Waste Not . . .
My husband and I joke we have to get our “money’s worth” out of everything. That’s why we can’t die early! Our parents were Depression Babies and we were their babies. Shelly’s parents had the first air conditioner in the neighborhood; mine had a rickety metal fan and a swatter for mosquitoes. My brothers and I learned early not to ask for anything. Stereo? No. Piano lessons? Ha! Trip to Florida with my science class? Are you kidding me? You’ve heard of family holdback? We didn’t need dinner guests to understand resources were limited and not to be wasted.
As an adult I haven’t had a problem spending money. I just happen to prefer artisanal jewelry, small Japanese cars, ethnic restaurants to anything glitzier. Recently I realized my parent’s frugal messages have been passed down in other subtler, mostly beneficial ways. The prospect of my wasting anything has always been deeply upsetting. Here’s how it’s revealed itself over the years:
• Have a kid while still in the (first) marriage. You’re here already!
• Put down that book! Go outside while the sun is shining.
• Get off that bench! Participate, don’t just observe.
• Work at finding a home for every scrap of writing.
• Use every second of every day to ACCOMPLISH/CREATE. Knit, Cook, Write, Clean, Walk, Write, Hike, Talk, Write. . .
• Watch movies, Read, Watch more movies, Write, Travel every year. Repeat.
• Organize your friends; give readings; teach skills.
• Communicate/Mentor/Encourage based on your hard-won “wisdom.”
• Treat every meal as if it were your last. Go on diets!
• Utilize everything that’s been given to you. Every insight.
• Practice being loving and kind. Save that NYC sarcasm for your stories, not your life.
• Turn the ketchup bottle upside down and let it drain out over a period of days….Not!
As I age I become a little more of a maniac about organizing my possessions. I must know what’s in the garage, in those boxes high up in the closets, in the filing cabinets in the basement. I give away old clothes and even books I will not wear or read again—somebody could get good use out of them.
Did I mention my husband is a collector? Of books, coins, mounted butterflies and beetles and bats, fossilized fish, framed photos, baseball shirts. . . wives? He loves amassing things. He loves clutter. A sticking point between us that we’re working on.
As a writer, I jot down orphan book titles, random phrases, funny characteristics, aberrant thoughts, and images from dreams. Every experience life throws at me, from the sublime to the ridiculous and just plain rotten, I filter through my writer’s eye. At best, I’ll mine these details to enrich the fabric of my tales. At worst, I’ll transform my experiences into a story for my friends. Bad job and horrid boss? Let’s write a comic novel (Dream Job, Wacky Adventures of an HR Manager)! Rapidly deteriorating cross-cultural starter marriage? Another novel (Inside the Walls of La Roquette). That novel will be released in 2018. It needs a few more tightenings—I wouldn’t want to waste any words. Readers are guaranteed to relate, especially when the setting for heartache is Paris and the accent so sublime.
Hey, when you’re a character in your own movie, as I suspect all writers are, it’s all good. We’re magicians. We turn misery, heartache and confusion into grand theater. Everyone feels better. Why? No one suffers in vain and nothing goes to waste.