Gilbert Gottfried once said, “Tragedy plus time equals comedy.” I’m not sure if that’s true. As a gal approaching middle-age, a glorious time filled with hot flashes, aches and pains in body parts most don’t know exist, and a range of new prescription medications, I have lived through my share of tragic times.
Many of these tragedies I have shared with my family, my friends, and my nation. Some are more personal, such as watching my daughter leave home, and losing my beloved cabin in the woods, just last year. Despite my age, I have been able to hang on to a bit of naiveté, if you will. I seek the best in all I meet, and want to believe that most people are truthful, kind, and truly care about their fellow man. Sadly, this isn’t always true.
I saw this firsthand last year, when I placed my beloved home into the hands of a company that cared more about bottom-line and covering their proverbial you-know-what than providing the quality service I needed. As a result, my sweet little cabin, with knotty pine walls that absorbed eight years of laughter and tears, was irreversibly damaged. On a snowy March evening, with seven rescue pets crammed into a Chevy Blazer, I escaped what could have been a deadly situation. Walt Disney could have turned it into a 78 minute film with a meaningful message, but in reality, it was horrifying, and left me broken.
In the days that followed, I became acquainted with a word I’d only heard in passing and read in articles. Homelessness. By all definition, I was homeless. Sure, I had a roof over my head, and better yet, I didn’t have to make any decisions at all, as my aging mother, with whom I now live, was more than happy to dictate and supervise my every move, but I was, by definition, without a home.
My heart was broken. I wasn’t sure what to do or where to turn. I didn’t know anyone who’d lost their home to a fuel oil spill. Was there a support group? I got hugs, and kind words, and a nice letter from my insurance company that said, “Sorry we don’t cover that,” but I needed more. I needed to reach deep down inside myself to find the strength to overcome a personal tragedy.
I turned to the written word. I revisited a manuscript I had set aside while my life was a whirlwind, a delightful comedy I’d fallen in love with one word at a time, in a little corner of that now-ruined cabin, while the world around me slept. Gradually the tears stopped, replaced by laughter. As I read, rewrote, and rewrote a bit more, I found myself again, the real me, the person not defined by country, address, or the word, homelessness.
I turned a side-splitting comedy, into a side-splitting comedy with a very poignant message. I added new chapters and wrote a quote that I carry in my pocket.
We are not invisible because the world does not see us. We become invisible when we can no longer see ourselves.*
This became my personal mantra. I wouldn’t allow myself to disappear into this tragedy. I couldn’t allow it. I needed to maintain a sense of self and allow what happened to simply be something that happened. I couldn’t let it define me. By recommitting to my project, and immersing myself in its story, and in the laughter, I found joy again.
I rediscovered myself, and remembered why it is I do what I do. I write because I am the best version of myself when I am creating something that will make someone laugh, or think, or even cry. I am the best version of myself when I write about something that matters to me, and matters to others. I write for the email that I open late at night, for the few words staring back at me, “I loved your book. It really made me think about my life.” I began writing comedy to help my best friend deal with the real-life situation which is the inspiration for my soon-to-be-released novel, Becoming Mona Lisa. I made her smile, and healed her wounds, like a literary Neosporin. It made the horror of what she endured leave less of a scar.
Like most writers, I am frequently asked why I write, when I write, and how often I write. I write a lot! I write notes, because I am approaching middle-age, and if I don’t make a note to “take a shower,” I might forget. I leave myself a note to take my notes for the very same reason.
I write a blog about the zany world of retail, because if I said what I think, to the customer who is screaming profanities at me like a toddler who can’t get a KitKat in the check-out line, I’d be shown the door and told to never return. I like my job, and I love my co-workers.
I have a work in progress about animal rescue, because it helps me to process the evil I see, and balance it with the goodness I find in the advocacy community.
I don’t write for the money. Most of us don’t. Sure, I’d love to sell a million books, but I haven’t yet. Last year I sold enough books to cover my costs and get a sub from Subway. I broke even, and the sandwich was terrific!
Writing is therapeutic, healing, and calming, and allows us a certain amount of control in a world filled with chaos.
But mostly, at least in the last year, I have written for the laughter, for it is the laughter that healed a seriously broken heart, and perhaps making others laugh will bring in enough for two sandwiches this year.
*Quote from Holden Robinson’s Becoming Mona Lisa.
Holden Robinson is the author of The House of Roses, published 2010, and Becoming Mona Lisa, available July 2012, both by Black Rose Writing, and is the creator of the blog, Tommy’s Tool Town. Robinson lives in upstate New York, with her beloved pets, and is committed to animal rescue and advocacy.
Find Holden’s The House of Roses on Amazon.
Opening photo by Eski_seal, Photobucket