“Well, what was all that for?” Ever ask yourself that question? Ever wonder about the purpose behind your circumstances? The final page proofs for Missing Isaac came in the mail recently—the last time I’ll see my book before it goes to press, and the last time I’ll have any control over what happens to it. I guess that has prompted a little soul searching: What was all that for?
I’ve dreamed of having a novel published as along as I can remember. Now that my dream is coming true, I’m pondering the why. Why was that my dream? Lightning could strike, it could sell like crazy, and Dave and I could be off to a beach house. Then again, maybe not. Maybe our financial life won’t change at all. And that’s okay. Because I wasn’t thinking about a beach house when I sat down and started writing. I was just escaping from the havoc that the recession wreaked on my workplace, my home away from home. But the more I wrote, the more my story became not just an escape from the negative but a positive source of joy that I looked forward to every day. The joy was in the telling.
Sometimes, the means is the end, and the purpose of what we’re doing is, at least for now, the experience of doing it. That’s a hard notion for me to accept. I always want to skip ahead to the next chapter and see how it’s all going to turn out. But that just creates a distraction from the here and now, from whatever we’re supposed to be experiencing in the moment and whatever we’re supposed to be learning from it.
I think that has been one of the lessons of returning to Southern Living (in my advanced years). I’m way too old to think about career building or to strategize my five-year plan. I don’t care any more about promotions or the size of my office. I just want to do interesting work in a positive environment (with health insurance). When I first went back, I suffered mightily with anxiety. And my mother kept telling me, “You spent your whole working life there, and now you’ve come back after everything has changed—you’re not going to feel at home overnight. Take it one day at a time.” She was right, of course. And I was still trying to skip ahead to the next chapter.
Here and now. One day at a time. No skipping ahead. Got it.