Two weeks from today, my debut novel Life After Yes hits shelves. I tell you this because, yes, I have plunged into that filthy pool of shameless self-promotion. (Ick.) But I also tell you this because this incontrovertible fact, the close proximity of publication, is affecting me.
(Translation: I am a certifiable mess.)
People around me, people who care about me, keep saying some variation of the same thing: "Just let yourself enjoy this time. Soak it all up." And when they say this, I smile an automatic smile, a packaged smile, and nod. And then I tell them I will. That I will try.
And I'm trying. I am. I remind myself that I am living a dream. Because I am. My dream. My utterly improvident and far-fetched dream I hatched as a newbie lawyer. I remind myself that this - this reality, jitters and all - is exactly what I hoped for. Because it is. I remind myself that the near crippling nerves I feel these days are par for that proverbial literary course. That all rookies - and all veterans - probably weather this exact storm. Because I imagine they do.
But the reality is that even though I got a wonderful book review and things are looking good, I feel a little frightened and very lost. I feel like I am floating - and frantically - between two places - the Past and the Future. (Aren't we all?) I feel like the waters of the Present are friendly, but foreign. I feel like I am fighting to stay afloat. (Don't we all?)
The reality is that in many ways I am lost. Lost in the way that each and every one of us is. Aren't we all headed for destinations unknown, ones we can picture and ones that by nature elude our imagination? Aren't we all in some sense traversing uncharted territory? Isn't this experience of traveling blindly, to the extent that we focus on it, unsettling and a bit scary?
I think so.
Last night, I had a mini meltdown at the end of dinner. I sat across from Husband and as I sipped from my water glass, I told him that I was really quite overwhelmed. He listened to me and asked what he could do. I told him I didn't know. After spinning my wheels for a while, I popped up and looked for my very favorite metaphor book Sister C gave me recently. I know it sounds odd and dorky, but I find metaphors - strongly concentrated poetic words - to be somewhat medicinal. For me, a strong idea is a bit of a magic potion. (Told you dorky.)
But I couldn't find my book. Husband and I looked for the book for twenty minutes. To no avail. Husband then did the most amazing and unnecessary thing. He grabbed his keys and went to Barnes & Noble. In no time, he returned clutching a replacement book and my favorite fat-free ice cream with rainbow sprinkles. He didn't need to do these things. But he did them. And in that moment I realized something I've known all along: I am tethered to a good, good man.
And so. We sat together on the couch. I turned on a recorded episode of Oprah. Husband scoured the contract for the sale of our home. And while listening to Oprah interview the new-and-improved Naomi Campbell, I flipped through my new book. I ingested the words of other travelers. Bits and pieces of timely truth. And suddenly - sitting next to my biggest love and fiercest supporter, swallowing a delicate dessert of faux ice cream and real words - I felt a little better.
And then. Then I stumbled upon the perfect quote. The perfect metaphor.
"One does not discover new continents
without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time."
- Andre Gide
And reading these words, hugging this idea, made me smile. A real nobody-is-watching, goofy smile. Reading these words, hugging this idea, made me realize. This business of being lost, of squinting to see distant and ephemeral shores? This is adulthood. We have no choice but to leave behind the cozy coast of childhood. And then it's up to us. We swim and struggle and flail and dream and discover. Then we live.
This business of being lost, of squinting to see distant and ephemeral shores? This is life.
This business of being able to be lost, of allowing ourselves to squint and conjure cryptic coasts? This is a choice. This is a luxury.
And so. With the help of Husband, a little ice cream, a little book, and a little quote, I went to bed last night cuddling a brand new attitude. One that I hope sticks. I went to bed calmer, feeling lucky to be lost, fortunate to be flailing and sailing towards continents unknown and exquisite.
- Do you ever feel lost? How do you handle this feeling?
- Are you energized or unnerved by the unknown?
- Have you ever reached a goal - or come close to reaching it - and felt unbelievably overwhelmed?
- How do you handle anxiety when it rears up?
- Do you agree that being lost - and feeling lost - is part and parcel of living? And in many ways a luxury enjoyed by those of us who are free to explore and discover?
* Thanks to so many of you who left thoughtful comments on yesterday's post about Green Chimneys. As promised, thanks to your words, I just donated $200 to this wonderful organization. If you would like to contribute as well, please visit GC's online donation page.*