I’ve been writing about cancer ever since I started this blog in December 2004. Nearly one month after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I began journaling my experience. With each cancer twist and turn, I wrote. I wrote to communicate with friends and family, to reach others, to cope. After a while, I wrote for editors who offered me money for my words. I’ve been earning money off this whole cancer gig for more than a year now. It’s my new career, this writing thing, and when my little boys are both in school come August, I will spend my morning hours tucked away in my cozy home office, writing my little heart out. I will still write about cancer. But I also plan to write about other topics. After all, there’s more to me than cancer. I want to branch out.
I’ve taken my first step toward a new writing genre. I’ve chosen parenting as a topic. It’s one I know well and a good distraction from all things disease-related. So I’ve volunteered to write a monthly column for my local Gainesville Parenting magazine. My first columnThe Art of Letting Gowas published in the July 2007 issue. I just picked up a copy today. I flipped instantly to the very back page, and there was my name, my article, a photo I’d submitted of my oldest son, Joey, picking pretty purple flowers in a field. It looked great. And for the first few paragraphs, it read great too. And then I stumbled upon a change made to my words by the editor. Mostly, I don’t mind when someone edits my work. My uncle, a writer himself, once told me that someone else can always make our work better. I try to remember this. And so I didn’t mind that she cleaned up some of my wording here and there. What I mind is that she placed two extra words in a sentence that changed the whole tone of my story.
My story was about letting go, about giving up extra commitments and responsibilities so that I could spend the summer just being with my boys. No imposed structure, no timelines, no forced fun. Just the three of us, doing what we choose, free of boundaries. I introduced my message with a reflection of something Joey said when he was just three years old (now he’s six). It went like this:
One day long ago, Joey, three at the time, asked me, “Where’s daddy job?”
“Daddy works in an office,” I told him. “He goes away to work, and I stay home with you.”
“Joey’s response was prompt and powerful: “I want you to go away to work. I want daddy to stay home.”
Joey didn’t get his wish. His daddy still works in an office, and I stuck with my at-home job until life became more complicated and my responsibilities began mounting.
Here is what happened: the editor changed “I stuck with my at-home job” to “I was still stuck with my at-home job.” Call me crazy, which the editor just may do once she reads the e-mail I sent her addressing my concerns, but these two words say to me that I feel stuck in my job as a stay-at-home mom. I wanted my words to say that I kept at my job, I continued it, I remained an at-home mom. I have never felt stuck. And I’m sad my column comes off as such. I’m sad readers may get this impression. I’m sad that I don’t want my kids to see this column. I’m sad my very first non-cancer story came off with such a negative spin.
In the spirit of my “letting go” story, I plan to let this go. It’s the only healthy strategy, really. I have no control over what’s been done and all I can do is try to ensure it doesn’t happen again. It’s not a life and death matter. Therefore, I can move on and let this fade into the background.
Yes, writing helps me cope. And I feel better for having simply written about this.