M.I.A.

1109This blog is more of a reflection of me than I realized, or that you knew. Grab a Starbucks or a Big Gulp or whatever they serve wherever you’re reading this, and I’ll explain.

Let’s start with the easy visible part. The blog’s overall look is one of simplicity. Or at least as much simplicity as can be mustered when you’re sorting through all the sidebar options the good folks at WordPress make available. I chose that particular photo of myself because of the grey T-shirt, which lends to the grittiness of city life as seen through the—what are those, anyway? binoculars?—in the header’s image. And the image denotes taking a closer look at the human landscape, and it ties to my blog’s subtitle about observations.

Now for the invisible part.

On the “About Yours Truly” page I’ve listed random facts about myself. Absent from the list is that my 32-year-old daughter is disabled. She is unable to speak and has only gross motor movements as a result of an illness she suffered at age 14. Prior to that she was a straight-A high school freshman in perfect health.

That’s a really big deal, and a really big part of who I am, yet I intentionally omitted that fact. And here’s why:

Human beings are only, well, human, and when we’re at the movies or shopping at Anthropologie (did I mention she’s cognitively intact and has great taste?), I imagine people see The Girl in the Wheelchair and The Mom Pushing the Wheelchair. And therein lies the problem.

We are both, yet we are neither.

That seconds-long encounter fails to tell about us, about me training to qualify for the Boston Marathon or about Erin’s love of all things quirky and retro. That seconds-long encounter invites pity, not conversation.

A few years ago my husband urged me to write a memoir centered around Erin’s illness and the stone-in-a-pond ripples it has had on not just our family, but on people we’ve never met. Currently I’m writing—fingers crossed—the last draft and although in June my editor said he’d like this draft to be completed in three months, I’m about halfway done.

To chronicle something so personal yet so universally relevant is a huge task. And thus my absenteeism from this blog.

Recently, though, an essay of mine was published online at BioStories, so that was cool. It provides a glimpse into the memoir, if you’d like to read it.

This blog, like me—like all of us, probably—has a shiny side it shows the world and a personal side it grants entry to on a selective basis.

Welcome in, friend.

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A (Imagined) Conversation with David Sedaris

David Sedaris, author of my dreams.

Me: I understand you’re interested in writing my biography. First, let me say I’m flattered.

David: It’s something I’ve wanted to—

Me: Wait. I’m not finished. Again, I’m flattered. But I’m also concerned. Your last book—what was it, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk ?—wasn’t my favorite. Actually it probably wasn’t anyone’s favorite.

David: Let me explain. Things—

Me: I’m not done. It wasn’t my favorite, but I still want you. As long as you get back to your Me Talk Pretty One Day mindset, I’d be happy. I’d even take the Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim years. I just think it’d be best to leave animals out of it.

David: But you love animals! How can I write your life story without animals?!

Me: You’re right, but it’s pets. I love pets. Not the odd parings in that book. And that was fiction, anyway. There’s no mouse with a pet snake in my life, so we’re good.

David: Got it. Which essays in particular did you enjoy? Just so I get an idea of your tastes.

Me: What did I enjoy? What didn’t I enjoy? Besides anything in Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, that is. The one that still makes me laugh is your speech therapist story from elementary school, where she kept baiting you to pronounce s sounds and you kept answering her questions with obscure words that had no s’s—or sh’s. Sorry—it’s been a while. The way you avoided saying “Christmas”? Genius! Ohhh—and the time you visited a nudist colony! That’s great! Your not wanting to sit on the furniture? Contemplating the intelligence of serving chili? Commenting on the bravery—or stupidity, I don’t remember which—of the naked fry cook? If you could do anything close to that in the biography, I’d be thrilled.

David: Do you mind if I open the window a crack? (Throwing it open without waiting for an answer.) Here’s the thing: nothing funny has happened in your life. I don’t have much to work with.

Me: What do you mean?

David: Think about it: you read, you write, you run. Rinse and repeat, and you’ve got tomorrow. And the day after that. And—

Me: Wait! There’s funny stuff! Why, just the other day—

David: Hold on. If you want serious, I can do it. But funny? I’ve got a reputation. I’m pretty sure my agent wouldn’t approve, anyway.

Me: How about if I let you do animals?

David: But you said no to animals, yes to pets.

Me: I was wrong! C’mon, David! We have to work something out! Now that I think about it, that story about the mouse with the pet snake was great! Maybe I just didn’t get the irony at first. But saying it out loud, I realize it’s some of your best work!

David: Honestly, Linda, I—

Me: No, David! Please reconsider! Creative license! That’s what I’ll give you! Write whatever you want!

David: Anything?

Me: Anything!

David: Even pattern it after that nonsensical “motherless bear” story?

Me: Nonsensical? Are we both thinking of Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk? Because the motherless bear story was priceless! Hey—I’ve got it! How about I pay you? Would that work?

David: I don’t know…

Me: No, really. Name your price. (Taking out checkbook.) I’m sorry. I’m being crass, aren’t I?

David: No. It’s just that I don’t know how long this’ll take me, how much to bill you for. Because I’ve read your outline—it’s going to take me a while to make something out of nothing.

Me: Then just take a blank check. Fill it in for a fair amount whenever you’re done. I trust you.

And that is how David Sedaris came to write my biography. Or will come to write my biography, just as soon as (1.) something worth writing about happens and (2.) David Sedaris becomes destitute and needs the work.

 

(Image courtesy of CC:en.wikipedia.org)

Funkytown

153I checked my email early this morning and read the Daily Post. It asked if you’re good at what you do, and what you’d like to do better.

Perfect timing.

The last two or three days I’ve written exactly one six-line paragraph for a synopsis I’ve been working on. And the paragraph stinks. It sounds stilted. Insincere. Forced.

I’ve hit a wall. Not a what’s-a-better-word? wall. A mile-22-in-a-marathon wall. And the harder I try, the more elusive the perfect words become.

Answering the question, “Are you good at what you do?” is easier if your skillset yields concrete results: if your risotto is perpetually undercooked, you’re probably not going to be the next Master Chef.

But how do you gauge subjective results? Do you rely on others’ input? Or is self-satisfaction enough?

I wish I knew.

Today we’re attending an outdoor wedding on a brilliant 85-degree afternoon, and tomorrow we’re having lunch with friends we haven’t seen in over a year, along with their daughter, son-in-law, and new baby girl. I’m counting on changes in scenery and smiling faces (not that my husband hasn’t been smiling—he’s been great through my blah-ness) to wrestle me from this writing funk.

Wish me luck.