I need lots of positive reinforcement. Every once in a while I’ll google my name to see what comes up, both in images and in links, but always with my maiden name–because without the “Rauh” all I get are the menacing facial expressions of one Laurence Fishburne. A few years ago I bailed on a self-publication right before it was to be actually published and right after I had made my last of 4 nonrefundable payments of 500 dollars. Because, if you’re gonna face-plant in shame, go all in. Anyway, I can’t even look at those 6 copies of that book without seeing that could have been a Tiffany’s bangle scroll through my mind and hanging my head under the disgrace of it all, but thanks to the indifferent colossus that is Amazon.com, it appears online that I am a real author. So every few months I pretend that it’s true. Recently, googling my name presented me with charming pictures of myself and my family, lots of Korean Drama actors, the obligatory random Laurence Fishburne stuff, and a starkly black and white phrase clip art: “Eat Shit And Die.”
Huh. Interesting. I could have been quite confused by this. Should have been. But it almost made sense that day. My name conjured that weird collection of images. This was a trail of where I’d been, an acid trip pirate’s map of people I love, my interests, and cyber-wanderings. If a stranger, say a renowned publisher looking for undiscovered mediocre writers to take under his wing and sky-rocket to heights of fame and recognition previously undreamt, were to use my name as a search for clues as to my character, “Eat Shit And Die” might be off-putting.
But do I look like I care?
Does it bother me that my name should bring up such a command? No. Not really. Know what bothers me?
And also that my hair is falling out in a post-pardem cascade of horror.
I printed out Boss of the Bathroom on my printer. Used up valuable black ink for this. Black ink that I will not be able to replace unless I also replace all three color ink cartridges at the same time. Color cartridges that are perfectly fine. I find the needless replacing of still full ink cartridges to be inordinately infuriating. BUT ANYWAY–Boss of the Bathroom. I started the story when I was in third grade. I finished it after Malcolm was born twenty years later.
This is not War and Peace, people. It’s not so much that I am a meticulous writer. My stories do not require hours of detailed research. It’s more that I am really slow to process my thoughts, easily distracted, and kind of don’t really have anything to say for long periods of time. So I keep it in the back of my mind that I have this finished story (!!!) and I will self-publish it when I’m at a low point to make myself feel productive. Just printing it out on my stupid little printer made me feel like the day wasn’t a complete wash. It flashed me back to the times in the computer lab at school, printing off a completed (!!!) story for workshop, and feeling all optimistic and clean and full of promise. Printing Boss of the Bathroom at my little desk in the kitchen that day made me feel full of promise again. I was 8 years old again. I was 27 again. It was all in front of me.
I am 36 years old. That’s almost 40. That’s, like, a real adult. I’ve always imagined 36 year old women have real problems and expensive purses. They have places to be. Responsibilities. Baggage.
So far, I feel ok. Though, the hair thing is disconcerting as hell.
I am old enough now that I can “look back” at my life and see a relatively interesting story. The Web Images that come up in my Life Google are flashes of a great childhood, painless (in retrospect) High School years, dramatic wartime romance, travel, beautiful babies, wonderful friends, essentially: a happy and fulfilling life. A daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife, a mother. But there’s always a little nagging feeling. A small blank space when I scroll through the images. Something is just not there that I feel needs to be there. It’s like looking in my rear view mirror at the NEVER centered baby seat mirror. I know (because of the screaming) that something is not right but all I can see is that his left knee is perfectly fine. This nagging is not a spiritual emptiness–far from it. It’s that I’m supposed to be doing something and I’m not doing it. I am indeed this wife and mother and friend and sister and daughter that people know, but there’s that “aaaannnnnnddd?” in the back of my mind.
My sweet first born child had a lapse into hooliganism a few weeks ago. Who knows why, but he thought it would be a great idea to etch his name into a teacher’s car bumper. Now, there is nothing good about this, but I can at least be grateful that the bumper in question had already been in an accident and is about to be replaced so the restitution required will be covered by a 7 year old’s allowance savings and a week of Anti Scratch Scrubbing during recess. Was it peer pressure? Was it showing off? Was it art? Doesn’t matter. It was what we in the business call “A Bad Choice.” But along side the embarrassment and concern that this episode is a foreshadowing of future visits to local penitentiaries comes the completely inappropriate chuckle. He was doing something wrong but was still innocent enough to choose his own name as the carving.
I’ve got all these perfectly fine ink cartridges but the thing I need to communicate won’t print. I know who I am. I like who I am, and my friends and family like who I am. That should be enough. What is it that makes me want my name to mean something to people who don’t know me? What is compelling me to write this? There’s no way on earth I’d ever SAY these things to anyone. The idea of it just made me take a deep calming breath. I don’t talk about my feelings. I can think of nothing more terrifying. But apparently I can write about them all day like an absolute fool. And actually HOPE someone reads them. When it’s out there I feel both relieved and shy. A risk taken, but safe. It’s singing loud, but only if sure of being drowned out–like say, belting out Gershwin show tunes while vacuuming. I’m not saying I do that. Ever.