But I Was Too Busy Trying to Have my Own

Source: Arctic Fox, on Pinterest

Some of the most unpleasant people I’ve know had over-achievers as parents. I was fortunate enough not to have had that additional problem in my life, but I did have one that’s just as toxic as it is well-intentioned.

My parents had dreams for me.

I’m sure you know the kind of dreams I mean: a college degree, a house in the suburbs surrounded by a white picket fence, a two-car garage, a successful career, and 2.5 children.

Honestly, did that dream ever exist anywhere but on Leave It To Beaver, The Donna Reed Show, or even Bonanza?

And the dreams were only implied, not explicitly stated. My whole life was guided by them. In school, I didn’t even realize that there were art and music classes beyond second grade. In junior and senior high school I wasn’t allowed to take shop classes, because “those classes are for the dummies. You’re too smart for that — you’re going to COLLEGE!” (Cue the angelic trumpets.)

Last time I was in San Francisco I saw a beautiful hand-crafted wooden jewelry box that one of those dummies had made: the price tag said $2850.00 — and that was over 25 years ago.

And if my faucet leaks, I have to call another dummy who’ll charge me $75 an hour to fix it.

So who’s the real dummy now?

My Spectacular Failure at Education

After high school, it was taken as a given that I was going to go to college. I had no say in the matter. It was another of my parents’ dream for me.

At the wise old age of 18, I didn’t know if I even wanted to grow up, much less what I wanted to be if it ever happened.

In 1968, college was a place where you studied things to help you decide what you wanted to be doing for the rest of your life.

In 2019, college is a place to go to earn the credentials you need for the job you’ve already chosen.

I say — and neuroscience backs me up on this — the 18-year-old brain has developed sufficiently to be making such life-determining changes.

My education might have been more effective had I gone to a better college, but my grades, our family’s economic situation, and our physical location meant the sole criterion that went into the choice was the fact that as a Lutheran minister, my father could get a discount on my tuition and fees if I went to this particular college. A college I flunked out of at the end of my freshman year.

College, Take 2

I was simply too immature for and too uninterested in going to college. So I put off my plans for a higher education for two decades. Even then, I only went because my wife decided to pursue her degree, and I was worried about being left behind.

It went better this time. I was more motivated, and by then I had learned the fine art of academic philosophy, aka Intellectual Bullshit. I breezed through a semester of Selected Masterpieces of American Literature and got an A on it without once reading anything on the syllabus.

And I took several art classes, discovering that I could draw after all and that I was good at etching and engraving. I even sold some of my silkscreens and linoleum block prints.

But here’s the thing: after getting my AA degree and being one semester from my Bachelor of Arts, I was informed that I would not be allowed to count my 12 semester hours of computer classes towards my degree.

It seems one of the faculty review team said that computers have no bearing on liberal arts. This, after I designed and administered the first-ever study of if and how personal computers — then in their infancy — affected the process of writing.

So the University of Alaska, in its infinite wisdom, decided that I needed another 12 hours — a full semester — of math and natural science — -neither of which have any bearing on the liberal arts.

Had I taken the 12 hours and added 3 more, I would have been able to graduate with both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science.

Admittedly, the University of Alaska (Southeast) is nowhere as prestigious as its big sister in Fairbanks, but a double major is still a double major. And two degrees for the price of one….

Or three, if you count the Associate of Arts degree.

Livin’ La Vida Loca

So now it’s 2019. It’s been 51 years since I finished high school. I’m retired and living on Social Security. I’m not rich, but I get by — without complaint, thank you very much.

But since 2012, when I retired, I have finally been able to live my dreams. And the biggest lesson I’ve learned — and fulfilled — was to let my daughters dream their own dreams, and to support them in making those dreams come true.

Stay safe, my friends.

And I Still Don’t Know

Sometimes my darkest moments give me my greatest ideas. But because the Dementors have taken hold of my spirit, I can’t act on those ideas right away.

So I do the next best thing: I write myself a note with the basic theme of the idea. Later, when the sun returns and dissipates the fog of depression, I can review my notes and decide if any of them are worth exploring further.

This is One of Those Ideas

I’m 68 years old; in 5 months I’ll be 69. It will be time once more for me to write a big fat 0 (zero) after my age. The eternal Footman will be one step closer to holding my coat.

What have I got to show for my life? For what will I be remembered by future generations of my family?

Will I be remembered at all?

Will they remember that I was a loving parent who adored her children and grandchildren? That the loss of a beloved pet some 35 years ago even today haunts me?

Or will they curse my name for the accursed genetic heritage with which I have bequeathed — nay, cursed — them?

For that’s the one constant in my bloodline: chronic depression.

And Yet…

My daughters and my grandsons are my legacy, and my inspiration. I am Transgender, and so is my grandson. It is for them that I continue to live, continue to believe that without them I would have long since yielded to The Big Sleep.

Because there are statistics that tell me that children of suicides are far more likely to kill themselves.

And I will not do that to my girls.

“Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.” Hamlet, Act III, Scene i.

If you’ve never felt the cold winds of Depression (with a capital D) blow over you, then you can’t understand that “[y]ou don’t have one problem or problems you are sad about, there is only sadness.” (Source)

And I’m also comforted by something I read on the internet years ago:

So nanny, nanny, boo-boo! I am Officially Exempt™ from having to grow up. And to celebrate, I might just go out and order a Happy Meal!

Or, Why My iPhone Battery Loses its Charge so Quickly

Photo by Wenni Zhou on Unsplash

Once again my iPhone’s charge is down to 30%, and it’s only 5 p.m. It’s all Medium’s fault, really; once again, I’ve spent too much time reading and writing here, and once again I’m probably going to have to put the phone on the charger just to get me through to bedtime.

I blame the problem on Medium: there are far too many interesting stories I have to read, and it’s far too easy to write my own stories on my iPhone.

So you see, it’s not my fault at all. (Echos of Han Solo: “Hey, it’s not my fault!”)

All kidding aside, when it’s 16° outside and snowing, and I’ve caught up to all my shows on Netflix, there’s not much else I enjoy more than drinking tea, reading, and writing. Especially on a lazy Saturday.

Except for the fact that I’m retired, and so all of my days are lazy Saturdays.

Look, a girl can read only so many vampire novels before she needs a break.

And my favorite break consists of another cuppa and reading stories on Medium.

Which inevitably leads me to writing one or three of my own. Which is a Good Thing™, because it keeps me off the streets and out of the bars.

Medium has done a lot for me in the year and a half I’ve been writing here: it’s introduced me to other writers who I follow almost religiously (I say “almost” because agnostics don’t do anything religiously), a few who follow me, and as a result my own scribblings have improved.

My hometown of Rochester, NY, isn’t famous for its bus system, and I have no car. So I can’t get to any writer’s workshops or support groups.

Instead, Medium serves that purpose for me.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Indeed, Medium has also become my social medium of choice for communicating with the outside world. James Finn, Michelle Monet, Ezinne Ukoha and several others too numerous to mention always brighten my days with their stories…all without the constant bickering and name-calling that finally drove me away from Facebook.

So it’s time to fess up and come clean: my name is Robyn, and I’m a Mediumaholic.

Tea Fuels My Writing…

Posted: 19 January, 2019 in Tea, Writing
Tags: , ,

And My Writing Fuels My Tea

Pretty nifty, the way that works out, wouldn’t you say?

As usual, I was out of bed by 8 this morning, and my first cup of tea was brewing by 8:10, and gone by 8:20, as I breezed through the morning news and weather.

No change in either: we’re still gonna get another 14 to 20 inches, and Trump is still the worst president in history.

But as Arlo said in Alice’s Restaurant, “That’s not what I come to talk to you about.”*

I’ve come once again to speak of the wonders of tea. The aches and pains of growing old. Childhood memories. Grandchildren. Everything that falls under the heading of “SSDD.”**

My writing is a reflection of my life in this regard: I rarely know what I’m doing when I begin each day, and I rarely know what I’m going to write when I fire up my writing tool.

A friend told me yesterday, “You know that part of your brain that says ‘better think about this before you blurt it out’? Yeah. I was born without that part.”

To which I replied, “I know what you mean; I like to be just as surprised as everybody else by what comes out of my mouth.”

And I’m pretty sure that explains why I’ll never be famous for writing The Great American Novel.™

I wonder: is it possible to age out of one genre and into another? Have I lost the spark or desire or whatever impetus pushes writers to write fiction? Am I condemned to writing memoirs and op-eds for the rest of my life?

When I was in elementary school back in the ‘50s, I was “fidgety,” “disruptive,” “smart, but doesn’t apply herself.” (The same was true in college, which is probably why I never graduated.)

What in the ‘50s was a character defect is now recognized as ADHD, or as mine has settled into, ADD. It’s the same thing, but without the hyperactivity.

Like so many other things from my childhood, what was once a problem or a hindrance has matured into an asset: my mind makes connections instantly, where other people have to ponder for a while.

But honesty compels me to admit that ADD can be a pain in the ass, too: sometimes ideas come so fast that they’re gone before I can write them down.

It makes me a lousy editor of my own works; there have been far too many times when I’ve sat down to edit a first draft only to look at it from another angle and end up rewriting it into something other than what it was originally.

This story is an excellent example. I started with the intention of how my consumption of tea and my writing are connected, but after 3 or 4 rewrites it bears no resemblance to the original.

Except for the graphic at the top of the page, nothing remains of the original.

But isn’t that a perfect example of what William Faulkner said?

In this case, the character took so many twists and turns along the road that I was barely able to follow him, much less catch up to him.

But then again, isn’t that what writing’s all about? Getting out of the way and letting the story tell itself?


*Hear it on YouTube
**Same Shit, Different Day

Or, “Another Day, Another Boring Article”

Faulkner

It’s 9:00 a.m. I’ve been up since 8. I’ve checked my mail (twice), read the gloomy weather report (8°), made the first cup of tea of the day, wasted 15 minutes on Pinterest, and posted an image to Instagram.

Damn. I’ve run out of distractions. No more excuses. *sigh* Guess it’s time to start writing.

Do you start your mornings like that?

I’ve only had one or two days begin that way. I hate them. I wake up wondering just what the hell I was thinking when I decided to be a writer — even though I’ve been writing for most of my life.

One thing I’ve discovered since the popularity of the Internet is that writing for the screen and writing for the printed page are two different animals.

On the printed page my paragraphs can be long, as long as they need to be to get my idea across. I can add footnotes, end notes, and all the fancy-schmancy doodads required by academic writing standards.

Not so when writing for the screen: the moat common reaction to long paragraphs is for your reader to go somewhere, anywhere, else.

A page with shorter paragraphs,for example.

I don’t mean this as a criticism (well,not entirely); it’s a fact that the Internet, with its sights and sounds, pop-up ads, and other distractions, has contributed to shortened attention spans.

So has television, with its ability to create world-threatening scenarios which Our Hero is able to resolve in an hour — with time out for advertisements.

Shorter attention spans, however, force us as writers to (in the words of Prof. William Strunk) “Omit needless words.” That worthy considered that rule so crucial that he repeated it. Three times.

So at least in that way it’s a blessing. We are forced to hone our craft, to fine-tune our words, so that we get our message across quickly and concisely.

Of course, that lets our stories for the printed page be as wordy and descriptive as ever.

Yes, I write primarily for the screen, but I fill my spare time reading novels and scholarly works.

With today’s technology, Ernest Hemingway would be a better choice for the screen than would say, William Faulkner.

But Faulkner would run rings around Hemingway on the printed page.