I write about all the crap floating around inside my brain, the ghosts of school bullies and nuns in black habits, wielding rulers and sharp tongues. I write about my favorite teachers from high school when the nuns abandoned their veils and wore peasant blouses and sandals and read Kahlil Gibran to us in religion class. I write about how shy I’ve always been around boys, how I let my first boyfriend verbally abuse me and then when I’d try to please him he’d tell me I was a bad feminist and that he had so much more respect for the lesbians of our acquaintance. I write about the kids I used to work with, how I wrote and wrote and wrote about them for a decade and a half and it always sounded sad, but they weren’t sad, they were some of the most joyful people I’d ever met. I write about the one who died of leukemia and the one who drowned in a swimming pool and the one who died when a tree fell on the golf cart she was sitting in with her dad, and the one who died of a brain tumor and the one whose father beat her with an electric cord and the ones who were born in refugee camps whose parents would bow to me and send me hand made ornaments and charms and needlepoint squares. “Thank you for taking care of our mental child,” they’d say.
I write about mysticism and synchronicity, meeting a man at a bus stop who later showed up at my door who went out and dug in the dirt behind my classroom with my students, how good he was with Jeremy and G, how Mannix and Rico loved him so much. The boys without fathers at home thought he was a rock star and I wrote a dozen love poems and he left a hundred dollar bill for me pressed between the sticky leaves of a calla lily plant in my back yard. “He’s a gift to a writer,” I’d tell my friends.
I write about baseball and dancing and religion and politics and mythology. I write about Celtic heroes like Finn MacUail and his son Oisin and I write about Catholic saints like Claire and Bridget. I write about Craig, the mystic/custodian who wiped down the chalkboards in my classroom and vacuumed the rugs and told me I was special. “Don’t listen to anybody else,” he said. “I’m here now. This is not subtle. You. Are. Special.”
I write about people who have dropped dead and abandoned me, and how it pisses me off something awful, and of course I’m not really angry at them. Not really. Am I? Did they go someplace better? Are they hanging out without me?
After Craig died I happened to come across a beautiful bookmark my friend Judy gave me a decade and a half ago. It was just stuck in some random book. She’d written on the back, “Thank you for being here.” At the time she wrote that we were working with one of the meanest, least ethical people I’ve ever known—and he was stupid too. She was thanking me—as I often thanked her—for hanging in there, to face him together. But now I look at it, now that she is gone and Craig is gone, and I think she’s saying to me, “Thank you for being here–” here, on planet Earth, still doing whatever it is I’m doing that for some reason still needs to be done. And when I found this bookmark again, right after losing Craig, right when I’d been wondering why I was still here, I thought, well, Judy’s telling me it’s good and she’s grateful and I guess I’ll believe her.
And that’s what I write about.
(written with my beloved Thursday night writing group at John’s house)
7 thoughts on “What do you write about?”
Nancy, that was wonderful! As a functional writer, it is nice to see what motivates a real writer.
Reblogged this on Felicia's Mag.
I enjoyed reading this, Nancy. I’m sure you made a difference to those kids you taught and to your friends who passed. You inspire me to write more like I did in my youth.
Ah ha!!! I wondered what went on at John’s meetings *:)
some talking, some eating, a lot of writing!