Thursday, June 4, 2009

No Money on Trees

A friend and I bantered the other day about the fact that what lies in our back pocket is more important than the size of what we hide in the front of our pants. We both adore women in general and ones in particular, and even though it was all in clever jest, there rang a note of exasperated truth.

In this day and age when women can hold their own, or even better us financially, these light-hearted pokes described our own confused insecurities more than the fear of any actual judgment from the opposite sex. There is no doubt that—like having a car door opened—women can feel loved when their man picks up the check, but their independence has made it more of a gift than an expectation or demand.

The hunter/gathering blood still courses boldly through us men, however, who whip out our cards like so many swords of old, establishing our territory. With every tip to the bill, there is a note of confidence, a swagger, a punctuating statement that we are okay, holding our own in the world, and able to give that gift to the woman in our focus.

Last week, it was fascinating to me (only in retrospect) to start out with only twenty dollars in my pocket, nothing in the bank, and no prospect of any more arriving like cavalry before the weekend. Survival required careful attention, prudent mileage, and lots of peanut butter and jelly.

No consolation was found in reminding myself this poverty was a direct result of the choice to pursue creativity over carpentry. I accepted the challenge of it soberly last week, not happily, and vowed that I must do things differently to not be here again. My mood—full of bright equanimity on the surface—grew as bleak as the rainy day outside.

No matter the source of the dollars that enliven my bank account, my mood often reflects the balance: forlorn and unproductive when empty; bold, brave and resourceful when there is money to back it up. It is easier to write and play music happily when the financial help from my father obscures the fact that at 55, I have to run to him each month for help. Once depleted, it takes days to conjure the energy to ask for more, but as soon as it is deposited, my production and confidence are fueled like gas in a car.

The quality and success of the work is secondary to the sheer fact that I am working at all. Far better, I say, than lying comatose on the sofa, staring at soundless walls and blank pages, I can accept this help with the justification that I am pursuing my passion. Never mind that no editor has personally written encouragement of any kind when returning a manuscript (my mark of success 25 years ago), I write and submit, believing that alone is success enough at this nascent point of my revised career.

When the account is empty, however, no amount of fancy words or moving music can help to soften the pain. Hours of productive music or the pile of the next submissions packaged to mail do not alleviate my soul. The urgency to express is diverted to despair. I pace the small rooms too weary to find optimism. My heart aches with fear and worry, inertia of the worst kind. The fear of plummeting further awakes the man who seeks solutions.

And since there is a woman I would like to take to dinner, I evaluate the balance of production, results, energy and money, deciding that some carpentry is not at all a bad thing compared to the threat to my self-esteem, sitting alone in my room, continuing to ask for help from my father at the end of his life, when editors are not accepting my creative efforts. Perhaps when I truly earn the time to write, the right words will flow to catch their attention.

In the meantime, I feed my soul with companionship of a dear kind in daily life, sharing the sunset over a wonderful dinner on a back porch, enjoying the mix of ache and satisfaction of another door hung and painted, taking solace that after a week of silence and frustration, I am finally able to contribute a little something to this blog as well.

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5 comments:

Hayden Tompkins said...

Now that we have a Saab, it is completely impractical for Chris to open my car door! (Until, that is, we get a new car remote.) I mean, I know it's the smartest car ever designed but it would have been nice to have key holes on both sides.

I admit, I do miss it.

stamperdad said...

When I became single-again I too lived in poverty for several years, not knowing how I'd survive from pay day to pay day since most went to the ex. It's not a good situation. I dearly hope you don't stop writing. I look forward to reading your thoughts and your writing.
Best
Steve

Laurie said...

Keep the faith. Don't give up.

Carol said...

Kip... we all need to eat and pay the bills. It is possible to live a creative life and work at the same time, although it requires a lot of time management. I've always thought that carpentry was very creative, so combined with your writing, you do actually live a very creative life. Your writing brings joy to you, and I'm sure that the work that you do with your hands with wood brings joy to others.

Tammy-Cricket said...

Hey there,

It was so good to see you over at my blog today. I do not subscribe to RSS feeds anymore. I have tried so hard to simlify my life and giving up some internet pleasures had to go. I came over to your blog several times throughout the winter when you were not posting as much. I need to take the time to go backwards and get caught up.

This post placed a huge lump in my throat. You can feel your turmoil in your words. As you know...I have had my past a bit rocky and I think I a finally on the path to mental freedom.

It broke my heart to hear you say you wanted to take someone out to dinner but you couldn't. You have placed your dreams above all else and it appears that the walls are caving in. Somewhere along the way I gave up dreaming and just had to focus on my day to day. AH..the sad part...bills do have to be paid.

I respect you as a person for following your heart. In my former life (ha) I built homes for 20 years. It is a hard and tiresome job. I didn't to physical work, but just keeping everyone happy was so mentally exhausting. I am not sure I have ever shared that with you.

Anyway, I have a stack of work awaiting me now. Hang in there. I will be back not that I know you are back.

I did love you opening paragraph!

Take care.