Hey everyone, October 2013 marks the very first anniversary of my website! Looking back over my blog posts, I’m reminded of what an eventful year it was for the world, the nation, and for me personally. Over the past year I’ve had readers and subscribers from all over the world giving me insightful comments and feedback, and sharing their personal stories. You all inspire me to keep writing and posting, and for that I am forever grateful! Because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, today I am reposting my very first essay—Hope and Action. But look for another brand new post very soon!
September 8, 2013,
It’s cloudy today, and cooler than it has been all week. The magnificent storm we hoped for yesterday passed us by, but the humidity has broken. I woke up at nine this morning, after a solid night’s sleep. The first since I arrived. Usually, I’m a force to be reckoned with after so much sleep, but today I’ve got a case of the Sunday’s—moving slow and easy.
It was a great week, productive in every sense. I settled in, made new friends, ran every day, and got lots of writing done. This residency is a great gift. I am profoundly grateful for everyone who has a part in making it happen, and I don’t want to squander a moment. But yesterday afternoon I hit a wall.
September 5, 2013,
I’m settling into my residency—slowly getting to know the other residents, spending “tea time” at 4:00 pm with our lovely Chef Linda, working on my next novel, and exploring the Ragdale grounds and surrounding prairie and forest preserve. Mostly, I’m getting back to myself—and that means being aware of, and honoring the complicated bundle of contradictions that I am.
Always a light sleeper, I’m having trouble going to and staying asleep. At first, I chalked it up to being in a strange bed in a strange room. Nights are dark here in Lake Forest, and so quiet. Country quiet. Venturing out for a short walk after dinner last night reminded me what a “city girl” I am. The idea of an evening walk on the prairie was lovely, but after twenty minutes of being startled by shadows and spooked by rustlings I rushed back to the welcoming lights of the Barnhouse. At home in Evanston, nights are punctuated by the sounds of people walking on the sidewalks in front of our house, and the clatter of the el and the roar of the Metra passing on tracks located on the embankment directly across from our third-floor bedroom window.
September 3, 2013,
Today I awoke to this lovely view. I’m in the Yellow Room on the second floor of the building called the Barnhouse at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois. Looking out, I see a red-brick courtyard and a statue of two geese. Directly beneath my window is the bronze “Bird Girl” statue made famous on the cover of the novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The statue was sculpted in 1936 by Sylvia Shaw Judson here at Ragdale, her family’s summer home. From my window, I can glimpse the Ragdale House through tree branches. I call it “the big house.”
Today is the first full day of my eighteen-day residency at Ragdale. I arrived yesterday afternoon. This, my second residency, came up quickly. It was two weeks ago yesterday that I received the email from Regin Igloria, Director of Residencies, offering me an immediate residency starting on August 26th—if I could work it out. There was no way I could make it happen that quickly, but since it was literally the answer to my prayers I accepted for September 2, and here I am.
Last Tuesday, July 16th, I successfully cleared another hurdle in my life—I was interviewed on the radio by Melissa Heisler on The Empowerment Show. The interview was about my experiences living in Saudi Arabia and my forthcoming novel, East of Mecca.
Being an introvert, I’ve always been terrified at the prospect of public-speaking. Over the past few years books and articles have touted the advantages of being an introvert—but all the research in the world can’t reassure an introvert about to make her very-first-ever radio interview about her very-first-ever published book. Besides, I know interviewing someone is a hard job—and I wanted to be a good interviewee.
Ravinia is always on my summer “bucket list.” The outdoor music festival is located in Highland Park, Illinois —a thirty-minute drive from our home in Evanston. I’ve loved going to Ravinia ever since the first time—during the summer of 1983—my second summer in Chicago. That night, my husband and I took our kids to see the Preservation Jazz Hall Dixieland Band.
Recently up from Texas, we showed up with a motley assortment of lawn chairs, a red and white checkered tablecloth, Igloo cooler, paper plates, and citronella candles. Wandering the park pre-concert, I marveled at the elaborate picnic set-ups. Linen-topped tables with silver candelabras and crystal wine goblets. Elegant tapers with layers of dripping white wax. Beautiful food perfectly presented on porcelain china.
When East of Mecca officially went into publication on June 6th, my friend Robbi asked how I felt and it was impossible to articulate. I’ve felt “finished” so many times before. Now it feels like the book is somewhere out there in the ether. It won’t feel real until I’m holding it in my hands. And already there is so much to do moving forward. Showing up in public. Talking about my book. Pushing myself far beyond my comfort zone. The train has left the station and is quickly gathering speed, but I don’t know my destination.
“Understanding does not cure evil,
but it is a definite help
inasmuch as one can cope with a comprehensible darkness.”
Joy has been interrupted once again. The story about the young women held captive for ten years in Cleveland has been far too present on my mind to write about joy—or anything else. Once details began unfolding, I couldn’t get the story out of my mind. Like when you pick up a rotten tomato that explodes in your hand and no matter how much soap and hot water you use, you can still feel the slime and smell the stench.
“There is an alchemy in sorrow.
It can be transmuted into wisdom,
which, if it does not bring joy,
can yet bring happiness.”
In an earlier post (What Shrinks Know #2), I wrote about the importance of resiliency for healthy survival during difficult times. Now, I am experiencing the importance of resiliency when writing regular blog posts. There is a definitely a learning curve involved in starting and keeping a blog, and what I’m learning most about is myself.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,
my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.
You will always find people who are helping.’ ”
~ Fred Rogers, a.k.a. Mr. Rogers
How do you even begin to write about a week like we just had? Explosions, fires, and floods. Broken glass and splattered blood. Lost limbs and lost lives. The death of dreams and loss of innocence.
I know two people who were running the Boston Marathon. Both are okay. But one of them saw the carnage—so I know he will never really be “okay” ever again.