How not to become a writer . . .(last part, . . .sort of)
It didn’t take long for everything to fall apart. It wasn’t ugly but it wasn’t pretty, either. We both threw ourselves into the roles of parents; first as prospective parents, then actual parents, mother and father to a beautiful, smart, curious daughter, Samantha.
At first it was exciting; an adventure shared by two people determined to be the best possible parents to our daughter. At the same time we wanted — needed — to maintain some semblance of our lives before parenthood, before all those plans and hopes and dreams had to be re-examined in light of their effect on “Sam” and the family. Things we never thought about, or discussed only in passing, before now took on paramount importance. Where would “Sam” go to school? Where would we live? Where to find the best doctors? What about insurance? All of these things required resources Cathy and I hadn’t developed. We would, of course, but it was a difficult process, one I wouldn’t want to undertake again under those circumstances. there was tension, of course. I don’t suppose it can be otherwise when personal goals and dreams require giving way to family needs. When you start to lose sight of your dreams, resentment is, I guess, a natural result. We both had dreams, many dreams, but they were gradually subsumed by the demands of family.
Strangely enough Cathy’s dreams were the first to fade. She had always dreamed of being a photographer, a photo-journalist. She had converted an extraneous walk-in closet to a darkroom and spent many hours “closeted” (forgive the pun) with her rolls of film and chemicals, producing hundreds of prints which she dutifully catalogued. As her pregnancy progressed, she spent less and less time in her darkroom.
“I’m not really comfortable around the chemicals,” she explained, frowning at her ever-burgeoning belly. “I’m not sure if they’ll harm the baby.” I said I understood, that it was only temporary. She would be able to return to the darkroom and develop her film after the baby was born. There was plenty of time.
I said I understood but I didn’t, really. I didn’t understand those frowns weren’t only concern for the baby, but for the beginnings of the loss her dream, for the reality of things being put off.
I didn’t have the same concerns about writing; tapping computer keys were no threat to the unborn, were they? But they were. The hours spent hunched over a keyboard were hours away from Cathy and, since her birth, Samantha. I found myself wondering if the time I spent writing weren’t selfishness on my part. the one or two articles I managed to have published in obscure journals were not really contributing to our financial security. Truth be told, they were just shy of “net-zero” in the finance department. Maybe I should ease up on the writing and spend more time with the family. Besides, when Samantha was older, in school maybe, there would be more time for writing.
If I put my mind to it, I could probably list all the reasons the marriage failed. The dreams set aside, opportunities missed, decisions made (and not made). There were myriad other things that, viewed in hindsight, seemed inconsequential but weren’t. Eventually, it all became too much.
Looking back, I often wonder why, given our mutual dedication to parenthood, we chose divorce over “sticking it out”. I can’t really speak for Cathy; we never really talked about the “whys” of our decision. But the simple truth of it is we were just too physically and emotionally exhausted, too hurt and resentful to carry on until there was no feeling left, nothing to salvage. Best to separate now, while we still felt something for one another.. It would be “for the best”.
Little changed, really, after the divorce. The lawyers negotiated a “shared custody” agreement Cathy and I jointly ignore as we see fit, to accommodate Samantha’s sundry enthusiasms. Strangely, we seem better parents since the divorce that we tried to be before. Samantha, our joint creative project, seems happy and well-adjusted. She graduates from Columbia University next year. She says she wants to teach English (her major) in China after she graduates.
Cathy landed a gig as online editor for a travel magazine (I see a trip to China in her not-too-distant future). I managed to land on my feet. two years ago I bought a half interest in a restaurant. It’s doing really well and has garnered some good reviews in the local press (I never realized how hard restauranteurs worked!). As for my writing, I still get what Virgil or Cicero (I forget which) called, cacoethia scribendi, “the itch to scribble” now and then but there will be plenty of time for that; maybe after Samantha graduates . . .