I went to Baltimore for work again last month. I went a little unsteady, emotions-wise. I had a kindred spirit in Australia who had just passed away from ovarian cancer, quickly taken from her life – so similar to mine, from her husband she married the same year I married mine (twenty years ago), from her four children – the oldest two born the same years as my oldest. We were the same age, to the month. She loved Anne of Green Gables and Jesus. She had a stellar sense of humor, and she was Australian so she said things like nappy (diaper) and uni (university) and tea. Her death felt, among other things, completely meaningless; and I remain unsettled about it.
I was similarly unsettled about my work and the career of my heart. I’m back at the beginning of new revisions for both novels I’m creating and therefore looking square in the face of this dream and how long it can take to achieve it. My view in Baltimore came through windows on two walls and was breathtaking, but it wasn’t until the second night that I noticed a Barnes & Noble standing out like a beacon in the skyline. I was so comforted by that building full of bookshelves, a place I want books by me to live one day.
At the beginning of this year I read Essentialism by Greg McKeown. This book is all about the yes. Everyone talks about the “no” and how we need to learn to say this more, and I always think, sister, I have that one down. I say no a lot, to a lot of things, though not everything. I say it so much that I often have to take it back. I deeply relate to the parable of the two sons in the bible, specifically the “obedient” one who says no but ends up doing the thing. I used to say no with some guilt attached. I still say no apologetically sometimes, but Essentialism taught me that no is not the point. The point is the yes. Living essentialist is about knowing who you are and what’s important to you, and the rest is for somebody else.
That Barnes & Noble rising from the ashes – I mean, standing apart in my mind from the rest of that beautiful waterfront cityscape – was a meaningful reminder of yes for me. Writing great books & getting them into the world is a difficult yes to accomplish and therefore a yes to which I give a lot of time and energy. After home, family, and making money to help support the first two, the writing yes is about all that is left.
On facebook recently I wrote this phrase I use sometimes, that I’m “finding happiness in the space between reality and my wildest dreams.” A couple of my friends asked me to write about how I do this – find the happiness there. This is the beginning of that happiness for me, knowing my yes. It allows me to take charge of that moment at the end of my life when I ask myself if I did all that I should have or wanted to do. It doesn’t have to be about what I accomplished with my writing, but “did I write?”
My Australian friend Bec was not given all the time she should have been given for the things that mattered to her. Her kids weren’t “finished” yet. I’m sure she and her husband still had home and career dreams. And there’s no way she had accomplished all she hoped to in her fairly new profession. But when they spoke about her in the memorial service I saw via livestream, they said she was a wonderful mother, she loved her husband, and she had just fulfilled her lifelong dream of graduating uni to be a teacher. She could not possibly have felt done with living or with her pursuits. But there is this:
Knowing your yes and pursuing it every day, all the time, with all your heart – that’s how you love the space between reality and your dreams. You make the yes the dream, and it quickly closes the gap. Have I fully accomplished the dream? Maybe not. But with every part that’s within my control, I am living it. That is happiness. It’s right now. And it may not be the wildest, but it’s the only thing that’s certain, and right now is therefore the dream.