  Writing is active; knowledge is passive, and knowledge fades with lack of use.

So, if I’m not a writer, what am I? I’m a husband/father/computer technician/sole breadwinner. In the past, I have also been a writer/reader/amateur musician/gamer, but in the last few years, I have engaged in precious few of those artistic and entertainment pursuits, and that lack of creativity is wearing on me.

Some of the above responsibilities are not flexible.  I can’t very well stop being a husband or father, nor do I want to. Being the sole breadwinner sometimes becomes tiring, but that’s not really negotiable. Lannette and I learned a number of years ago that her particular combination of disabilities make her incompatible with the 9-5 corporate working world, so the responsibility for regular income falls to me only.

The computer technician portion is the responsibility that I have the most control over, and still seems to intrude the most on my everyday life.  It’s my job, for one thing, but it’s also my hobby and an occasional source of outside income.  I never charge market value for my computer consulting work, not because I don’t think I’m worth it, but because I think the prices for service in the computer industry are wildly overinflated, especially compared to the worth of the machines themselves. I don’t make much from computer consulting, but I do get a good feeling from knowing that I’ve helped someone solve a problem while saving them money. That “Mr. Goodwrench” feeling only goes so far, though, and more often than not, when I have my head stuck in the side of a computer, or I’m trying to wrap my brain around some bit of confusing PHP code while the clock ticks and a client’s website delivers database errors, I find myself wishing I was doing something else entirely.

I think it’s time to cut back on the computer consulting.  I won’t drop my current web hosting and regular consulting clients, but I’m not going to take on new clients. If clients drop off for reasons of their own, I won’t look to replace them right away, if at all. I need to build some creativity and entertainment time back into my schedule, and when I get there, I need to own and enforce it.

By this time next year, I hope I can look back and say that I’ve written a few more short stories and poems, made some progress on that mythical novel, and learned to play some songs that I’ve always wanted to learn on guitar. Maybe I will have even sold a piece of fiction or two, if I’m lucky.

Cleaning out the cobwebs

To continue the vehicle metaphor from a few days ago, it seems like my writing engine is starting to warm up a bit.  The cobwebs hang from the block, blown backward by the force of the fan, and one by one, they drop away.

I’ve actually found myself wanting to write new poems, or songs, or stories.  I’ve felt a need to do something for me lately, and writing is my natural first choice.  That sounds selfish, but I’ll let it stand.  As much as I’ve chastised myself to think otherwise, it’s okay to be selfish sometimes, and in the area of creativity, it may occasionally be essential.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our friends who live in the area of the Crystal Fire; they haven’t lost their home, but the last few days have been very stressful for them as the winds shift the fire toward and away from them.  Fortunately, it appears that firefighters have complete a fire line on the edge of the fire closest to them, and containment numbers continue to creep up.  With luck, hard work from multiple fire teams, and continued cooler weather, hopefully the fire will no longer be a threat to anyone after the weekend.  Robyn & Chuy, our thoughts are with you, the family, and the animals.  Be safe.  To those who have lost their homes, I can only imagine the devastation you feel, and as weak as the sentiment may seem, my heart goes out to you, as well.

Leonard “Red” Bird

Born:  June 3, 1936

Died:  October 22, 2010

Survived by his wife Jane, daughter Maria, and son David.

Also survived by hundreds of creative writing students.

I’m proud to be one.

I leave you with my favorite verse from one of Red’s poems, “Walter Mitty.”  It illustrates how profoundly he respected the craft of writing, as well as how important was love in his life.

 

But in the glare of morning light
I sweat to write one crooked line
Sip my cup of sugared tea
And stretch to touch your hand.

— Leonard Bird, “Walter Mitty”, River of Lost Souls, Tooth of Time Press, 1977.