Way up here, there’s no Wi-Fi.
Which is good. That means I can’t check email or get lost on Instagram. Again. It means it’s a good idea, while I’m on this flight, for me to have packed a couple of books loaded with writing prompts on my way to San Jose.
I got a little help from the girl next to me on the plane – after we’d sufficiently gushed over how incredible the cookies they give out are (I even scored three extra packs from the flight attendant – and folded up an origami peacock in appreciation).
My seatmate chose two prompts for me to write on from the book 300 Writing Prompts (Piccadilly 2017):
Write about the last time you felt guilty?
Are there any lines that you simply will not cross?
I did them both. There’s plenty of time, it seems, to nap, eat cookies, and expound upon writing prompts in the air between Charlotte and Silicon Valley.
(My friend Brittany gave me this book on the last day of my unceremonious demise at my last employer. Ideally, I’d have recharged from the rigors of job searching by sharing thoughtful discourse and enlightening words in this book.)
Promptly answering the prompt
Instead, I finally sullied its pages months into what just might be the best job I’ve ever had. Huh. Here’s what I came up with for the first prompt:
Write about the last time you felt guilty
I’ve felt guilty, truthfully, the past 13 or so instances in which I gave in to late-night, watching The Office and playing online when I could be writing my damned blog urges to finish off the remainder of tortilla chips from the pantry.
For calling out at Target. It was Father’s Day. I’d covered a soccer game that afternoon and planned to grill out honey-sriracha chicken thighs while the family lit the fire pit and tried to get a questionable Jason Bateman-Rachel McAdams movie to show on the outdoor projector.
(They could not.)
I feel most guilty, though, when I hit the brakes a tad too much in the Southpark Mall parking lot and a smidge to close to on purpose and my Hayden landed forehead-first on the dashboard of my Hyundai Elantra. Because I really didn’t do it on purpose, but still …
I will preface this story by disclosing that the best humor, to me, is accidental humor. Accidental and physical especially. You know, a trip over a misplaced soccer bag or splatter from a jar of pickles hitting the ground in aisle 4.
Even better if the jar of pickles and the soccer bag are somehow related.
Only, I felt bad enough that I didn’t even (hardly) laugh when Hayden tumbled over the passenger seat. We’d just dropped Madison off at her job at the ball. Hayden, the next heir, had a claim to the throne – or, at least, the passenger seat.
We actually saw the bottom of her Nikes for a brief moment – although the actual physics of it doesn’t seem to compute.
Did you do that on purpose? She asked. I hadn’t, but just sending your kid into a swan dive kind of takes any fun out of the physical humor. Luckily, with these girls, by the time the spot had faded from her forehead, we’d moved on to stories of everyone else falling.
And really, what’s the guilt in that?
The real stuff
I’d closed the laptop and conceded that the extent of my guilt ended there.
It does not.
I feel guilty when my daughters spend lots of their own money on my Father’s Day gifts. iPhones and screen protectors, NFL memorabilia and health journals.
I feel guilty when their friends take awesome trips. And we stay home.
I feel guilty when everyone’s together, and there I am, putting on a red shirt and looking for my Target nametag. Setting out for another shift at a part-time job, at age 46, because we kind of (really) need me to. (I thought I wouldn’t have to.)
I feel guilty griping about such things when my low points would be others’ highs.
I feel guilty when I miss the girls’ plays and games. When I’ve missed a call or text.
I feel guilty when I tell people I’m a writer – and go weeks without writing.
Plenty of adventures at home
I feel better, though, when I write it out.
I feel better when Hayden says, “dad, this is how I show my affection for you (as she gifts me an iPhone). Not like this (as she rubs my back with exaggerated exuberance.)
I feel better that my girls find plenty of adventures at home – and that there’s a getaway or two in our future (still wish I could take them to cool places I go for work!)
I feel better knowing that the shift today or next week will help with groceries or pay down a bill or even equal the cost of one of their uniforms for next season.
I feel better knowing that maybe this charity thing I’m dreaming up will help someone.
I feel better knowing that the girls will always text or call after I’ve missed something to tell me all about it.
I feel better about writing. Getting the stories out that I have and also the thoughts that I want your thoughts on. And then there are friends who also write. I like to read their words and even share them here on this blog.
A to Z Challenge: