I think maybe I was to blame for World War Two as well
I have my very own built-in Jewish mother. This is not because I am of Hebraic persuasion, but because somebody is always looking over my shoulder, shaking her head, and then dumping a great dollop of guilt on me.
Guilt! What a wasteful exercise of human energy. From the time I was a child I always felt that whatever I was doing was suspect, and that there was someone off to the side tut-tutting about my transgressions and lapses of good behavior.
I don’t remember feeling particularly guilty in childhood, other than having to face the normal report card admonitions that indicated (consistently) that “Ian is not working up to his capacity.” I mean, otherwise I got yelled at a lot, and possibly even deserved to.
By the time I was in my teens guilt became a little more full-fledged. I still wasn’t working up to my capacity, and there were a few ‘other’ things happening that all red-blooded and healthy boys and girls got up to in idle times that are not only causative guilt ingredients, but stood the potential of making one blind, as well. Or so some believed.
And, feelings of guilt and shame (or outright defiance as a counter to guilt) persisted through much of my adult life. I mean, there were a few (very few, right?) things I should have felt horribly guilty about, and sometimes I did. But, for the most part I lived a respectable life as it should be lived.
But then, recently, somebody asked me if I was retired. Far from it, I asserted, almost indignantly. Retirement is either for geezers or people like schoolteachers who get big fat pensions at age 55. Can you believe it? Fifty-five and you decide your productive life is over. I only grouse about that because if I had stayed a schoolteacher, I too would have that big, fat &%$#@ (symbols are euphemistic expressions for the word ‘fucking’, which I chose not to use in this family-oriented blog) pension today.
Anyway, I am not retired, nor do I have any desire to be so. I have lots to do and I want to keep on doing it until they throw me into the flames. But, I am self-employed. I am self-employed as a professional writer and freelancer, and that suits me dandily.
Yet, that is also where the guilt comes in. I don’t feel guilty when I am writing an article somebody has contracted. I feel utterly fulfilled putting in labor that has dollar signs connected to its completion. But, I feel guilty when I am writing my ‘own’ stuff. Book type stuff. All my life I have dreamt of having the freedom and wherewithal to be able to finally work towards getting something between covers other than whatever person of the opposite sex happens to be in my life. I always wanted to be a ‘writer.’ I mean, I am a writer. That’s what I do. But, I always wanted to write my own things, not at the behest of another. But, when I devote a day to doing that – I feel guilty. I think that others might regard me as a bum, sponging off my wife. I mean, I know I'm not. I earn an income (that varies, as it always does with freelancers) and I have reasonably good investments. Yet I still seem to worry about what others, including my Jewish mother, might think.
Wendy goes out to work every day. She likes her job and for her it’s no hardship, so she encourages me to devote as much time as I can to ‘real’ writing; ‘my’ writing. She throws no guilt in my direction, and believes what I do is as worthy as what anybody else does; even if the outcome is nebulous.
“It’s what you always wanted to have the freedom to do,” she says. “So, why aren’t you ecstatically happy about it?”
“Guilt,” I tell her. “I always worked for somebody. I have worked hard all my life. To have the freedom to get up and do my own stuff seems slothful, unworthy.”
“Hemingway was a full-time writer,” she says. “Norman Mailer was a full-time writer. Do you consider them unworthy?”
“Hemingway stuck a shotgun in his mouth and Mailer wrote an awful lot of drivel in his later years, but still got paid well because he was Norman Mailer. That’s scanty consolation.”
She shakes her head and walks away, leaving me with my guilt and an overwhelming impulse to procrastinate. That’s something all writers do, and I’m good at that. Maybe I just have to get my head around the other stuff.
By the way, I do have something off at a publisher right now. Maybe they’ll look at it and make me feel worthy and guilt-free.