My Dad was Mr. Rogers

I was separated from my father at an early age. It was a combination of divorce, circumstances and over 3,000 miles. This was in the 1970’s and I ended up being what they called a “latch-key kid”. What that meant essentially was that my primary caregivers (mom and step-dad) worked so much that I was left alone at home with instructions to keep the door locked and not let anyone in. The concern was that I would and could possibly get snatched up. We lived in Florida and at that time, there were children all over the state being taken mostly from public places and mostly because the parents turned their backs for only a moment. That was all it took.

 
I missed my fun and kind father, despite the strange things my mother told me about him and why he left. I remembered him wearing a sweater and his black hair was parted on one side and laid obediently next to the others, swooping to the opposite side. I had a few pictures of him. He looked like Mr. Rogers to me, only less gray.

 
I ran across the show one morning and began to fantasize that this is why I never saw my father because he was too busy making this caring show for all the kids in the world. So he was too busy and important to come to see little old me. I could see his face every time the show came on and it brought me a little closer to him. It eased my pain. It comforted the scared little girl who felt alienated from the entire world. Since he could not come to me, I would go to him every day and watch him interact and teach me things from inside his tubed box.

 
I must have known in my heart that it was just something I made up. I don’t think I told anyone. I might have told mom, to which I am certain she must have told me how ridiculous that was. I remember being devastated when my step-dad lost his job and was home for a few weeks and I was told to stay in my room and not allowed to watch their TV. I missed seeing my dad and my alienation grew.

 
I ended up seeing him twice over the years between 5 and 16. Once when I was about 6 or 7, not too long after both of my parents were remarried and once when I was 11, just before my grandfather died. Both times I remember him changing his shoes when he got home and putting on a button-up sweater. It doesn’t matter if this part was true or happened, it happened for me. The fantasy in my head played it out over and over again. In my mind, my dad was Mr. Rogers. And if as an adult I had to compare him to an iconic figure, that would be the one. Even though I rarely saw my father during my formative years, he was always with me, always guiding me and always told me he loved me.

 

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Something Magical

Last year I made one specific decision that changed my life forever. I decided to quit talking about being a writer and become one. I made the commitment to write every single day. I wanted to become not just a writer but the best storyteller I could possibly be. I dived into book after book on the topic of writing and read numerous articles. I filled notebook after notebook and tried new things with my writing that I never tried before. Not simply with the way I string words together but weaving in emotion, direction, and vitality. It felt like I was making magic.

I’ve made life changes over a handful of decades with varying degrees of success. The idea of hard work comes easily to me but learning to combine that with dedication, consistency, and discipline is quite another. To add weight to my decision, I threw in the idea of finishing things, which has never been my strong suit. I figured I might as well work on all my weakest links if I wanted to succeed at this. The one thing I didn’t prepare myself for was the genuine change that change itself brings.

I usually finish off my years disappointed that I didn’t accomplish anything and dwell negatively on all that, but this year was different. The first thing I finished was the Nanowrimo, writing just over 50,000 words on a novel during the month of November. I completed this challenge by finishing the first draft of a novel that I have been working on for close to a decade. The second thing was completing the writing challenge called #52essays2017 where I posted a blog every week, forcing me to display my work to the public. The third thing was to write every day for a solid year (I missed two days, close enough). I also met some of my random writing goals by going out into the world to meet and write with other writers. I honestly don’t think I could ever catalog all the things I have learned by doing all this.

During my research, I’ve read or watched interviews of creative people, where they talked about the depressive emotions and great turbulence that follows behind the completion a project. I didn’t feel I was included in that exclusive club. Because it had never happened to me, it was completely out of my range of experience. I assumed that I must be either flawed or not as creative as I once thought.

So, in the middle of January, I was completely shocked when I was hit with a warped sense of creative depression. It came out of nowhere and barreled into me without warning. There were mornings I didn’t know if I could even bother to tie my shoe. I felt like a four-year-old lost in the woods. I couldn’t figure out what happened. I experienced an overwhelming confusion until I remembered what my creative mentors had stated. I was included after all!

This realization didn’t bring me joy but instead gave me an understanding. I have allowed myself to dink around, mucking through this feeling by reading, cleaning, toying with things, taking naps, all to move through this stage as peacefully as possible. The whole process is not at all what I thought it would be. Perhaps it is dampened by the fact that most of what I have been working on will never truly be done.

However, now that I have traveled through it a little, I understand it’s nature and will be able to navigate it better in the future. I even developed a plan for next time (part of this plan involves pumping my mind with positive TED videos and taking brisk walks). While I don’t think I will ever welcome the feeling, it feels good to know it is there waiting for me with consoling arms for the mourning of the next project I finish. I have not experienced much success in my life and I am still learning what to do when it strikes. I suppose that is part of the process too. Writing is becoming an alchemy of sorts to me. I take one thing and turn it into something else, something bigger than it was before, something magical.

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