Glamorous. That’s the best word I can think of to describe life as a struggling author with a family to feed.
Oh if these painter pants could talk! They’ve been with me since 1999—approximately 40% of my lifetime. That summer after graduating from college I took a job as a crew foreman for a house painting outfit in an attempt to lay up cash immediately prior to getting married and being a grownup.
This past weekend my wife and I celebrated our anniversary, and it’s somewhat ironic to have fallen back on this previous occupation to make a buck. By shear coincidence I found myself using the rag pictured below throughout the duration of my latest job. Tattered and threadbare, what you see below is all that remains of my very first big boy shirt. I bought this shirt with my then-girlfriend at the campus art museum, shortly after we began dating, in an effort to be more artsy like the fascinating artist I was infatuated with (you can see some images of her art here). The t-shirt was emblazoned with Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. I loved it very much. Believe it or not, I find myself needing to eulogize this rag prior to saying goodbye, thanking it for 18 years of faithful service. Having grown up in a hoarding environment, and possessing many of the genetic traits myself, I am a little more attached to things than the average person. Alas, I remind myself each day that the cumulative content of our character and cherished memories are not bound up in the material world.
However, I believe this “handicap” in my life can be used positively. For example, I am loathe to acquire anything, attempt to only keep the things that bring me joy, and then use them until they are completely obliterated—as opposed to blindly participating in a throwaway society that takes vast stockpiles of wealth and possessions for granted. It’s important to have a sense of gratitude for everything we’ve been entrusted with, while being careful not to hoard them greedily. So, with that, I thank you dear shirt for clothing me with class for so many years. Thanks for imparting a deeper appreciation for art whenever I wore or carefully folded and put you away, and for helping me land my very first love interest. You helped make me whole, so each of those holes in you now were transferred from me to you in a sense.
Yeah, anthropomorphizing objects is weird. I know. Can you tell that I’ve never been to therapy????
I sat in the back of church recently, dressed exactly as you see above. I stopped in during a break I had taken from a painting gig in order to see my kids take part in a children’s program. Those pants are far filthier than you can make out in the photo. I should get new ones, but I keep hoping that writing will become a bit more lucrative. These have served me well for most of my adult life.
As I sat there loudly chomping on two cucumbers I had snatched from the church’s community garden out front—I eat them raw and whole like apples—it suddenly struck me that this was the sort of embarrassing thing my dad would have done (readers of my book will appreciate this). Amazingly, my twins who are about to enter 5th grade weren’t humiliated in the least, and I felt entirely at ease.
Since I bike to my jobs, I must provide quite a sight for onlookers. Frequently I have a pole extending four feet in front of me like a joust, wear a backpack bursting with necessities, and will pull an overloaded trailer containing a step stool, drop cloth, ladder, bucket, etc. I suppose the experience is humbling, and my hope is that I’ll figure things out financially and become a better dad and husband in the midst of the struggle. There is sadness and despair at times. Nearly every day, in fact. It’s all part of the journey, I reckon, but I am grateful to be beautifying a small part of the world and of people’s lives with my own two hands. Glimmers of hope abound when we keep our eyes open, outward, and upward.