Around the middle of last week, I looked at the calendar and had a startling realization. Today would be my regular blog-posting day, and not only did I not have a post written, I could not see enough uncommitted time in the intervening days to get one written.
We were about to leave town for a book signing in Detroit, followed by a Michigan Nature Association dinner in East Lansing the next day, followed by a family birthday party in Northville the day after that. Then back home to Newaygo, where yoga class, a book club appearance, a medical appointment, and the library book sale setup all crowded into the next few days.
There just wasn’t time to write and set up a post.
Still, I didn’t want to break my commitment to post on HeartWood every first and third Wednesday. So I started scrambling and scheming. I could dig out a post I’d started a year or so ago but had set aside and never finished. Yeah, that’s what I would do.
I found the post and the notes and images I needed to finish it, loaded everything onto a flash drive, and figured I’d do the work on our laptop in the downtime between the weekend events.
Great plan. Until . . . the night of the first event when—thanks to adrenaline, an unfamiliar bed, and leg cramps from the super-stylish but brutal shoes I’d worn that evening—I got almost no sleep and woke up the next morning in a fog so deep there was no way I could write anything coherent. Now that I had the time, I didn’t have the brain power.
I needed to rest. I knew that. But my first impulse was to start scrambling and scheming again. I could power nap and then, if I was really efficient, still get the blog post done.
Just one problem: Tired as I was, I could not fall asleep for a nap. That’s when I remembered a recent conversation with a friend who’s trying to break the habit of cramming too much into her schedule. She told me she’s cutting back on commitments and learning to rest.
That’s when I knew that was what I needed to do, too. Just rest.
Just then, another memory came to me: a blog post I’d written last year, when I was in a similar period of overload and had the radical idea of taking a time out.
“As soon as I had that thought, the space around me opened up,” I wrote. “My breathing slowed. I felt like I could float on air.
“Such a simple solution, just stepping back and saying, ‘Whoa, there.’ Yet it's crazily easy to forget that it's an option—that when things get too hectic, maybe they don't need to be. Maybe there are things that don't have to be done, or that don't have to be done quite the way you thought they did.”
I re-read those words and thought, “Who was the wise person who wrote this? Why am I not following her advice?”
Well, now I am. I’ve given myself permission to a take time out instead of scrambling. That other post I was going to power through and finish for today? It’ll still get done, but in a week when I can give it the time and attention it deserves.
Meanwhile, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to shut off the computer and give it and my brain and body a rest.
You know how it is when the day you’ve dreamed of for a long, long time finally arrives? Sometimes it’s every bit as magical as you imagined it would be. Other times, compared to that glorious fantasy, it’s a dud.
I recently experienced the dream-come-true of celebrating publication of my book, Mango Rash: Coming of Age in the Land of Frangipani and Fanta, with friends and loved ones. Fortunately, the reality was anything but a dud.
It was pure magic.
Looking back on the occasion, I realize it was more than a book launch. It was equal parts reunion, time capsule, and celebration of friendship.
It was, of course, also a fabulous book party. Newaygo County Council for the Arts/Artsplace generously hosted the October 25 event, three days after the official publication date, and Artsplace knows how to throw a party. Everything was set up beautifully (who knew stacks of books could be so artful?), and the mood was festive.
Many guests dressed in tropical attire, adding to the merriment, and my publisher Behler Publications even provided an enormous, lavishly-decorated cake.
As for the reunion part, three friends from Samoa days—Valerie, Barry, and Beverly, all of whom are in the book—traveled from afar for Mangorama weekend. Though I had spent time with all three of them in recent years, Val and Bev hadn’t seen each other since Samoa days, more than 50 years ago, and it had been almost that long since Val and Barry last crossed paths.
As we continued the celebration over the weekend, we reminisced and laughed over pictures (did we really ever look like that?) and reinforced bonds that formed in that remarkable time and place: Samoa in the Sixties.
Other friends from my Detroit and Ann Arbor days also made the scene. That’s where the time capsule comes in. My whole writing life flashed before me, remembering time spent with these friends back in our Detroit Free Press, University of Michigan News Service, and Ann Arbor writers’ group days.
Those flashbacks continued into the following week when I had a second book signing at Artworks in Big Rapids. For several years, I belonged to a writers’ group at Artworks, and during that time I revised the manuscript that became Mango Rash. It was such fun to see friends from the Artworks writer’s group at the reading and for all of us to reflect on the long journey from manuscript to book.
Still more memories came flooding back at the Croton Township Library book signing a few days later, where I connected with another writing friend. Kendra Lachniet and I were in the Fremont Area District Library’s writers’ group together, and Kendra has been supportive of my work all along.
So have all my friends, writers and non-writers alike. Celebrating with them over the past couple of weeks has reminded me over and over how blessed I am to have a circle of such kind, caring, generous, and FUN pals.
Whether or not I published a book, whether or not I ever publish another, I couldn’t ask for more.
Chris Martin at www.chasinglightphotos.net
Written from the heart,
from the heart of the woods
Read the introduction to HeartWood here.
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, a former journalist, writes memoir and personal essays, makes collages and likes to play outside. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, Ray.