My lovely, talented, rapscallion son, Skitch, graduated from college two years ago. He needed five years to complete his studies in engineering. I was happy to give him that extra year – he chose a very affordable state school and I had (at the time) sufficient funds to help out. We were thrilled when he was ready to fly the coop, get a job and spread his wings.
But the graduation gift… what to give this only son, who spread himself among so many interests and passions? He suggested, and hubby liked the idea of, an electric violin. But the best electric violins cost many thousands of dollars. They need accessories, expensive ones. We don’t know anything (much) (nothing) about electric violins. And even Skitch wasn’t sure which one he might want. Or how much he would use it. Did an elementary school viola career equal (merit) the cost of such an expensive instrument?
Plus, the family was now short on cash (thank you, recession). Our dearest son didn’t press, and the idea was dropped. His father fretted from time to time, feeling we were being ungenerous. A graduation gift is customary. We’d let it slide. Were we good parents? Over and over, I assured him that we were, our son loved us unconditionally, and a gift would eventually be discovered, procured and delivered. And we would forget all about it again for several months.
Last month, I exited CVS with my usual mix of necessary (toilet paper) and unnecessary (lipstick) items. New York, for once, was enjoying a perfect blend of sunshine and mild weather. I glanced left and, as usual, and saw the rows of bikes outside the village bike shop. Bikes. Surely, after all this time… Could it be so easy?
My request was simple: bike for 25-year old man. Needs more than a sidewalk cruiser, but not that $2000 cliff jumper over there. No tricks, or challenging courses, no big drops. Young man in question still gets crazy ideas, so it needs to be able to take a beating. And he still lives in a college town, so any lock or cable needs to be able to survive that caliber of thief.
Forty minutes later, I was texting my son with questions and sending photos. Two weeks after that, we arrived at his apartment with a bike, carrier, helmet, tire pump and (most important) a gnarly cable lock. Since then, he’s gone riding several times a week, hoping to build up enough mileage to cycle-commute to work and back.
Happy boy, happy and relieved father, brilliant mom. Thus, the saga of “what do we get Skitch for graduation?” closes.
Which brings me to the real topic today: how many grand plans for our writing have we made that go unattended? How many minor disappointments do we harbor? In some ways we allow ourselves to construct these disappointments, all on our own, simply by allowing the time or opportunity to slip past. Okay, circumstance occassionally visits them upon us and we watch, helpless, as all our lovely plans are shattered. The editor or agent request gone stale. The rejection that continues to sting and fester. The rewrite that goes so badly we give up – and can’t forgive ourselves, even when we know it was for the best. Or, the story that’s dry, parched, neglected and, sadly, left alone (thank you, dearest husband for that addition). Sometimes we allow ourselves a little moan but, mostly, we let ourselves “live poor.”
In Skitch’s case, the lack of knowledge, compounded by lack of money bred the lack of gift – a kind of “living poor” that wouldn’t let go. We don’t have the money for a violin. We don’t know how to buy a violin. Hubby let this fester and I tried, very hard, not to absorb his disappointment as my own. I had to believe that one day we would be able to solve the problem.
Enter Bikeway! I do have the money for a bike, Skitch already knows how to ride a bike, I can afford a bike! Once I had the Smaller Gift idea it happened. I even used my new “live with the money you have” mantra and paid cash. Well, debit card, but it really was “cash.” My bank account knows the truth…
Having gone through this now, I want to bring this lesson to my writing. Enough disappointment with what I have not accomplished. More celebrating the tiny steps. The finished (begun) paragraphs, pages, outlines, scrawled notes, gathered ideas.
This journey as a writer is a process of discovery all its own. The more I know about my writing, the more I try (and fail), the better I know myself. How can I mine this newly realized (lesson) (discovery) knowledge of “small victories” and use it to conquer “living poor?”
What would you do with this discovery?