Still here? Okay, first and foremost, this blog is my catharsis. I write it to release and organize some things inside that make me bananas and share things I find humorous in an attempt to remember the good and the bad so I remain mindful of balance.
I felt some [internal] pressure to write about groundhogs day here. I have a history with the holiday. [yep! calling it a holiday without shame!]
I was 19 years old and interviewed for a retail job that I did not particularly want. When asked if I had a problem working nights, weekends and holidays, I responded with a straight face asking, "You mean like Groundhog's Day?" With a look of bewilderment, the interviewer explained, "I meant Thanksgiving and Christmas." To which I sighed in relief and said, "Oh sure, I will work Thanksgiving and Christmas. Who do I put in a vacation day request for Groundhog's Day?" Needless to say, I got the job and worked there for like seven years.
At the time I think I said it for a reaction. I remember the interviewer seemed nervous to be asking me questions. It was absurd. I never liked interviewing and always feel inside the rage of, "Are you fucking kidding me? You need someone to work or not?" I don't want to 'click' or 'connect' with my new boss. I just want to have a job so I can do the job and get paid for the job. And I know that sounds like I don't care about the quality of job I do - I know it sounds like they should be grateful that I just showed up; but with all sincerity, a job needs done so I'll do it. And I'll do it well if I can. If not, I will move on because there is another job out there that needs doing. And there is someone else for the job I can't or don't want to do.
But what about this groundhog? I lived in a house with a dog house in the yard and a dog who slept in my bed. I would prop open the back storm door and drink a cup of coffee while Asher went outside in the morning, did his poop and ran in circles in a yard home to morning glory, snails and a makeshift fire pit. My coffee was warm and I thought I saw Asher move into the dog house which was unusual for the little guy. In all the time he lived with us, the doghouse was home to hornets and he never got over the fear of the buzzing. I whistled for him, just to have him poke his head out and let me know he's okay. Of course he came from the house and squeezed between the door and me to put his head on my shoulder. I was crazy and dropped my mug on the ground, crying in fear at the thing that I had been watching frolic in the yard believing it was my dog. I locked the door with Asher safely beside me in the laundry room and looked out the window knowing I saw something and in disbelief that I couldn't distinguish between the impostor and the little guy with whom I spend most of my time. Turns out, it was a monster of a groundhog living in the dog house and probably the reason Asher didn't use it ever. [He was tougher than a few bugs.]
By this time I was working a full-fledged grown up forty [fifty?] hour week nine to five [7:30-5:30] job. I still worked the days no one wanted to so the department had coverage. Quite honestly, with a skeleton crew, I could turn on some music and plow through work. I really never minded working the day after Thanksgiving, Good Friday or Columbus Day. But the occasional request to take a personal day on February 2 became a standing holiday for me. I think I started requesting off so I stayed mindful of the puzzlement in that interviewer's forehead wrinkles. It was no longer her reaction that I was holding on to, but the moment where I realized, I'm not nervous to get this job. I'll do it if you hire me; if not, I'll be somewhere else working. It let me stay mindful of the value I feel I held for my work without the fear I've witnessed in so many people about having, keeping and losing their job.
Years passed and I didn't know the significance of Groundhog Day. It was just something quirky we had in America that made meteorologists roll their eyes when they had to refer to the cartoon drawing of the rodent in the forecast.
But it wasn't. It's not that at all. Groundhog's Day is a bastardized version of Imbolc. [You like St. Brigid's Day better than the pagan word?] Imbolc celebrated the first sign of milk production in the livestock. It was knowing with your breath that you made it through the darkest part of winter and soon the weather would be warming.
For me and the long work days, it became the calendar or clock tick that reminded me I didn't have to spend the daylight hours locked in a room without a skylight moving numbers from one space to another. It was a reset each year with a file shift and closing books. It was the birth of spring.
For anyone who has neither been to, or heard of Gobbler's Knob in Pennsylvania, the town seems to have one thing - a celebration with the Groundhog! All night, folks commune around bonfires and in the morning, after a ceremony involving top hats and a speech older than any living person today, there is a pancake breakfast for the whole town. I'm not exaggerating - everyone files into a hall and eats together. Truly it is reminiscent of the gratitude for gifts bestowed upon us from the earth and hard work.
Very quietly, I began making homemade mac and cheese, quesodillas, white pizza or something with dairy as the star for my groundhog's day dinner. I didn't want to alarm my kids or overwhelm them with another holiday, but I snuck it in when I could. At this point in my life and theirs, I'm not sure it's any less significant in my house than the other holidays.
Except this year there was nothing. I worked on Groundhog's Day and came home to have whatever unmemorable dinner I had with three of my kids. I'm quite certain the only dairy I had was the half and half in my coffee. And I'm struggling [internally] with it. I want my life to mean something more than it does and these turns of the calendar should provide something more than a sunrise and sunset.
This year is much different for me. First, I'm forty two - so I'm keeping an eye out for when I'm given the answers to life, the universe and everything. But I've also taken a step away from a stressful workday - have a much more relaxed regular gig and I'm writing which is feeding - what is it feeding?
I'm freelancing and the quick 10,000 words in a weekend is easy for me. Given a clear outline, it's little more than editing or a re-write. But I'm struggling with one writing job that was supposed to be completed in a month and driven by words that were already composed.
I just watched a movie where father and son are writers with some internal struggles and mental illness [based on a book that I must now read!] At one point the son is permitted to read the father's great masterpiece and the voiceover lets the viewer know the work is incomprehensible. 'the first thirty pages or so were amazing but then it turned to jibberish shit...'
I was in the jibberish shit of the loose outline I have for this freelance job. I would write a couple hundred words and find anything else to do. In the meantime, the client told me how much it was moving him and how much it was helping him. [His therapist agreed.] I didn't understand how my words could be helpful.
I filled in his memories with my own and asked specific questions so I could get a clear understanding of his experience to decipher for him. I removed all the pieces of me and worked again with his broken thoughts and sentence fragments. There were weeks when I didn't hear from him and others when we spoke every day. I was thrown for a loop on several occasions, redirecting the intention and changing the focus as well as the content. The month estimation has now turned into four with a word count little more than 20,000. It's much more than dictation and typing regardless of what anyone may say or think of freelancers.
And then in a rush of passion, I received a clear paragraph of over 2,000 words from this client with articulate sentences reading the most devastating event in his life. It was the crux of his work. It was the reason he was in therapy and more importantly the foundation of his story. Not the story I was typing for him. It was the story of his internal struggle.
I read the words and closed my laptop. It was too much responsibility. What had been a light jaunt through food just turned into something significant and I was no longer glib about interviewing for the job. He wanted me to convey his story to whoever opened the cover. He wanted me to honor his memories and find meaning in the thread that holds the hem along the quilt of nourishment he had wrapped himself within all his life. He wanted me.
By now, I've read the email twenty times or more in the past week. I've been mad at myself for not finishing this work so many times in the past few months, begging and pleading for information with which to work. Given it, I could do nothing more than see how little I am in the process.
The photo I put on this entry is a picture of my dad's travel clock his father gave to him when he was headed to Germany as an Air Force Bombardier. It's not a photo of his clock - it's a photo I found on the internet of the clock I looked at so many times and ran my finger along the lines of the box that folds up and slides into a pocket. I don't know what happened to my dad's clock. But I do know that I wrote a whole chapter about that exact clock when I worked for seven years on a novel that I still don't want anyone to read. The character I wrote struggled with figuring out who he wanted to be as opposed to who he was destined to be.
I work and I struggle to just get to the sunset, in winter sooner than the spring. I count things because it's what I get paid to do. But I write because I think it's who I am.
I'm resetting my groundhog clock again, knowing that I've made it through the hardest part and going to be mindful of the increasing light in my life. Just as the folks for Imbolc shared the milk they produced to spread nourishment as they could, I'm going to allow what my chemistry teacher once called, 'the command of language' to impact others. In writing, I think I release some of my struggle. I hope in reading others may release theirs.