Some friends of ours are relocating from the mainland to Hawaii. For the past months, they have chronicled their journey - making the decision to follow a dream. We have watched them sell furniture and cars, obtain licenses to work on the island, say goodbye to friends and coworkers at parties, post pictures of glorious sunsets at their new destination. It all boils down to four suitcases in an otherwise empty front hall. Tomorrow they catch a plane. The anticipation for them and for all of us left behind has been acute. It has enabled a smooth transition from one world to the next. If that sounds morbid, it’s not meant to. Anticipation has allowed them to peel off an old skin while putting on a new one. That is a good thing
I have my own experience with anticipation though While my friends have been setting their sails for Hawaii, I have been preparing for a trip to England This is no radical life change, it is only a week-long trip, a response to an invitation to share some of my poems at an international poetry festival That said, it could be life-altering So this is where my anticipation enters
Anticipation is a complex thing It takes me out of the moment while, simultaneously, submerses me in reality I become so myopic that I do not see the world around me- forget to blow out candles, neglect healthy meals, read books without seeing the words on the page, walk mindlessly Is that anticipation or is it anxiety? They are kissin’ cousins, after all But no, I don’t think I have anxiety over my trip I have surrendered every step of the way and left God with the outcomes
Anticipation, the looking forward, breeds both delightful excitement and expectations - the demon child that turns an adventure into a prison sentence and robs time of its ability to just have fun.
People have remarked about me that I think too much This is an interesting assessment I believe that I think just enough to make my life interesting Wouldn’t my life be tedious without wonder? Without the little word games - anticipation/anxiety, excitement/expectation ? Combing through my tangled thoughts, the way my grandmother combed my tangled hair, smoothing the ideas out,makes my experiences easier to engage in Mindfully - literally mind-full - I embark on each new adventure with curiosity, reaching for new growth
So, sing on, Carole King! And Bon Voyage to all happy travelers whose hearts are filled with the mixed bag of emotions as we anticipate what is to come!
At my recent signing events for my new book When the Moon Winks, people have asked me "What is the most important thing you did to write this book?" My answer: I showed up. Every day, until the book was done, and through the process of editing and rewrite, I showed up at my desk, ready to work. Initially, my goal was to write between 5-7 pages a day, a tip I learned from the wonderful author Lawrence Block. When the drafts were done and I was dealing with rewrite, much the same effort was made, only then I was dealing with larger chunks of work. I took time off in the middle of the process to write and publish another novel, The Book Sisters, and to publish a book of poems, Taking in Air. But three and a half years later, When the Moon Winks was released by Warren Publishing. I couldn't be happier.
The practice of showing up can be applied to any area of life. There are the obvious ones: our employment - bosses like me to show up on time, to be prepared to work, and to put in a good effort. That is how I keep a job and get promoted, garner great reference letters and support myself. Exercise and nutrition is another obvious area. If I want to improve my health, I need to eat healthy meals every day. I need to engage in some sort of exercise for 30 minutes or more daily. What works for me is writing down, in the morning, what I am going to eat and following that plan. I also include in my journaling the exercise I am going to engage in that day. Today, for example, I am eating: breakfast- 2 eggs; berries; I cup skim milk lunch - sushi
dinner - mahi ; stir fry broccoli and carrots with ginger; pineapple snack- White Cheddar popcorn For exercise, I will do an hour of yin yoga.
Showing up isn't just about the obvious physical things. Showing up is about relationships with myself and others. Over the years, I have changed from someone who didn't, couldn't, trust herself to a woman in whom I have the greatest trust. Through practice , I have learned that I can count on myself to keep my word, to pay what is owed, to keep my hands off what is not mine, and more. I can count on myself to take care of myself, not to engage in unhealthy activities, everything from gossip to lust. Because I can count on myself, I am a better friend and coworker. People in my life can count on me to show up, listen, work hard, love harder.
Showing up means not playing the victim, not playing the King or Queen either. It means that blaming others is out, while having compassion for those who suffer in one way or another (and we all do). Showing up means putting Me First, but Not Me Only. Or, as the Dalai Lama states, practicing wise selfishness.
Showing up, ultimately, means turning my day, my life over to the care of a loving deity whom I call God, but you can call it anything you like. When I place my life in the care of that boundless energy, I am assured that my day, though it may have bumps and bleeps, will be full of miracles, if I just stay open.
My intention today is to show up for life and see what lies in store. What do you plan to do with this amazing 24-hours?
In my morning meditation I read a quotation from the Dalai Lama. It goes like this: what science finds to be nonexistent, we must accept as nonexistent, but what science merely does not find is a completely different matter. It is quite clear that there are many, many, mysterious things.
The concept of mystery has been with me all week long. Someone, and now I can’t remember who, remarked that the greatest part of writing is its mystery. I am often asked, “Where did you get the idea for that book? that character?” Nine times out of ten, my response is “It’s a mystery to me.”And it is. Ideas come to me like manna from Heaven. It is my job to scoop them up, put them in a wheelbarrow, and cart them off to be planted.
But what of non-artistic mysteries? These, I find, abound. Of course there is the natural world, filled with the diversity of flora and fauna, of weather and stars and sky. There are, too, feelings and emotions that surprise and elude us. But I’m talking about the mysteries of change and surprise. How crazy is it that I have evolved into someone who no longer pushes. An Uncarved block. How did that happen? What brought about the change? Attitudes toward people are different now. I bless my adversaries and pray for them. Resentment has morphed into acceptance and anger into compassion. I feel so free and baffled. What power is working through me?
A dear friend once told me “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be enjoyed “ so I will sit back and enjoy the moments of synchronicity that come to me. The unasked for blessings. The yellow kettles and trips abroad. I will simply plant those dreams and wishes in my garden and get on with what is in front of me. A mystery is a mystery. A little bit, sometimes a lot, of magic sprinkled on my day. I don’t expect them, but I do because I know that my Creator blesses every day with the opportunity to be amazed.
Pre-school teachers have known for years the necessity of down time, that precious nap that interrupts an otherwise high voltage day full of creativity, energy and combustible wonder. It isn’t just the kids who need the break. It’s the teachers, too, who crave a little less noise, a little time to breathe. I know how they feel. My life right now is chock full of amazing new ventures. I just launched my third book, was invited to England to read my poetry at a prestigious festival, am appearing on a morning television show next week, have just signed two new book contracts, and am scheduled to appear in a number of signing events. This is all so wonderful and beyond my wildest dreams. It has also made clear to me the necessity of down time. Not because I am tired, on the contrary, I have never been so exhilarated in my life. Running on adrenaline, I find myself sleeping less, pushing more. Which is just what I don’t want to do. I need to remember to breathe. To close my eyes and take time to be grateful for all I have been given. Yes, I have worked hard, but underneath this success, shy in the wings, is the Creative Spirit that has blessed me with abundance. Taking down time reminds me that I am just a very small human. It keeps me right-sized. So when I start to get too big for my britches, I stop. Pause. Breathe. Give thanks and move on. Everything in balance. Everything aligned. Naps aren’t just for toddlers, they help us all gain a new perspective. They are an amazing spiritual tool, if you need to rationalize sleeping in the middle of the day. Or, you can just enjoy, as I do daily, a brief reprieve from all the bustle of the day.
Recently, someone remarked to me that "You are so lucky." In truth, luck had very little to do with the fact that since 2015, I have written and published two novels, two feature films, and one poetry chapbook. That in the past year alone I have held multiple readings/signings in North Carolina and beyond. That my books are placed in bookstores and libraries in a number of states. That I have contracts on two new books due out in 2020. That I have met with a number of book groups to discuss my work. That I have been invited to read my poetry at a festival in England. This all happened not because of luck, but because of hard work, patience and persistence. It is said that the creative process is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Let me tell you, for the past four years I have sweated everyday. And I have loved every minute of it. There is nothing I enjoy more than my chosen work. If I am lucky, it is because I am able to immerse myself in my writing. I know some do not have that option. But make no mistake, writing is a difficult profession which requires the dedication and perseverance of an elite athlete, the soft touch of a nurse, and the focus of a Buddhist monk.
When I ask you to donate to my campaign, I do not do this out of a sense of entitlement or hubris. On the contrary, it is with great humility that I place myself before you and ask for your generosity. Humbling, because, as with so many experiences as a writer, I may get rejected. You may not deem me worthy or my cause large enough. To me, it is everything. It is who I am, who I have worked so hard to become. Each small donation is like a tinkling bell, bringing light into my world, bringing me further forward on my path. I am so grateful for your belief in me, for your appreciation that what I have done, am doing, is really a monumental task: to be who I authentically am.
If my words have moved you, and I hope they have, please visit GoFundMe.com and make a donation to my campaign: Help a Poet Read Her Poems in England. I feel lucky to count you as my friend.
In two days, I will launch my new women's fiction novel. To my thinking, When the Moon Winks is coming out at the perfect time of the year. I look out my living room window and see the purple and yellow iris swaying in the breeze, the lilacs have been blooming for days and have almost gone by. In my smaller garden, the brilliant orange-yellow coreopsis, the color of my favorite Crayola crayon, carpet the bed, tucking in neatly under the wild blue clematis climbing a wood trellis. Spring is everywhere. In the flowers, in the grass, in the wind, in the sun. Even in the rain, maybe especially in the rain. What does this have to do with my new book? When the Moon Winks is all about rebirth, new beginnings. When 60-year-old Helen Ferry is left by her husband of 30 years on the eve of their wedding anniversary, she feels that her life is lost. Something inside has died, in the words of Carole King. Helen tries to reignite her enthusiasm by turning to past boyfriends but soon discovers that, instead, she needs to focus on her own life. The novel is about Helen's transformation as she becomes true to her self. Advance readers of the book have called it "great fun" and "a perfect beach read." They have remarked on its satisfying happy ending. When the Moon Winks is a smart book without being heavy; it is a fun book without being inane; it is a love story without the sugar coating. If you are headed for the beach, or looking for a Mother's Day gift, or maybe just want something enjoyable to read, consider When the Moon Winks. I've been working on this book since 2015, and it still makes me laugh every time I read it!