(LB’S NOTE: If you’re a writer, you’ve probably read or heard the saying that’s the title of this post dozens of times. I certainly didn’t make it up. Which makes the fact that I’ve long been enslaved by it all the more annoying.)
I’ve been doing my best to be as unproductive as possible for a while now (because my productivity fetish made much of my life so very difficult – and the life of my family even more so), and today’s good news is that yesterday was a huge success for me, illustrated by the fact that I actually managed to not write a post here on the blog.
That said, as you can see for yourselves, I’m blogging and posting right now, because of something that did happen yesterday that captured my writerly attention.
The Brody house was visited by some people we don’t know. Specifically, by missionaries from a church we’d never heard from.
We didn’t see said missionaries but knew someone was here because Layla the Ever Welcoming Labrador retriever started barking merrily at the front door the way she does whenever anyone comes up the walk, immediately triggering Gwen’s and my “Run away!” auto-response and sending us rushing to the other side of the house.
As usual, we waited a few minutes for Layla to turn off her siren and then I cautiously made my way to the entry hall. I looked out the window alongside the door and saw no one.
What I did see, however, was the telltale sign of unwanted salesmen, politicians, and gardeners. You know the one I mean – in this case a slick, professional looking plastic cutout over the handle. The cutout showed a church and the lovely old couple who had founded it and said that the uninvited missionaries were sorry they didn’t get to meet us but had put in a good word for us with God anyway by saying a prayer for our souls.
I thanked Layla for doing such a good job of giving us the heads-up, threw the cutout into the trash, and Gwen, the dog, and I went on with our joyfully lazy day.
That would’ve been that, but later, at about one a.m., I woke up from a dream featuring the church founders their very selves, filled with anxiety and good old existential angst. I couldn’t get over the feeling that thanking Layla wasn’t enough.
I owed the universe and whatever is behind it a bigger and much snarkier thanks for ignoring my ongoing attempt to rid myself of what might be called Writers’ Inevitable OCD and bringing me a mission I couldn’t stop myself from communicating.
A mission I’d been sure was of absolutely no consequence, but which had gotten into my head and made itself so important that I stayed at the keyboard for hours to shape up this post so I could put it up on the blog not, now, NOW.
And in the bargain lose sleep, energy, and the comfort of my fam as I so often had in the past because of what? Habit? Addiction?
I’d like to blow this all off and go back to bed and maybe get enough sleep to be able to relax and enjoy the next day. But I keep thinking that maybe what I’m writing does mean something important. There must be some meaning behind my 60-plus years of dedication to the written word and those who read it–
Thanks a heap, uninvited praying missionairies.
Here I am again, all tangled up in productivity whether I like it or not.
Walmart being the great social center that it is for those of us who live in Paradise, I’ve had more than one strange encounter while shopping there. The most recent occurred just a couple of days ago.
Gwen and I came in together and then went our separate ways. She zipped over to the organic fruits and vegetables, and I ambled to the snack tables where Doug the Dog Breeder so often holds court. We hadn’t talked for awhile, and I was eager to get up to speed on what was going on in his life.
My good friend was nowhere to be seen, though, so I got a cup of coffee and sat down by my lonesome for some people-watching.
At first I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Just:
A group of teenage girls posturing for a group of teenage boys.
A five-year-old girl whacking her little brother alongside the head when their mom turned her attention from them to a display of potted plants.
An elderly man riding his motorized cart like a bumper car and frowning disappointedly when everyone scooted out of the way.
I did my best not to grin so widely that the afternoon’s entertainment caught on to how very entertaining it was being. I’ve learned from sad experience that some folks don’t take all too kindly to that.
Then the strangeness arrived. In the form of a woman of about fifty, wearing a faded dress. She sat down across the table from me and leaned forward with a very serious look on her face.
“I’ve got a problem,” she said. “Don’t have a clue about what to do.”
“It’s my cousin’s son,” she went on. “He called me yesterday out of the blue to tell me his father just died and he’s glad. ‘My daddy was a terrible man,’ he told me. ‘He was tall and broad and taken by fits of temper that made everybody in the household fear for our lives.’
“I didn’t know what to say,” my Walmart Confidante continued. “I don’t know the boy and barely remembered his father. Probably only saw my cousin half a dozen times when we were kids and never after we grew up.
“The boy said he had to call other family members and hung up. And as soon as he did I recalled a few things about this ‘terrible man’. He was big even as a child, and gawky, and he tried very hard. But his mother, my aunt, never saw him as anything but a mess. She mocked him when she talked about him to my mother, and I saw her mock him to his face.
“She treated the boy like the family idiot, and he never knew how to respond. Because he was a kid, and what can a kid say about the cruelty of any adult, let alone a parent?”
The woman twisted in her chair, a look of pain taking over her face. “I have no idea how intelligent my cousin was, but I suspect that one of the reasons he grew into an abusive man was that he was so betrayed by the woman who was supposed to support and protect him.
“I feel like I should call his son back and tell him about this. Not to absolve my cousin. Not even to excuse him. But to explain just a little. So many of us grow up not understanding our parents as people, and it’s so easy to end up bitter or even twisted as a result.
“That’s it. I’m going to do it. I’m going to make that call. Thank you. Thank you so much!”
My Walmart Confidante reached out and hugged me. Then she pushed back her chair and strode away, passing Gwen, who was coming over with her cart.
“Friend of yours?” Gwen said.
I could only shrug. “A lady with a problem,” I said.
“Were you able to help her solve it?”
“Then why don’t you look as happy as you should?”
I realized I wasn’t smiling. And I also realized why. “Honey, this isn’t exactly my kind of thing. What would’ve happened if instead of me sitting here it’d been Doug?”
Now it was Gwen’s turn to hug me. “Exactly the same thing,” she said with a laugh. “All she needed was for somebody to listen.”
I always wondered why Doug spent so much time in this place. Now I know.