My family hasn’t got a lot of things to hand down to each generation; this is often the scenario with most black American families. I think I’m a bit more fortunate than most given that Nana literally built her house in Ghana to be a legacy for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, but I do recognize that it’s just like a generation old and who knows what the future will bring. Instead my family excels at passing down generational curses. I hadn’t given much thought to these generational curses in the past, but about a week ago, my mother and I were discussing the fact that we often pass down things unintentionally.
Not everything we pass on is a generational curse, mind. Sometimes it’s a generational hobby or even vocation. Apparently, I come from a very long line of Sunday School teachers. I’d thought, back when I used to teach, that this was just something I’d been half-called, half-pushed into doing and the fact that my mother started to teach was just part of the process. This was completely untrue, however. Not sure how she managed to hide this fact for all my life so far and also my mother’s so far, but my grandmother used to teach Sunday School for years before my mother was born, and her father used to be the Sunday School teacher when Grandma and her siblings were all still at home. Great-grandfather, grandmother, mother, and then me. If I ever have a kid, almost feels like there would pressure on them to continue the family vocation.
Whether these things all fall into Nature or Nurture, the fact is that generation after generation, and whether or not we like it, we pass things onto the next part of the family. I have a distant cousin whose grandmother was that member of the family. A whole bunch of kids by different fathers, uneducated and always on welfare, and always filled with drama. That cousin’s mother became like her mother with a bunch of kids by different fathers, and uneducated, though she managed to relieve herself of the welfare before all her kids were grown. My cousin managed to escape some of this curse by at least waiting until she was out of high school before having her first kid and all three kids have the same father, piece of trash that he is. My hope is that the next generation might be spared some of these issues, but one can only do so much. The bright side in this generational curse is that each generation does seem to be trying to do better than the generation that proceeded it, which means that there is, indeed, a reason to hope.
Throughout most of my life, I’ve watched my mother plagued by far less nefarious, but still irritating generational curses that plagued my grandmother in her youth. In one example, Grandma never seemed to be able to find her keys when it was time to go when my mother was young and when I grew up, it was like a daily ritual of helping my mother find her keys. When I left for school, one of the very first things I did in my dorm room was establish a key hook on the wall so that I could break the curse. I rarely lose my keys all these years later because they are always on the hook. But, in my zeal to break and avoid one curse, I’ve slowly been toeing the line against another.
My mother’s always wrestled with what she calls “paper demons”. Somehow, the mail just piles up in the house and rather than just managing it one day at a time, one stack becomes two, which becomes ten, which becomes a full room of paper everywhere. It feels like for the first half of my life, if I wasn’t helping my mother find her keys, I was helping her sort through various letters and papers to just get organized. I’d always thought that being part of the digital generation, I’d skated by free of this curse, by the other day my mother mentioned that my grandmother suffers from her own set of paper demons and disorganization. Anytime they try to locate something for Grandma’s taxes, we have to wallow through numbers notepads at best and post-it notes at worst when it comes to finding relevant information that Grandma jotted down somewhere. The rest of the house can be well put together, but behind the closed door that Grandma never lets me go into or in some drawers in a desk Grandma insists I’ve “got no business looking in” the paper demons romp and multiply.
As my mother lamented over Grandma’s paper demons, I recognized that I’d started my own ugly collection on the kitchen table that I hardly use; a table hardly in use because it’s always covered in paper! At recognizing that my own paper demons were already upon me, I spent the rest of that day shredding and tossing every single thing in sight. I got through the large old Amazon box that had been holding my “shreddables” for the last two years, but then I recognized that I still had a basket that I kept by the door with even more odds and ends and more ever-growing paper demons. I’ll tackle the little monsters in the door basket within the next 48 hours, but the idea that these paper demons were a generational curse got me considering where else I stood steeped in clutter and chaos.
I’ve given myself every excuse in the world on why I’ve had to take a pause on Teyrrah. “I’ve got to practice writing to completion again.” “I’ve got a monkey on my back about vampires and that’s got to come out somewhere else.” “I can use these smaller projects to help me possibly build a base before I go into my multi-book fantasy series.” All these excuses, however, are only present to cover my chaos. Paper demons are simply the physical result of chaos, and shredding every piece of mail that comes to me doesn’t fix the chaos of my writing. I’ve spent so much time world-building that my notes for Teyrrah are no better than Grandma’s notes for the password to her Turbo Tax, or the notes on how to use her cellphone.
I’ve written thousands of words for Teyrrah and yet still have no coherent story to tell through them. I’ve tried moving the notes from one application to another to no avail. I’ve tried re-writing the notes from memory and from scratch, only to take a “break” and then have another set of chaotic notes to add to the pile. My digital paper demons, however, are a generational curse. This is something that will creep upon me with greater ferocity as the years go by and ignoring the chaos that causes all of it will just worsen the problem.
I think that instead of waiting until I’ve finished re-reading Potter, and writing Nostrum or PoL, or any of the other projects I’ve got rambling on the wayside, it’s time for me to sit down and get organized. This past Sunday, I spent about 10 hours just sorting through old mail and tossing and shredding everything in sight. If I’d remembered the basket by the door, I’d have forgone sleep to send all my paper demons to the shredder. In the same fashion, I need to attack the chaos in my Teyrrah notes and spend a full day, sorting, copying, re-categorizing all my character details and bits of storytelling and world building into something that I can use. Teyrrah is going to be a massive project, one that will require me to jump in whenever I have the creative juices flowing and I cannot continue to allow myself to be stymied by my digital paper demons.
Like all generational curses, it takes full effort and constant vigilance to avoid the curses of those who came before us. The paper demons, digital or not, grow in chaos. I cannot end the chaos that develops in my life entirely, but I am strong enough to wrangle with them and prevent them from being a stumbling block in the things that I wish to do.
Onward and upward!