When I first stopped drinking I thought my life was over and that I would never write again. Not that I wrote that much drunk. I wasn’t published, (never sent anything out), and hardly ever told anyone but the little writer’s group I attended sporadically that I was even interested in writing. I was closeted and done, before it even began. I was 27 years old.
I’m now 41 and married, and it feels like I can’t write because what if I say something to offend my husband? I could never understand people afraid to offend their family. What’s family for if not for offending?
I recently finished a first draft of “Floyd,” the memoir of my misspent youth tracing the trail of my dead-father by interviewing his friends and lovers and trying to find myself along the way. My sister read it and she said, “It’s funny, but Jesus, you’re not going to let Claudio read that, are you?”
“Why? What’s the problem?”
“Just… Jesus. Keep it to yourself.” She elongated Jesus into ten syllables. “I wouldn’t let my husband read it if I wrote it,” she said.
I used to mock all the wanna-be writers in the aforementioned group. I’d call the group leader, Bruce, and complain about them. “Fucking housewife wanna-be writers,” I’d say. “Can’t you fill your group with some real writers?”
“They are actually very complimentary of your work,” Bruce would say, thinking, I suppose, that if I knew they liked me I would have some grace.
“What do they know? They’re housewives!”
And here I am, a housewife, desperate for a moment to myself to write, and when I get it, I wonder. Will that offend my dear husband? Like I’m living under Taliban rule and he could behead me. Like it’s still the 1950’s and I need to be ladylike. Like the time I lisped in front of a producer on one of his jobs.
“You lisped? Why would you lisp?”
“I don’t know. I thought it was funny.”
“She thought you were weird.”
“I am weird.”
“Don’t lisp anymore.”
It’s my own fault. When we married he had yet to read anything I wrote. Bruce asked me, “He’s never read your writing?”
“How are you marrying him?”
“It’s not like I am a secret porn star or something. I’m not even published.”
“Yes,” Bruce said, “but writing is so much who you are.”
I liked that Claud never got in my face about things. I could leave my journals around the house and he’d never crack one open and peer inside. He left me space to breathe, which I never felt before in a relationship. I felt safe and like I could relax. Maybe not wholly seen, but who wants to be wholly seen? That takes time; I daresay it’s what marriage is about.
Maybe those f-ing housewives from my writing group were working on the exact thing I’m struggling with now, same as then: Voice, perspective and the audacity to put it on the page. Will my husband still love me? Will I mortify my children? Worst of all, will anyone read it? Same thing. Doubt. Fear. Anxiety. I know these Biatches. So old, these friends still sitting at my feet and nothing at all to do with my husband.
But I do know this. I know if you, whomever you are reading this, came to me and told me you had a dream–whatever your dream–I would put my hands on your shoulders and say, “You must do it. You must heed the call.” Perhaps you would jump back, unnerved by my ferocity. But I would look into your eyes and tell you, “Do it. I know you can do it. I hear it in your love of what you are talking about.”
Maybe I would lisp for you. “Don’t be thscared. Justh thsee yourthelf doing it, and thoar.”
So I sit writing a blog when I could be editing my work. I have a thousand fears and only one raspy, older voice who says to me, “Kelli, for Christ’s sake. You’re forty. What are you waiting for? Let ‘er rip. Get on that hog and ride, girl.” I wonder who she is, old broad. Muse?
Do you know what I am talking about?