Poetry Doesn’t Pay, and Prayer Doesn’t Either

Irish poet Rita Ann Higgins has a poem called “Poetry Doesn’t Pay.”  I began the decade living for poetry.   I end the 2000s with one half remembered line and a focus on payment rather than poetics.

I’m still working on imagining my way out of my day job and into being an at home mom.  Oh what a passel of worries (“gremlins” as Magpie Girl calls them) have been stirred up as I imagine stepping into the void that is life without guaranteed salary and benefits!  One of the more bizarre worries that has emerged is how I’ll find spiritual nourishment in this new venture.

The role of spirituality in my life is not a bizarre concern, of course, but it’s generally considered rather superfluous to one’s career choices.  My current job certainly does not have a spiritual dimension.  Why would I expect the new home business I hope to pull together to have any direct connection to the way I talk to God?

I am coming to realize all the pressure I am putting on myself, on how I expect that earning money in a new way will change everything that motherhood has not already rearranged.  As much as I have liked the general direction of my life, Moira’s birth began the seismic quake I was waiting for.  Now I am looking for everything to shift; I am impatient for all of the random puzzle pieces of me to fall into place.

Some who know me in the “real world” might laugh to hear this, but my ideal job would be to be a priest.  There are several impediments, of course, seeing that I am female, and even if I could become an Episcopalian or something, I still cannot commit to Christianity solely enough to convince a congregation of my piety.  Since I don’t think I am quite ready to start holding revivals in my backyard and no established religions will have me (or I won’t have them…), it seems that prayer isn’t going to bring in a paycheck.  At least not directly…

I am overwhelmed by the weight of my dreams, my burdensome need for poetry and and a life that is purely mine from waking ’til sleep.  The love of my child, my husband, my home is a crippling curse and an incessant blessing and the only thing that matters at the end of the day.  This love is the stuff my prayers are made of.

May this love be strong enough.

May I be strong enough.

But nothing,
you can’t pay me in poems or prayers,
or your husband’s jokes,
or with photographs of your children
in lucky lemon sweaters hand made by your dead Great Aunt
who had amnesia and the croup

Rita Ann Higgins, “Poetry Doesn’t Pay”

4 thoughts on “Poetry Doesn’t Pay, and Prayer Doesn’t Either

  1. Doxy December 31, 2009 / 9:13 am

    Fourteen years ago, I was where you are now. I started my own business on January 1, 1996 so that I could be home with the baby who was born in June of that year.

    It has been a long and interesting road! I have loved being with both of my children, and I get to work on things that I find deeply satisfying and meaningful.

    But I always feel compelled to tell other mothers who are contemplating doing what I did that it is not simple. And you will NOT be able to do it by yourself.

    I’m a writer/editor. Babies and children neither know about or care about, deadlines. In fact, the tighter your deadline, the more needy and demanding of your time they become. Funny how that works…. 😉

    I ended up having live-in childcare (my grandmother). I could never have done it without her.

    As you plan your new life, it’s important not to romanticize what it means to work from home. Working from home is wonderful in many ways—but it also means that you NEVER get away from work and your attention and loyalties are always divided. Talk to other work-at-home moms about how they handle the stresses and the pressures. And, if possible, have some backup plan for childcare.

    Forgive me for the presumption of offering you advice…I just made a lot of mistakes over the years and offer myself as a cautionary tale.;-)

    Finally, poetry will get you through many rough days to come. It certainly has for me.


    P.S. As an Episcopalian and the wife of an Episcopal priest, I say “Come on over!”

    • girlwhocriedepiphany January 1, 2010 / 9:08 pm

      Dear Doxy, Your advice was divinely guided – though I still very well may try to take the difficult road that you have, I truly appreciate someone who has already been there giving me an idea of what I am getting into. In an email to Erica, who seconded your wisdom, I was worrying about the dangers of being physically at home but never fully present mentally for my family. It will be interesting to see which way the wind blows. Thanks so much for reading and so much for your counsel. Blessings, Marisa (P.S. I have friends who have been inviting me to their Episcopalian churches for some time; I think they are wearing me down and I will bring Moira there sometime soon.)

  2. Erica December 31, 2009 / 9:19 am

    Wise words, Doxy!

  3. Blisschick December 31, 2009 / 10:15 am

    Marissa, Do you read Cheaty Monkey? She’s a Canadian blogger with two toddlers and a work from home writer, etc. She’s self deprecating in the best sense — humorous and always learning and always willing to share mistakes. I also highly recommend Kal Barteski — a stay at home mother of, again, two toddlers who is a highly respected Canadian artist and manages somehow to be the poet and the mother, so to speak. She gets grouchy and lets it all hang out.

    I mention these because I think community is so important if you are to stay home and I think it’s good to see that there are others like yourself out there — thoughtful, honest, aching women.

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