• Elizabeth Bartasius

Parents, Hurricanes & Dying - A Glimpse Inside the Writing Life

I haven’t been writing.

A hurricane hit home; we went without power for over 100 days.

Thanksgiving came; I ate the skin off a turkey and celebrated my 43rd birthday. I finally finished reading the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and realized I was no longer the answer to everything.

I scrubbed mold off the kitchen cabinets with Clorox wipes and rubbed sanitizer in my hands to clean my fingers and contemplated how I could write when generators buzzed throughout the neighborhood and the world went upside down.

Christmas came, as did Chris Dinwiddie, to help repair what was broken. He arrived like a knight on the afternoon Delta flight brandishing a tool belt, a gorgeous new tape measure and other fancy construction gadgets that had not yet an ounce of rust from the salt air. I missed writing. Maybe I could write again when the ceiling was finally repaired and the doors rebuilt and the scaffolding taken out of the kitchen so I can concentrate.

Our insightful friends don’t let us off the hook that easy. Steven called and ask me, “What if you could write anywhere at any time? Even with the generator screaming in your ear?”

Cleary, he was off his rocker. Doesn’t he know writing must be done seaside, in the quiet, no interruptions, with a warm cup of tea at the ready and all other items on the to-do list complete? But I humored him and wrote 2,000 words while Bernard from Carpet Master steam-cleaned cat hair and chocolate milk stains from the couch.

The next day, Steven challenged me to write 2000 words in 40 minutes. I rose, like the Phoenix that I am.

I kept writing.

I wrote about my first driving experience with a generator hounding in my ear.

I wrote about why my husband is right when he assigns me the self-help mantra, “I’m ok in an unfinished state of affairs”.

I wrote tired, before bed.

I wrote in between cleaning out the shed.

I wrote in the middle seat of an airplane.

I wrote about Granny and her house and my memories of her as a Halloween witch.

I wrote for 15 minutes, I wrote during interruptions. Hell, I even held conversations while I wrote.

I didn’t share any of it with you, but I wrote! I wrote for pure pleasure.

All this writing debunked the myth that I had to write under certain circumstances, and only in the most pristine of conditions. I felt free from constraints and ready to step into a Limitless 2018.

To kick off the New Year I accepted an invite to Paul and Gigi’s Dance Party and let it loose, totally sober, mind you. And, I flew to Florida to hunker down with my peeps and create our New Year. My friends and me made all sorts of plans on our Creation Retreat.

My friends let go of things like abuse, fear, being alone, pleasing others, and shame for their past, their desires, and their genius. I let go of the belief, “I should be done by now. ” I also let go of making a million lists of how I can organize my mornings, my vitamins, my health routine, my meals, my exercises and my anxiety avoidance tactics. I never do them anyway. I am throwing them away.

Out of the release, we created things like intimacy, joy, and unabashed self-expression. I am taking on being an award-winning author and “showing up to see what shows up.”

We ate ice cream, sang songs, prayed and practiced, in our safe circle, asking for what we wanted. At a Persona Party, I pretended to be a right-wing conservative; Kate pretended to let go of control. The 12 of us stretched ourselves, brought awareness to our stereotypes, went outside our usual, and saw through new eyes. Then we drove home, into the sunrise of our new year.

Within an hour, I got the news Granny had passed out and stopped breathing. We rushed to the hospital. I sat by her bedside, with my Auntie and cousin and Benjamin, for 3 days. I cried and spoke all my goodbyes. I rubbed the bottom of my grandmother’s 92-year-old shriveled feet and kissed her forehead. One last time. And, one last time. And just one more kiss. “Sweet dreams, Granny.” You are free to go. We will be fine. They took her off the ventilator and she exited stage left. I stopped writing. Again.

We are fine, but life is different. Mom and I are busy throwing away dozens of piles of prescriptions receipts, donating wheel chairs and canes, rummaging through Granny’s cashmere sweaters and star hats, and looking through old albums wondering who the hell is the bearded Civil War vet in the faded photo. Granny isn’t around to tell us anymore. What are we going to do without her?

I’m still not writing.

I am, however, living.

I’m living with people close to my heart. I’m eating chicken salad at Panera’s with my mother, and running to the grocery store to buy Dad medicine for the flu. Mom is spraying Lysol on the doorknobs and guzzling cough syrup from the bottle so she doesn’t get sick too. Father is watching the Avalanche score, wishing he could be back on the ice, lamenting that he missed his calling.” I am working on a client project, struggling with the setbacks of death and illness, realizing January is already over and I haven’t blogged in over three months.

At night, when our days’ work is done, we are watching Pretty Woman or old VHS tapes I’d sent Granny of my son’s birth 16 years ago. I am not writing, but I am remembering the way my toddler wanted nothing but a drum set for Christmas and his mommy to sing with him. Mom is remembering when her father took her to buy a pony and her mother, my grandmother, tapped her feet and sang the “Flat Foot Floogie.” Dad is remembering when the American Dream lived, politicians invoked integrity, and Pistol, the Garfield-sized cat, fell down the laundry chute and bounced off the washing machine.

Pistol has long recovered and snuggles up on a swivel armchair.

Mom swivels in the matching chair, a score at the Delray Beach thrift store.

We are sipping Chamomile tea.

And joking.

Or disagreeing.

Before I know it, I am, again, writing.

This is the writing life.