Potty Head

Hello from Bellingham WA on this windy evening. Which brings me to my topic—not the wind but the worry.

If worrying were an Olympic sport, I’d be caption of the U.S. team. If I listed everything I worry about, this blog would get far longer than Rapunzel’s hair, it would take up too much space, and WordPress might crash. That’s how much I worry. Enough to potentially crash WordPress and make me worry about the poor guy named Ted or something, who has to get up in the middle of the night and fix it. Sorry, Ted.

My itty bitty house is surrounded by 100-foot trees, and when the wind blows through the willows (okay, pine trees), I worry one or more trees will fall on my house. Or on my car. Or on me.

I have CSI-like evidence of the potential for this calamity. In my lifetime, I’ve see three large trees fall over. 1) A giant tree fell onto Broadway in Boise ID, and the car I was riding in just squeaked underneath the falling tree before it hit the pavement. 2) Also in Boise, standing in my backyard chatting with a neighbor, we both watched as another neighbor’s tree fell over onto his house. 3) Coming up the outside stairs to my aforementioned itty bitty house, I watched a tree fall from my backyard onto my neighbor’s porch. My dog took off and hid under my front porch while I called my insurance company (who did not cover any costs of tree removal. I had to hire a tree climber to come and saw it down in high winds and it was scary as hell to watch but that guy would kick ass in a lumberjack contest but I digress).

The point is, considering my visual history, I sort of think that when it’s my time to go, it will be a tree that takes me out. Frankly, I’m less worried about that then what one of those trees will do to my ramshackle house. I had a couple thousand dollars for a minute and asked my homeowners association to let me spend it chopping down a couple trees, but they said no because the trees were too pretty to get chopped down. They suck.

Trees are not the only thing I worry about. I worry about whether my tire pressure is too low, whether my hot water heater is set too high, whether there are rats in my cellar again, and whether my dog is pooping enough. Whether I left the front door unlocked, iron on, stove on, oven on, flat iron on, heat on. Whether I agree with the series comma or not. Whether my boobs are hanging lower this year. (Pretty sure they are. Ick.) And bigger stuff. Like what is my brother going to do after his dying wife actually dies, whether my niece’s husband will be allowed to immigrate from Mexico, what my one nephew is going to be like after he gets out of prison, how my friend is surviving the breakup of a thirty-year marriage, and who is taking care of all the dogs in the Eastern states hit by storm Sandy?

And, I worry about my characters. While I am worrying about all this stuff in the real world, no one is paying attention to my characters. They are in creative suspended animation, pissed as hell, wondering when the hell I’m going to get around to letting them in on their next plot point. I left poor Luke stranded on the deck of a 1950s-era steamship, and he doesn’t know whether to hang his head over the rail and puke or go hit on the ladies. Glenn has been sitting in a car that doesn’t have a muffler on his way to Twin Falls long enough to make the trip and back sixteen dozen times. Juanita has been standing in the entryway to the Fargo Theatre waiting to find out whether she steps out of the story to talk to me or I go into the story to talk to her.

When there’s too much real-world shit in my head, making up stuff for made-up characters to say and do can seem exhausting as well as a type of betrayal to the real people (and trees) that require my attention. For a while, I thought I’d hit on a solution: when the real world inserted itself into the fictional world in which I prefer to dwell, I would fight back by writing memoir. Ha! Take that, you real people! If you’re going to insist on getting sick, married, divorced, arrested, or dying, also be prepared to find yourself in my lines. Which may be why I don’t tend to write poetry. None of the people I know actually speak in iambic pentameter or even couplets.

Anyway, the whole memoir thing is great until A) the real people simply refuse to cooperate by living out what would be the best plot points or B) I have to revise the finished manuscript and relive all of the icky stuff that helped to create the manuscript. I’ve had a completed memoir sitting for two years untouched. I just need to make some cuts, pretty up the prose, and reorganize some stuff about this court case in the last section. But who wants to deal with the stuff of real life when Luke, Glenn, and the fair Juanita are waiting? They’re so much more fun than trying to understand my family or myself.

So the latest solution is that I write like a bunny. Hop from one project to the next, fictional, non, or full-on memoir, making a half pass here or there until I accidentally finish one thing. Oddly, it’s kind of working for me. As long as a tree doesn’t crash through the roof onto my computer, or the power doesn’t go out, or I don’t contract an odd sickness of the spleen, or my basement doesn’t flood, or Mitt Romney doesn’t win the election, or—oh shit. Hi, um Ted? Sorry to bother you so late, but I think WordPre^^^^$#@)))))>….



Filed under Howling at the moon, Rants

8 responses to “Potty Head

  1. Pingback: September 2012 Open Mic | Dear Writers

  2. Hmm, I’m worried you’re worrying too much. 🙂
    If you look on the bright side, everything bad that happens, makes a great story later.

  3. Now that’s what i like, a writing strategy called the Bunny Hop! I’m with ya on the worry side. I think many writers use stories to keep their own lives at arm’s length. I say, do whatever works, dahlink!

  4. Oh, my pleasure, Susan. And if you do take that bubble bath, be careful not to slip in the tub and hit your head or walk out into a drafty hallway, or go outside with a wet head . . . xo

  5. Susan Chase-Foster

    Oh, Laurel, you made my day! I felt like the only thing left was another bottle of wine and a bubble bath, but now I’m laughing my head off because it must be human, or something, to worry. Merci!

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