Many years ago, I left my laptop open and my younger daughter read the story I happened to be working on. She asked, “Why did you make me a boy in that story.”
“It’s not about you,” I answered.
Another time she asked why I killed her off in a story. It’s not about you, I said again.
But one time I wanted to fictionalize a true incident involving her and a dead rat. She was reluctant, but she agreed and signed over permission for me to write about the rat incident, but only once. Recently, as I was purging old files, I came across that contract.
The story is still unpublished. It needs work, but I haven’t had time to revise it. It has sat dormant for years. But it might never have been written in the first place.
A few years after I’d started writing, I considered giving it up. Not forever. Just until I could retire from my job, which at the time seemed like forever.
I was in my early forties, in the decade which my doctor at the time described as the worst in a woman’s life. I worked full-time. My husband was starting his business. Our children, though still young, would reach puberty right about the time I became perimenopausal.
Prior to having children, we had bought a sad house that we thought we could fix, but money, time, and patience were always in short supply. We lived in a house that we could never love. Things broke. Sometimes they were fixed or replaced. Sometimes not. We did what we could.
Life was stressful. Overwhelming. And yet I wanted to write. But. Life was stressful. And overwhelming. The thought of setting aside writing until the kids were grown and I qualified for Medicare added to the stress. I feared that the thing that drove me to write – the sense that something was missing in my life – would come back and settle on my chest or stomach or throat, someplace that would make it hard for me to breathe.
It was my father who convinced me not to give up writing. My father who was already dead – who died eight months after I enrolled in my first fiction writing class back in 1992 – came to me in a dream. Keep going, he said. Don’t stop.
So, I kept going.
And now it’s 2018. In April, I’ll complete my thirtieth year at my job. In June, I’ll turn 65. In December, I’ll retire. We are selling the house. We have gradually emptied it of its contents, so it echoes when we walk and there’s a loneliness in its bare walls. I am only a little sad for it.
Soon I will have more time to write and we will live in a different place and I will finish the rat story.