Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Work, Life and Writing by Odilia Rivera-Santos

Work and Life
I have been a highly disciplined writer since the third grade -- it was the year I decided to take notes on all the details around me, thinking it would help me to remember being a child. I was surrounded by adults who had forgotten childhood and I was determined to have perfect recall of my eight-year-old self and those things that inspired me.
The Artists Way was a book I threw away after buying it in a thrift store. It might be something to revisit -- I've never been one for how-to books on writing, but it's important to look at writing from a different angle sometimes and to see what others find so fascinating about how-to guides for artists.
One thing I did maintain from my brief relationship with the book was the morning pages.
The goal is to write three pages without stopping or editing, so every morning, I write three pages in tiny handwriting on narrow-lined paper. Several people have asked if I went to private school because the print is so meticulous. I went to public school because my parents could barely afford to feed us, so a private school was never an option.
I perfected my handwriting in the fourth grade after a mean Black British girl who always wore her hair in four tight tiny braids said "Your handwriting is awful!"
Her outfits were strange and tight like she had just outgrown them that morning.
The little British girl dressed like a middle-aged 1950s secretary, which made me think there was an African seamstress with old patterns sewing a miniature version of the hideous secretary outfits and mailing the clothes from Nigeria to the Bronx. But this was just my imagination -- I imagined a lot of things then. .. still do.
Her accent was artificial and staunch like someone who aspired to be from the upper classes in England; even then, I looked at her and thought she was from the ghetto there and living in the ghetto here just like me. Everything about her behavior -- her mannerisms, the way she walked and ate and choice of language was tight come to think of it. She seemed like a restricter -- one who finds doing enjoyable activities to be a sign of sloth. I watched her eat at lunch time, taking small mouthfuls and eating evenly a bit from the vegetable, a bit from the meat, etc., and then, she did something very strange: she went from one kid to another asking if there was something on their tray they didn't want. She ate like a man and remained as tiny as an ant, which made me think she was full of English worms and parasites.
She enjoyed the ignorance of most kids in the neighborhood who assumed she was related to the royal family, and then, her family fell on hard times. She was the first Black British girl in the school, so she was able to create a completely false identity like someone in the witness protection program; the kids accepted her as representative of Blacks in England.
I forgave her on a daily basis because she was a total bitch to me. I kept thinking she must be miserable to constantly pick on people. Cultivating compassion for those who irritated me or were envious was something I was attempting to do even then.


My work life continues to be a spiritual practice. I am a full-time freelancer and am looking for some steady gig to supplement my freelancing income, but I want to be guided to that work like something out of a Carlos Castenanda book. All work is valuable and provides a service to humanity, but I will only do work that does not require exploitation. There is a lot of exploitation of workers in the United States although we prefer to believe this is something happening in "third world" countries.
The idea of being humble and doing service in the world has nothing to do with being underpaid or unpaid for one's work. To me, being humble means there are forces at work besides my efforts and my ego; there is the magic of synchronicity and God is always in the mix. My aim is to be paid well for my nerdy work: creating written content and designing exercise and nutrition programs for individuals. And I am sure other possibilities for my creative work will materialize.

No comments:

Post a Comment