I adopted a Golden Retriever in November 2019. Max. We’ve been training to certify as a Search and Rescue dog. He’ll be my third operational dog if he gets through the training. The pandemic has not been supportive of our efforts, but he’s progressed to finding lost persons in a hasty search of a trail. He’s got a ways to go to become fully operational, but he has so much love for searching that I know we’ll get there.
When the words aren’t flowing and the manuscript gets rejected and your back hurts from too many hours at the computer, writing sucks. After fifteen completed novels, it doesn’t get any easier. The ideas have to be unique, the characters need arcs, the pace needs to move, and words somehow have to find their way from head to fingers.
This is the point non-writers ask why I would waste my time. They’d remind me that I’m not banking the amount of cash that Higgins, Grisham, and King are. I’m probably not even making the interest on their royalty checks.
Writers, however, understand. I have so many stories in my head I could sit and type for the rest of my life and never run out of plots and new characters. Creating conflicts, describing a scene, polishing up my first drafts. It’s all a labor of love. The worlds become so vivid I ignore my own family to stay with the interesting people populating my head.
Even with the pull of the words, I remain functional. I practice law, hang with my kids, chill with my husband, cook, sort of clean, and I even attempt gardening, but the words hum inside when I’m not writing and if I try to put it off, they shriek until they have my attention.
Today, I’m editing a book I love. The more I tinker with it, the better it gets. I can see the world moving from black and white to high definition color. I could take the day to work on the pile of files on my desk, go for a walk, clean my basement, or phone a friend, but despite the aching back and the need for far too much coffee than is good for me, I prefer writing.
It’s here. I’m beginning my fiftieth year.
It’s been a long road to get where I am through swamps, over mountains, across oceans, and under my covers. I spent the last year trying out fifty new resolutions to bring with me into the second half of my first century. I didn’t find fifty things to actually resolve, but along the way, I made some serious moves toward being the person I’ve always wanted to be.
Here’s a few discoveries I’ve made last year:
- I’m resilient. A few things came at me like a tsunami in the past two years, and I survived them all. I might have been knocked down, but I was never knocked out. Experience makes a person stronger. I can survive some pretty good hits and that gives a confidence I didn’t have when I was younger.
- My friends are my lifeline. A person doesn’t need a lot of friends, but the ones I have are priceless. They support me when I need it, and lately I’ve needed them more than ever. My hope is to make it up to them in the next half century.
- Raising children is not a job for perfectionists. My kids, no matter how much I try to convince them, will not take the easy road to success that I’ve laid out for them. They push out in directions I would never go, and they face challenges that they wouldn’t be facing if they only listened to all of my advice since birth. Yet, they’re forging amazing paths that perhaps I would have been too fearful to pursue. So, as I stand back and allow them to fail when the road gets too bumpy, and watch them brush themselves off and head out into even more difficult challenges. I’m glad they didn’t listen to everything I said, because their lives are turning out perfect for them.
- I’m privileged. I grew up in a middle class family with the most amazing parents. They supported me in all my efforts. Financially and emotionally. As a brand new lawyer, I married a medical student who worked hard and made something of himself. Our careers allowed me financial freedom many people don’t have. Today, his everyday efforts have allowed me to pursue careers in public service and writing while raising our children. Some of the hurdles I’ve had to jump over on my way to success were lower for me than for others following a similar path. I understand that and appreciate it, and my law practice hopefully will make the road a bit easier for others as well.
- I’m a hard worker. I definitely have advantages in my life others don’t have, but I never squander opportunities. I take each task I do and commit to doing it the best I can. As I tell my kids often ( too often if you ask them), in most cases of success, it’s not about talent, luck, or genetics, it’s about showing up and putting in your best effort every step of the way. Hard workers who can overcome challenges and setbacks stand a better chance at success than someone who arrives at the top without any effort, because to stay at the top, effort will be necessary.
- I can’t eat flour and sugar. Not even a little. I have no willpower when it comes to sweets. One bite of a cookie can become a plate full of cookies in less than fifteen minutes. I gave up eating the evil substances back in December and am surviving. In fact, I feel better than ever. My Youngest can even eat ice cream next to me on the couch and remain safe from me attacking her for the last bite.
- Someone told me to write a bucket list for my next 50 years. It’s not necessary. I’ve achieved pretty much everything I’d wanted to achieve during the first fifty years of my life. I traveled all over the place, I met so many wonderful people, I was able to work in many fields, and I found my best friends and my home. For the next fifty years, I want to make it all matter.
My newest resolution? Working at a solid, steady pace, not rushing myself into an unworkable frenzy.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been finishing a book. It’s done. In the process, I fell away from some important rituals that kept me sane. Meditation, diet, normal bedtime, exercise. I was all over the place in terms of pacing. Huge amounts of words in a crazy all-nighter, then nothing the next day as I survived on coffee to function. It did not benefit my writing.
I’m starting a new project today, but I made a promise to myself to pace myself. I have a set schedule and, God willing, should move a quick, but not insane pace. I’ll keep everyone updated on it. In the meantime, I have a ten minute appointment with Headspace.
A lot of people have been asking me when the hell I’m turning fifty, since I’ve been blogging on and off about the transition for over a year. The truth is, I’ll be fifty in February. My goal was to transform myself before I hit the date.
I still have time.
My newest resolution? Don’t quit, even when a tsunami knocks you from your path.
It’s never easy, but I’m a work in progress. Every morning I begin the day with a list of things I need to accomplish. I finish some, ignore others, and never make it to the rest. But everyday, I move forward. My health is improving. My focus is better. My French isn’t better, but I don’t put any time into improving it. It’s all about choices and never giving up.
This year decided to kick me in the ass, but as I look back, I wouldn’t change a thing.
The best thing that could have happened to my writing career was getting thrown off the mountain. It’s made me regroup and go back to writing for the joy of it. Only now, experience and education has made my craft better than before.
I had a major knee injury which made me pause in my physical activity. I’ve now added a weight lifting element into my workouts. Something I wouldn’t have done without the need to improve my muscle strength to support my knees.
I gained ten pounds this past year. It was as if my metabolism had decided to take a vacation. But that’s made me really look at what I eat and when. The pounds still refuse to budge, but I feel better and have much more energy.
My family went through a tough spell. We regrouped and are a closer unit, despite one of the clan moving three thousand miles away. I would never go back to our past dynamics.
So all in all, I’m moving toward fifty at a decent pace with a better life than I’ve ever had, and a much better attitude.
Have you had a set back this year? If so, I hope you conquer it and move forward stronger than ever.
So everything fell to sh*t last week. I made a stupid assumption that if I worked hard, I could control the outcomes in my legal practice, my writing career, my family life. NOT TRUE.
I’m not God. I’m pretty much on this rollercoaster called life and am unable to stop the worst of life from destroying people I truly care about, the work I give my heart to complete, the relationships I think I have a grasp on. As I struggled with one disaster, another bit me in the ass. At one point, on a plane to New Orleans where I was supposed to enjoy a carefree weekend, I scrambled to make something work out, to fix one of the tragedies that was beating me down. I couldn’t bring anyone back from the dead, but I could resurrect my story, and I could tighten the bonds with the one person who matters more to me than anything. The plane hit the tarmac as I tried to pull a brilliant idea from my exhausted and emotionally void brain. I fell asleep in a hotel and woke with no motivation, not ambition.
Instead, I roamed the streets of the city alone for two days. Drinking coffee, watching the city that had been completed devastated resonating with life. Tourists walked through the French Quarter headed for beignets and coffee as though nothing had ever interrupted life here. Yet this city had gone through a hardship of biblical proportions. Hard work and faith brought the city back from complete destruction (only 15% of the city was inhabitable at the end of the Katrina). Time had also healed many of its wounds.
Did I have time? Had I already used up too much of it chasing the wrong dreams? Had my priorities become so twisted that what really mattered in life had fallen from my radar screen? Suffice to say, I was unsure whether to head back to bed and hide under the covers or dive into a mountain of work to fix whatever was wrong in my life.
What pulled me out of my funk? Hours on the phone with my girlfriends from every corner of the country and a few hours at a coffee shop with one of the dearest of writer friends.
Now that I’ve had time to think about all that life has thrown at me, I’m ready to accept my limited role in things that happen and move on. I can’t change the past, but I can learn from it.
I’m headed back to work this work with thicker skin, a refusal to back down from challenges, and the love of an army of friends who have my back and my heart.
I care about the braided life I’ve created with law, writing, and family, and I do make a difference in the world. I just can’t guarantee all HEAs in life, although maybe I can in my stories.
Today is my daughter’s last day of high school. It’s hitting me harder than it is her. I taught her to read and homeschooled her until seventh grade when I thrust her into a school setting and told her to swim. Although at first, she nearly drowned, she came back and is Olympic level now. This is a kid who is mastering not one, but two foreign languages, excelling in cybersecurity classes, and kicking ass in Calculus. And I couldn’t be prouder.
Yet, I see society pushing her in a hundred directions. Major in Y and you’ll earn a boatload after college. Do job X and you’ll make even more money. Can you fit in another foreign language? Z is super popular now with employers. Just become fluent before you graduate.
Yes, even I’ve been pushing her in that way parents everywhere have of making their kids miserable adults, but limiting their options into the safe and economically feasible. So I’m taking a step back and telling her what I’m trying to do in my own life. Live your passion.
Put everything into that one dream that fills you with joy, even on the worst days and there will be horrible days in pursuit of your dream. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, it won’t matter. As a writer, I hear people questioning why I suffer so much, taking up my nights and weekends and holidays to put more words on paper that I may not even like and then suffering when my editor or agent may not like them either. My answer to them is that my worst day writing is better than all those other days living in limbo, doing what I’m expected, but not anything that strikes at my heart.
Perhaps the test should be to put out your hand and offer up your pinkie as a sacrifice. If you want to keep your pinkie attached to your finger, rather than pursue an activity, then it isn’t your passion. Because for every good day writing, there a bunch of bad days and even some downright sucky days, but I’d still prefer writing to just about anything else.
So my oldest daughter, I hope you find a life full of adventure and love, and in the mix of it all, find your passion and never let it go.