How Do You Know When You’re Moving in the Right Direction?
You know how sometimes the universe puts a tailwind on your behind and you have to just go with it? I am so feeling that right now regarding my decision – almost a year ago to the date – to quit my long-term career and become a full-time writer. My path now couldn’t be clearer.
The Right Direction
There have been so many signs. Almost immediately members of the publishing community, including established writers, have gone out of their way to be welcoming – offering advice and encouragement. A great author and personal hero, Jacquelyn Mitchard, called LITTLE LOVELY THINGS, ‘A Shattering Adventure,’ after offering to read it.
One of the most amazing bookstores on the planet – The Strand in Manhattan – has agreed to host a launch party the week my book is released in April. And just recently I learned I was a finalist in a prestigious poetry contest. Here’s the thing, I haven’t written any poetry in at least the ten years since I started my novel.
The last time I experienced such synergy was when my mother passed away. As an adult, I have always lived a plane ride distance from her, which grew more heartbreaking each year that passed as she approached the fragility of extreme old age. As her youngest, we’d always enjoyed a special bond.
In August 2012, my husband and I scheduled a family vacation to Michigan. The plan was to combine a visit with my mother followed by introducing our kids to the peculiar charms of things he and I treasured as kids growing up in the Great Lake State.
Upon our arrival, my instincts told me my mom and I needed time alone together. We spent a long afternoon drinking tea and reminiscing. As the day wound down, my normally effervescent mother confided how lonely and unhappy her once busy life had become. She was ninety-three. Not an hour later she suffered a stroke with me by her side.
The days that followed were so very difficult in that I knew I had to return to our home for back-to-school and other responsibilities. I spent the final evening before our departure by my mother’s side. In the morning just before the sun rose, she passed away peacefully. It was as if she was signaling that it was time for both of us to go.
Leaving Michigan after the funeral, I never felt so close to her in my life.
Synergy, learning to trust your instincts, these are major themes in my book. There is irony here since a career in science trained me to be cynical about such things. Extreme rational thinking is not bad. It’s what keeps us from jumping to unsubstantiated conclusions and remain clear-headed in the face of difficult decisions, but it can also cause us to lose sight of how important it is to cultivate creativity – to keep our antennae tuned to the larger things in life.
My workday now includes time for daydreaming, allowing my thoughts to marinate on treasures large and small that occupy my brain for no other reason than curiosity and fascination. In my novel, I make reference to a peculiar stone that is only found on the western shores of Lake Michigan along the little finger of the state outline.
Technically, Petoskey stones are far from ‘precious’ – you can basically just find them without much effort in the shallows along the beach. But here’s the magic, once polished, they reveal the beautiful honeycomb silhouette of ancient fossilized coral.
Pretty much every child from Michigan can tell you that Petoskey stones date back to the Devonian period and are the result of subsequent glaciation. If the idea that the icy waters of the Great Lakes were once sub-tropic seas teeming with feathery coral doesn’t capture a kid’s imagination, then I don’t know what can.
I keep a teardrop-shaped Petoskey stone the size of my palm on my desk – a short reach from my mouse. I procured it at a small shop in Michigan the week my mother passed away. It serves as a reminder. Of so many things.
While I wish my mother could’ve lived to see my novel published, I know it was time for us to create a different type of connection – one that has only become more beautiful with the passing of time.