At Last…

Solitude and silence.  These conditions are best for me to find the place in my mind where words wait. It takes time for me to navigate through the clutter in my head.  Writing has become my meditation – allowing me focus and clarity for the rest of the day, and I have missed it.

Recent mornings, I have been glued to stories from Haiti where so many lives were swallowed up by the earth. Staggering, sobering stories.  I look at the ceiling of my home and imagine it crashing down upon my family.  I am grateful for the standing walls and roof of my house, the food, water, electricity – the health and well being of my love ones.  I am grateful that for now, this is my lot and humbly send what I can to the wonderful organization, http://www.msf.org/MSF.

During my days as a United Nations Peacekeeper in the former Yugoslavia, Medicin San Frontiers was the organization first in and last to leave.  It is one of the least bureaucratic of all relief organizations – meaning your money really goes to work helping people on the ground rather than paying for someone to write reports in an office.  Please check out this wonderful organization.  And savor your good life.

A New Year

I’m not crazy about New Year’s eve in America – so hysterical, noisy and alcohol driven. I prefer the Japanese rituals around ending the year. I lived in Kyoto in the late 80s and remember that in the days leading up to the New Year, the focus was on taking care of unfinished business – both physically and spiritually, clearing out.  This means paying your bills and debts and giving your house a thorough scrubbing. Leading up to the midnight, neighborhood temples are crowded with people lining up to ring in the New Year, literally tolling the temple bell as a way to send away all the troubles and concerns of the year before.  The last of 108 gongs is rung at midnight, the reverberation of the final toll fading into the early hours with all of the previous year’s woes.

I’m behind schedule. My job at the bookstore has been so hectic, I have barely managed to wash dishes and clothes. I decided to cut myself some slack this year and hereby, extend the deadline for launching my new year. I will play catch up in the next week or so: cleaning out closets, hunting down dust bunnies, scrubbing floors and catching floating webs from ceiling corners, all the while, clearing the way for my dreams for this year and decade.

Akemashte Omedeto Gozaimas!

The Promise of Brighter Days

Snow is virtually gone – washed by the past few rainy days.  At the end of the driveway on a sloping bit of land, the strawberry plants I transplanted out of the vegetable garden last summer, are a stunning green against the wet brown leaves and earth around them. In fact, the plants seem to have multiplied under the icy cover of the past two weeks. I let myself be thrilled by these crazy promises of spring – although it is not yet January and there will be plenty of snow and frigid days ahead. Technically, winter has just begun. Still, this glimpse of green and the pile of seed catalogues on my table feel like harbingers of spring.

This is partly how I navigated through some bleak days in my life: years of my husband’s addiction, his suicide, my bout with breast cancer.  Although there were times it was difficult to see the light, I always could imagine brighter days lay ahead. Nature is the key for me.  Throughout the seasons, there is always comfort to be found in the natural world. Planting bulbs, for example.  Placing the parchment skin covered bulbs into the cool autumn earth was an act of hope. Winters of the world or of the soul can feel long and dark but the bulbs helped me to believe that life would get better: a faith rewarded each spring as the crocus, daffodils, tulips and hyacinths emerge from the still-cold earth.

Brave New World

Authors regularly call me wanting to set up a signing at the store. Unless you’re a psychic or television personality, you better tell your friends and family to come out and support you.  Tell no one and that’s who will be there.  Even acclaimed authors who you’d expect to have an audience can tell you about events spent reading to one passerby and the homeless guy dozing in a chair.  My suggestion to authors is go to your target audience rather than expect them to find you. Wrote a book about WWII?  Speak at a veteran’s group. Gardening? Meet with gardening groups. Rotary Club, Senior groups, schools – are always looking for good speakers and will give you an opportunity to get the word and your book out.  That’s what I’ll be doing.

Recently, a generous, smart woman in the publishing industry gave me the same advice I usually give to others  – only she was referring to the cyber world.  The internet provides a whole new opportunity to build an audience, find readers before you even publish your book.  And in fact, you improve your chances of landing a publisher if you manage to capture an audience.  Times are tough everywhere, and publishers want to know that the book they’re getting behind has readers at the ready.

It was as if a light bulb went off in my head.  I have been slow to embrace this new media of blogs and twittering but after a week of exploration in this brave new world, imagining the possibilities – I’m sold.  It’s an exciting new world available right now on this snowed in Sunday morning when everyone else in my immediate world, is still sleeping!  So here I go, ready to launch out into this new dimension. Bear with me as I get the hang of it and thanks for spreading the word.

My memoir, Light Between Shadows, is about how love and a life were destroyed by drug addiction.  I needed to write the book for me but I know that my story is not unique. I hope to chip away at the secrets and shame associated with addiction and suicide.  We need to talk about this stuff, help each other through the dark days. We are not the only ones. Show me a family that doesn’t have an addict, an alcoholic, mental illness.  My community – friends, neighbors, co-workers, family all helped me survive those days of living with an active addict and the aftermath of suicide. I hope I can do that for others who are navigating the world that was once mine.  We are not alone.

Life is different now – the shadows are mostly gone and each day feels like a gift.  I marvel at the difference between then and now: ‘then’ makes the ‘now’ all the more precious. I watch my bright and beautiful daughter move through her world, wisely and with joy and am grateful. I wake each morning next to the rediscovered love in my life and can’t believe how lucky I am.  Now is a different story than the one I told in my book, but only because I lived it. I don’t forget that – ever.