Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Three Year Anniversary

***trigger warning: childhood sexual abuse***

I feel stuck.

It's the third anniversary of my brother Pat's death at age forty-nine of alcoholic-induced liver failure.  I woke up and noticed the date on the calendar as I was packing Katie's lunch this morning, but I didn't think I felt too sad about it until I tried to sit down and write about anything other than Pat's death.

I gave up.  I re-read the post I wrote about him last year.

I feel sad about it because Pat is gone, but also sad because I haven't accomplished what I thought would help me feel better about myself by now.  Yeah, yeah.  I'm still blogging.  And that's great and all.  But I haven't published my memoir like I set out to do three years ago.

Unpaid blogger.  Blah.  It's not the same.

It bothers me more than I wish it did that I don't get paid to write.  It makes me feel ungrateful and greedy.  At least I have time to write.  I'm lucky to have a side job at the public library that pays a high enough hourly wage that I can work 24 hours a week instead of 40 hours a week and get by.  I'm lucky to share Will's paycheck, and his attention to our daughter and to our home.  I understand there are many writers who don't have that kind of support, who can't afford to sit around and write all day, and although I don't have the luxury of writing full-time like I'd like, I am grateful for the time I do have to write each day.

Worrying about my income makes me feel like a hack.  Worrying about being a hack makes me feel like a snob.  I probably am a snob, because it bothers me way more to think of myself as a hack than a snob.

I know that there's some middle ground between writing for money's sake (hack) and writing for art's sake (snob), that it's perfectly reasonable to want to make a living doing what you feel good at, what you love to do, that there's no shame in wanting financial security for myself and my family so our bank account has enough cushion for the occasional punch life throws at us--car repairs, plumbers, weird growths on the dog's toe.  Katie's college fund.  Oh dear God.

It's hard to find some middle ground on shaky days like today, when I'm looking back at the past three years and thinking, "You still haven't done it."

When Pat died I felt free to share my story.  He and his friend, teenagers at the time, had sexually abused my friend and I, young children at the time, and Pat told me not to tell our mom our she'd end up back in the mental hospital where she had received electroshock therapy for depression before I was even born.  I had shared our secret with close family and friends, but I didn't talk openly about it until I began writing about it three years ago.

It felt so good to get it out.  I had long ago broken the secret and told our mom, and she weathered through it, just like I did, without getting shocked or locked up.  But I didn't like to talk about it too much, even though I felt better when I did, because, well, I didn't want everyone to hate Pat.  I know that sounds Stockholm Syndrome-ish, but it's not.  Pat did some horrible things to me, yes.  But Pat was not a monster.  He was my brother.  He was a good person the majority of the time.  I loved him, and I always will.

I thought enough time had passed that I could go about my day without dwelling on my brother's death.  I thought I could move on.  Get stuff done.  I've got an idea for another novel I want to write.  I'm excited about it.  But I couldn't get myself out of this ditch and back on track with actually writing another story until I hopped on here to write about how stuck I feel, and in doing so, now I feel free again.

I'm just no good at ignoring my feelings anymore.  So I guess all this unpaid writing I've been doing for the last three years hasn't been for nothing.