Monday, February 27, 2017

Today Will Always Be Better Than Tomorrow

"Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans." --Allen Saunders

If you're having a sucky day you might not believe the title of this post but the fact that you're having a sucky day and thinking about tomorrow is kind of my point. Don't believe me? Well take a gander at the number of people (over 100,000 as I write this) currently viewing this Giraffe who is about to give birth. I'll wait. That was probably a stupid suggestion because I just lost most of you, who will now be more interested in waiting for the magic moment those two baby-sized hooves appear (well, as baby-sized as a 150-pound giraffe can be) before mamma April gives birth. I know this because I've spent way too many hours over the past four days watching said giraffe and her bae Oliver as they count down to the big splash. Sorry I know that sounds gross but after three days of waiting I finally just started watching giraffe birth videos and that's kind of what it's like when they hit the ground. Sploosh is probably a better word.

The thing is I realized that the more I watched the giraffe the more impatient I got. And the more invested I became. I'd already wasted all this time and I didn't want it to be for nothing. Come on already, I thought. Time to get this show on the road! It's kind of how I feel when I'm writing a book or waiting for said book to release. I get so focused on the next thing that I forget to revel in the beauty of current thing. Ram Dass wrote a whole book about this titled Be Here Now. I think as humans we intrinsically know that we should be more present in the smallest moments but we get addicted to the adrenal charge of the big moments. The births, the weddings, the birthdays, the moves, the job promotions, the book releases and yes, even the deaths. We get so caught up in the preamble we forget to marvel at the process. And quite often, we rush the thing that's not ready to be born.

One of the most exciting aspects of a publishing a book is also one of the most challenging. Your agent sold the book (YAY!) but then you realize it takes an average of two years before it will hit the shelves. Two. Years. Why? Well, partly because there are other books ahead of yours in the queue but also because your book is not ready. It takes time for the edits and revisions and meetings with publicity department and cover art and press releases and reviewers and blah, blah blah. And while you're waiting, or let's be honest here, while I'm waiting, I need to stay focused on writing the next book. Because the magic moment isn't publishing the book, it's writing it. And just like our adorable baby giraffe, gestation takes time. The finished product is indeed a miracle but the making of the miracle is where the magic happens. Taking a single sentence and turning into one that makes you stop for a moment and wonder at the way those words lined up to form a cogent thought is not a waste of time, it's the reason time exists. If I had skipped over that sentence because I was anxious to get to the next sentence, the next chapter, the final scene, I'd never have fully enjoyed that moment.

Or this one right here, where some of you are having a sucky day and I'm here to tell you that even
pain can be exquisite if you think about it. It's our measure of bliss, isn't it? How else would we know how good something feels if we haven't experienced suffering? How lucky are we to be extended the grace of these moments-in-waiting? Just look at those giraffes. How amazing are they with their long necks, crazy patterns, and goofy little horns? It's not about the baby, folks, it's about enjoying each moment with these awesome creatures. Otherwise life would be like reading the last page without ever getting to ride the roller coaster of emotions that led to the finale. So go ahead, look forward to the next thing but for crying out loud don't forget to enjoy the this one.

So tell me, what are you waiting for? And what moment are you reveling in RIGHT NOW? I'd love to read your comments.

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Friday, February 3, 2017

The Big Picture

"They bought a house on the hillside, where little feet soon would run. From small things, mama, big things one day come."  --Bruce Springsteen, From Small Things

We saw Twentieth Century Women at the local theater tonight and somewhere during the film the question was asked, “What is the biggest thing that’s ever happened to you?” And it got me to thinking. The biggest thing is always relative to the last biggest thing, isn’t it? When I got married at sixteen that was huge. Until I had a baby at eighteen and creating a human being became the biggest thing. But then her dad and I divorced and raising a child on my own when I was barely more than a child myself, well, you can imagine how big that felt. The next time I got married it wasn’t as big a thing because I’d done it before. Same for the next two babies and the second divorce. But getting my real estate license was big. As was the day I left real estate to open my first massage practice.

If you asked me the biggest thing in my life when I was thirty one I would have told you it was watching my mother take her last breath. Moving to California at thirty-seven soon eclipsed that passage. Not bigger, but different in size and scope for sure. Fast forward thirteen years when I donated a kidney to a complete stranger. Now that was a big thing, bigger than me, bigger than I ever expected in terms of how it affected my life in so many beautiful ways. Still does. And although I was overwhelmed by the impact of donating a kidney, taking part in a documentary and then giving birth to the memoir that followed my donation journey consumed my life in a big way for several very exciting and busy years.

Writing the memoir gave me the confidence to finish a novel and then I signed with an agent and I suddenly felt like a BFD. I had an agent! An even bigger deal when she sold the book to a publisher. "This I Know" will be released next spring. Will this novel be the biggest big thing? Maybe. Maybe it will be the book after that, the one already taking up most of the space in my head as I clickety-clack away on my keyboard.  Or maybe, the writing itself is the big thing, eh?

Between my childhood wedding and selling my book, there were lots of smaller things, although many left a big impression. Things like seeing my youngest go off to college, moving to the ocean, finding and losing love (and finding it anew). I won’t marry again but I’ll probably write more books. I’ll undoubtedly lose more dear friends to cancer. My fifteen year-old dog will die. My kid’s kids will have kids. And so on and so on but frankly, I think my biggest thing will have already passed by that time. Maybe when I’m seventy or eighty I’ll be able to tell you which one of those was the biggest. Or maybe the biggest thing will be my death, when I finally find out if there is anything after this. Now that would be huge, given my agnosticism.  
The thing is I think we’re too focused on the big things. It’s those little things I most remember. The vibration of clunky roller skates under my feet on a bumpy sidewalk. The smell of sheets breeze-dried on my mother’s clothesline. The feel of knotted muscles under my hands as I kneaded them into submission. Baby toes. Carrot cake. My lover’s breath on the back of my neck. The scent of books and the sound of a page turned.  Dirt crunching beneath my boots. A fan on a hot summer day. Movie popcorn. All of it. 

So tell me, what is the biggest thing that's ever happened to you? What is your smallest biggest thing? The next biggest thing?