By Gretchen Wehmhoff

Helen Reddy sings in my head:

Smoggy day in L.A.

Think I’ll write a song

Know exactly what to say

Shouldn’t take too long

First I’d better clear my head

Feed the baby, make the bed

Should eat breakfast but instead

Think I’ll write a song

The melody follows me around the house, to sleep, in the car and stays with me in front of my computer screen. I humm my own version:

Snowy day in AK

Why do I prolong

Know exactly what to say

Shouldn’t take too long

First I’ll check the fridge out

Then I’ll watch TV

Should be writing, but instead

Procrastination’s strong

I have an entire file cabinet of starts, ideas and memories waiting for me to turn into award winning, cathartic memoirs, but I can’t see the forest for the junk in the way.  

My sister calls it the death purge — cleaning out the worldly belongings that slow us down so your offspring won’t have to.  It sounds so easy. But it’s real and it’s not.  Anyone who has taken care of a loved one’s belongings after their death has been here.  

Joe and I still have boxes of treasures and art from my parents’ deaths in a small storage unit. Art that should be hanging on our walls. Add my mother-in-law’s possessions and our daughter’s belongings and it becomes an overwhelming task. Much of it is piled in plain sight. Every idea nudging me to the computer is met by “first I’ll move that box, fix that lamp, then I’ll write until the second star on the right.”

We work at it, but most of the time we stare at it. I feel guilty that there are boxes of things to go through, my husband feels guilty that I feel guilty.

Hand me the remote. Is there more coffee?

The practical thing is to ignore it and just write. I love to write. I love to edit what I write, working the craft, finding the tone. When I finish something I find solace and a sense of accomplishment.

Making writing my priority will probably take some expensive therapy.

Today I planned to write about the stories waiting for me to share and the stories that got away. I have, as I mentioned, notebooks, napkins and concert program covers filled with inspiring phrases and hastily scribbled ideas. Three major works ready to go, if I stop to write them down.

And then there is my constant curiosity.  Why did that happen? I wonder what led to that statement? How does that work?  Does anyone know a person who? I wonder if I can … write about it.

Helen Reddy’s voice comes back:

Did I hear the doorbell?

Just as I sat down

Nope. No doorbell. That was a hunger pang. Go check out the fridge. 

I think:

Windy day in AK

And I still have it wrong

Need to sound uplifting

But “stuff” just gets me down

Helen sings:

Now I hear the telephone

Guess another morning’s blown

Seems my time is not my own

Tried to write a song

Thought I’d write a song

Just one more cup of coffee. Alexa, play some Helen Reddy.