I see both of my parents, each alone. It may not be true, but that’s how they keep appearing to me, like the ghosts that haunt Scroodge in The Christmas Carol, they travel with me everywhere, all the time – my mother sitting in her little house, my father in his old high-ceilinged Budapest apartment. They sit in empty rooms and I should be there, making them feel better.
So when a card comes in the mail with a $20 bill tucked inside from my mother, or the $100 bill that came at Christmas, my heart twists.
But I don’t obey. To create something new with everything I have, I can’t go there and do that.
I can’t even visit one of my sisters. I imagined walking through Ilona and Stu’s little farm in northern California, the place that is the center of their life together, and I realized I’ll probably never do it. I couldn’t. I imagined myself walking through it next to my sister and it would be like being in an alternative universe or underwater. We’d be friendly. It would look just right -- two sisters etc. – but it wouldn’t’ be. I wouldn’t be writing. I’d be on hold. I wouldn’t be living. I’ve done tons of this. Sold them years. You’d think I’d have some credit, but I don’t. I am in eternal debt to them and no matter how much I pay, the debt doesn’t stop.
Last week I told the local charitable organization that I couldn’t give them three hours a week anymore. Actually, I couldn’t quite say that. I had to say I’d be taking a month off. I didn’t have the guts to say I’m quitting.
But it feels like I have given myself a thousand empty acres to roam in. I keep clearing space for more writing to happen and it doesn’t necessarily mean hours at my desk. It means empty time the writing can take its time in, that I can take my time in.
My mother, at 82, leaves her house at 6:30 in the morning to go to work. She makes her bed before she goes and probably does her breakfast dishes. On her afternoons off she rakes leaves or cleans the kitchen floor. These things thunder in my ears. Who are you not to be working all the time?
I read recently that humans use about 10% of their brain capacity. I don’t want to settle for 10% of anything.