It’s sort of a strange time for me. In-between projects. Work has dwindled to barely more than a day a week. The weather alternates between “Shorts” and “Thermal Underwear” by the hour.
The slow season at the resort should never come as a surprise, but it always does. Those nights of prime rib dinners and taking home fat wads of cash become long weeks of scraping together cupboard remnants in hopes that it’ll form a meal.
In my time off, I’ve tried to get a little more writing done. It started off great–grab a mocha, hit the library, step out for lunch, write some more, glass of Cabernet, glass of Cabernet, read a book–but most of those things require money. And here’s a little-known fact: if you spend more money than you make, you run out.
I know, it came as a huge surprise to me as well.
So, you take a step back. Maybe get a coffee instead of a mocha. One glass of Cab. Walk to the library. And that goes pretty well for awhile.
But then your wallet dips into the red.
So, you reset. Prioritize. Look into alternative sources of energy…er, money.
In order to come up with rent this month, I decided to do some Spring Cleaning. And not the ‘Tidy Up Around the Coffee Table” Spring Cleaning either. No, I’m talking about the deep cleaning one of the townhomes at my resort. A top-to-bottom hardcore once- maybe twice-over.
All the walls need washing. The bathrooms need scrubbing. Everything made of wood needs to be polished and shined. Rigorously. Go forth, young warrior! Don thy rubber gloves and breathe deep the fumes of industrial strength degreasing agents! Leave no pillow unturned!
With a sigh, I traded my precious library time for a date with some shop rags. The first couple hours aren’t so bad–it’s the last few that get to you. Patience wears thin. I get tired of taking orders. I keep brainstorming new ideas for my writing projects and then forgetting them in the chemical-tinged tang of citrus oil.
Alright, alright–one more wall, but then I’m writing!
But then I’m too beat. I just want to shower. My arms can’t seem too forget how to not scrub furiously, but I only take off the first few layers of skin. I fall asleep instantly.
To the library, right?!
Wrong. The townhome is only half-cleaned, my debt only half-paid. So I go back. Round Two. I work twice as long, tracing the woodgrain from the top floor to the basement. My whole life is following those whorls with a towel coated in Shine-Up. I think only in textures and materials and which bottle of what colored liquid will clean them properly.
The library is open late tonight. I can still make it. I’ll finish my story and be famous!
But then the option comes up to take a van full of sopping wet towels to the nearest laundromat for drying–20 miles away.
And, of course, I jump all over it. And why not? The work is mindless, the pay’s pretty decent, and, hey, it’s not like I’m wiping my nose with hundred-dollar bills here, right? So I tell my mistress, The Library, that our date will have to wait–there are towels that need a-dryin’ and a-foldin’.
So I’m standing there, carting around behemoth loads of towels, rags, and an occasional potholder,
chastising reminding myself that I should be writing. I should be finishing the Great American Novel.
You’ve already put one big project on the back burner, and now you’re dragging your feet on the new one! If you didn’t have to fold these damn towels, you could write your damn book! But instead, here you are: 5th Avenue, Laundryville, working for The Man just to pay the phone bill!
And then something weird happened.
I felt good about what I was doing. Righteous. It’s been a long time since I worked solely for a wage–not tips. I didn’t have to charm anyone or remember the side of barbecue sauce they asked for–I just had to work. With my hands. I mean, I wasn’t building a house or anything, but I certainly had to apply a little Elbow Grease.
It felt freeing. I was digging myself out of a hole, financially-speaking. I was doing.
So I finished up, loaded the van, honestly enjoying the heft of the bags. I treated myself to a plate of nachos and an ice-cold beer while I graciously waited for a ride home.
It felt familiar. Like when I was back in St. Cloud, no car, two jobs, and just enough left of my paycheck after bills that I could buy a box of Mac-and-Cheese.
And then I woke up this morning and remembered something I’d seen in the townhome I was cleaning. It only came back to me, of course, after the cloud of fumes had cleared, but it made sense. A little kitschy embroidered wall-hanging that read:
Those lucky enough to live by a lake…..are lucky enough!
So on a whim, I altered my typical morning walk–the one I have to take to get a little exercise–and made my way down to Artists’ Point; a collection of bluffs and inlets that taper right down to Lake Superior.
That little wall-hanging was right. And I remembered: Oh, that’s right…I live here.
So I ran along the rocks, full-blast. I leapt without thinking from one outcropping to the next. Strode over chasms like rectangles in a crosswalk. Sometimes I found the perfect route, sometimes I had to stop and retrace my steps to get back on track. Either way, I was going to get where I wanted to go–the handholds were there.
It’s kind of like trying to pay my bills this month. There are ways, even if not the most glamorous. There’s money, even if not stacks of it. There are handholds.
It wasn’t torture, it was a test. Survival. Leaping from one rock to the other before you gauge how far away it is.
I suppose it’s not some revolutionary new way of thinking that the world has never heard of–but it’s new to me. And I might try it for awhile.
And so what if I didn’t get to the library right away today?
I’ll get there.