Order of the Good Write

That Magic Feeling When the Words Flow. A Blog by Debi Rotmil


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Wednesday Writing Prompt: Dreams Deferred

green dangling beaded dress

‘Ana La Habana’ Fashion

My mother came from Havana Cuba after a member of Castro’s staff told her to take her son and leave the country. This was 1959.

Ana Srebrenik was a single mother and shop owner. She ran a little lingerie store in the lobby of, what was then, the Havana Hilton. Castro and his team had their offices in the building, and every day (as I remember her telling me), she’d see he and his minions walk through the hotel after their day in the mountains.

She got to know his side men casually. One of them gave her the heads up about the revolution and how her capitalist ways were no longer going to cut it in post Revolution Cuba.

My mother immigrated to the US and settled in New York and built another business. This time it was a dress shop in White Plains. This time she designed some of the clothes and hired a tailor to run them up for her store. I believe she had a partner in this venture because I used to hear about a couple with whom she had to settle  when the store closed. Their names are forgotten.

Ana placed her career on a shelf, met my father, got married and had me. Maybe it wasn’t all in that order. I’m never sure. Details got fuzzy. When she was alive, she wouldn’t go into detail. I only knew she always thought she’d get back into her own store again. But she never did.

When she passed away unexpectedly in November of 2009, I had to do what we all have to do once in our lives: clean out the family home, send things to donation, organize estate sales, sell off property.

Among her things, I came upon a portfolio of her fashion sketchings.  They were likely done after she gave up her store. She always loved clothes and good fashion although she never allowed herself to buy many things. Mom would re-purpose old clothes, re-design a skirt, or use a scarf as a belt. Like Little Edie Beale of ‘Grey Gardens’, she’d find a perfect outfit for the day.

fitted orange dress

Smart business attire for the day. ‘Ana La Habana’

While going through these drawings, I see a creative side to my mother I had never explored. To me, she was the mom in the kitchen, the mom in the car driving me to school or to the store, the mom in the dark room. Her dreams stunted by responsibility placed upon her as a woman of a certain generation.

bluedrapeddress

Cocktails? ‘Ana La Habana’

Each dressed devised by her hand evoked glamour and chance situations. There was a bit of glory and opportunity with each sash and button. The lines and shading promoted a dream world she wish she could step into, or to allow a potential customer to live empowered through a frock devised by her own vision.

Yet, those ideas were left frozen on a page, hidden in a binder sitting at the bottom of a trunk. So many years ago, measured by the passage of time where she wouldn’t allow her true creative self to flourish. That it was her duty as a wife and mother at the time. That her way of handling a career and motherhood as a young single mother in Cuba caused a riff between her and her son.

Not this time, she likely thought when she had me. So she shut the dream down.

She encouraged me to be successful.

She was proud of my athleticism and independence.

I think back at the times she never brought up marriage and grandchildren. Never guilted me about it.

She once even told me I should run my own business.  But the everyday corporate life seemed like a societal obligation, having seen my father find security at IBM for entire career.

How wrong I was. The world isn’t the same.

I think of the song *”Days and Days” from the musical “Fun Home”.  It’s sung by Helen Bechdel to her daughter Alison after dealing with her husband Bruce’s closeted life for so many years. She had just asked him for a divorce.

Although the family circumstances are not the same as mine, the feeling of wasted days due to what was expected of her comes to light.

She sings of the ordinary, mundane things, “…lunches and car rides and shirts and socks. And grades and piano…and no one clocks the day you disappear,” and “bargains I made because as a wife I was meant to, and now my life is shattered and made bare.”

Days and days and days. Just like my  mother, married to a very nice, sweet, adorable man whom I worshiped, but held her to what was expected of her. He was likely resentful of her depression, not understanding what she needed.

There is no one to blame really. But lessons are learned. Parents strive for their children to have a better life than the one they leave behind.

I can hear my own mother say it in my ear.

“Don’t you come back here. I didn’t raise you to give away your days…like me.”

Writing Prompt:

What are your dreams? What have you sacrificed in order to live a certain way? What creative activity have you allowed to sit on the shelf?  And if you brought it out of the darkness to make it a part of your livelihood or your hobby, how will you continue to use that talent and never give up?

 

‘Days and Days’, from the musical ‘Fun Home’. Music by Jeanine Tesori. Words by Lisa Kron.

 

 


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Divide and Dissolve

trees

How does one write when the feel they have nothing left? Sometimes the world weighs heavily, and the energy is gone. Whether the news of the day has paralyzed you or the amount of money in your dwindling bank account steals your focus, resistance will easily rob you the desire to write. It will allow fear and frustration to slow the process. You just succumb to the weight of it. You fall under the waterline. You loose creation.

This is when the mind needs to empty. Look within. Know that when we have problems everyday that stunt our desire to write or to grow, the toil only fortifies what you will create down the road.

I’m currently going through some challenges. My writing is not where it should be. But as Rumi once wrote: “If all you can do is crawl…start crawling.”


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Maybe That’s the Last Thing I Want

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As Robin Williams became more and more famous in the late 70’s and early 80’s, it was getting obvious that he became a victim of his own fame. (Hello, cocaine and booze anyone? How about depression? Magazine publicity, fans tearing at him, comedy specials, parties, Belushi, parties, Belushi, parties. )  Trying to deal with the recent death of John Lennon, plus the trappings of celebrity he endured, Williams pitched an idea to Gary Marshall on how he – Robin Williams – meets Mork in a psychological meta situation were the actor playing the character opens up to the world about his personal struggle with fame. In turn, Mork learns about the trappings of celebrity public adulation.  Very quirky and heady at the time, but in retrospect, shockingly sad and quite intelligent.

Some background on the premise:

Mindy is struggling to keep her job as a television reporter at a local news program. Robin Williams, the famous comedian is in town to perform and has been seen around visiting coffee shops, appearing at clubs and school functions. Everyone has met him, except Mindy – the one person who really needs to get to him for a featured interview or else she will be fired.

Luckily, Mork happens to look EXACTLY like Robin Williams. (Duh.) With Williams-fever hitting its peak with the famous star in town, everyone keeps mistaking Mork for the big guy.  Williams is due to perform at a local theater. Hoping to run into him at the stage door, M&M wait it out until Mork is mistaken for the star and allowed in. Boom! Mindy gets to interview RW, and Mork gets to meet his alter-ego doppleganger. (I’ve cut out some dialogue just to tighten it up since the scene is very conversational.)

From Mork and Mindy, 1981:  Mork Meets Robin Williams

MINDY:

How do you keep up the pace? You arrive from Hawaii, fly all night, then go straight to the university and go lecture for three hours. Then after the lecture – you performed until 3am at the Comedy Cabaret,  and now you’re doing two shows tonight.

ROBIN:
Well, two reasons. You see I’m a performing addict. I can’t get enough. Also the owner of the Comedy Cabaret is a friend of a cousin and a friend of a friend, so, I couldn’t say no.

MINDY:
Gee – that’s a great angle for my story: ‘Robin Williams, the Comedian Who Can’t Say No’

ROBIN:
I don’t know why I can’t say no. I guess I want people to like me. (I hate myself for that). But, I used to be able to say no. Before all this craziness started, my friends used to call up and go “Come on..we’re all going outside, there’ some gnarly waves, and we’re all going to hang out”, and I’d have to go “No my Mama say I have to stay inside and read Nietzsche tonight.” Later on, I guess I was afraid to say no because then they’d all say, like, “Oh…Robin William. Mr. Smarty Pants Big Shot. Oh, you forgot your old friends. Then, ‘lend me $10,000 for a new car’  when you tell them you won’t do the ‘shrimp’ benefit.

MINDY:

This is none of my business but it seems that if they’re really your friends they’d understand. But it seems to me you can’t say no to a total stranger.

ROBIN:
Well. You’re right. 

MINDY:

It also looks like you’re probably taken advantage of a lot. You know if you learn how to say no, you’ll probably have a lot more time to yourself.

ROBIN:
Maybe that’s the last thing I want.

[Security guard comes in for the two minute warning. They’re ready to start the show]

ROBIN:

(Getting up to leave. To Mindy)

Well, I hope I didn’t disappoint you.

MORK:

Disappoint her? Are you kidding? You’re breaking her perky little heart.

ROBIN:

I was always being the new kid in the neighborhood. Since I was suffering a case of the terminally shy, I couldn’t make friends that easily. I always spent a lot of time in my room and — I created my own little world. With all these little characters that had strange, unusual qualities.

After a while, I realized that well, people found these characters funny and outrageous, then I got to the point where the characters could say and do the things that I was afraid to do myself.

And, after a little while – here I am.

Wow.


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What Dreams May Come, When We Have Shuffled Off This Mortal Coil…

I encourage anyone who reads this post to share your feelings about Robin Williams, depression and loss in the comments section. Let’s have a conversation.

It’s been over a week since the loss of Robin Williams. As one day moves forward into the next, turning that sad day to dust in our rear view mirror, the sadness overwhelms me now more than ever. My Netflix account has been busy, streaming his films: The Fisher King, Hook, The Birdcage. These are films I had seen years ago, but it was like viewing them for the first time. Each moment of the master gave me pause – each conversation and reaction. I drink in his presence, and cling to a beauty I’ve never noticed so acutely before. That’s all we have left of him. His films. The twinkle in his eye. The shazbots and the nanu’s, the “Oh Captain, my captains”… His talent was like a taste of God touching down on Earth. A little heaven. At least he gave us light for a little while. He’s not of this world anymore.

Trying to make sense of the whys of his situation is a tough one. We’re strangers to the man. He gave so much to us, that his own mind and sanity is private – something only he and his family will and should know. Yet, how many of us have fallen into the hole? How many of us have wanted to walk off the precipice of this world, and take a dive to nowhere. I’m trying to make sense of it. He didn’t die from an illness like cancer or was killed in a car or airplane crash. He died from an illness that lead him to take his own life. It was preventable. Only one phone call, or just taking stock and stepping away from that room to slip under the covers with his wife on an ordinary night, sleeping an ordinary sleep, waking up on an ordinary day . But no.

My heart sinks just trying to imagine those last moments. I flush from my mind all the graphic details the Marin County police department released. Yet, I still cannot imagine, someone so intent on dieing, that when one method didn’t work, he went for something else to take him out.

What could have been in his mind to let him make the final decision? Did he feel he was a failure? Did he feel alone in a world of so many people who loved him? Did he justify his decision to end it all by convincing himself that his wife and kids would be better off without him?

Shut the door on this sadness. Remember his laughter. And if you are depressed and are thinking of suicide, please don’t…don’t…don’t do it. Know that someone loves you. Know that you will get out of this. Know that if you decide to leap from that precipice, you will create a hole in the lives of many. And you don’t have to be as famous as Robin to do that.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255