Sunday, July 7, 2013

The three p's

In my twenties I had my heart set on "The Three P's" --  publishing, partnering, and parenting.  For over a decade I painstakingly paved a yellow brick road that I hoped would lead to my own personal Oz.  Always wanting to invite them in from the outer world, I lived in a "Field of Dreams" mentality where my mantra was "If I prepare for them, they will come." 
            I had been writing children's books since I was twenty-five, but all roads let to rejection from the publishing world.  Every editor said I needed to find a literary agent, but nearly every literary agent said I needed to be published before they would consider my work.  It was a catch-22, but I kept on writing.
            And I kept on hoping that by getting my own life in order (i.e. buying a house, earning a Master's Degree in education so I could secure tenure, and taking care of what was mine), the perfect relationship would present itself.  Marriage would follow a couple of years later, and then eventually, a child or two.  I even quit teaching in part to create a life that would allow more time to devote to a partner and my writing projects.
            For years, I filled my time with work:  teaching yoga, tending gardens of a dozen clients, cleaning houses, and doing odd clerical jobs.  I wrote four novels and three children's books.  I sent hundreds of query letters to agents all over the country.  I was set up on more blind dates than I care to remember.  I moved to California and back again.
            No matter what I did, a bountiful harvest always seemed to elude me.

            In the spring of 2009, dejected and depressed, I was struggling to find my feet after hitting an emotional, financial and creative rock bottom.  Again, I worked long hours, then came home and collapsed in a heap on my bed.  I had no energy to do much of anything but tether myself to the end of a rope I had been clinging to ever since my return from Big Sur.  I was sick and tired of my life as I had known it.  Tired of the unattainable yardstick on which I calculated my life...tired of never quite measuring up. 
            On top of all of this, I was living next to heroin dealers who kept me up at all hours, hauling their wares and their young children after dark to places I don't want to imagine.  They received stolen goods day and night and had a plethora of unsavory customers park their cars in front of my house.  There was a SWAT raid in early July which was fruitless and the neighbors continued their dealing in earnest.  I was terrified and anxious.  I knew through certain channels that they were also gang members and was fearful of a stray bullet coming through my window while I was teaching yoga in the living room.  It was overwhelming to instruct my students to be calm and open to the moment when my guts were constantly churning and there was a perpetual gnawing in the back of my throat. 
            Eventually I moved my yoga studio upstairs and everything else to the other side of my home to avoid seeing the never ending string of drug deals and shady people who moved in and out next door.  I felt helpless and homeless, not wanting to be in the one place that was mine, what had once been my sanctuary.  I endured panic attacks and months of sleepless nights.  My life seemed as if it were on an endless track of misery.      
I no longer cared about The Three P's...I was simply trying to survive an existence that seemed hopeless.  But it was then that I finally turned the corner.  Instead of focusing on what was not evident in my life, I began to steep myself in reality, no matter how uncomfortable or terrifying it was.   Somehow I found the courage to face my fear and move beyond it.  I stood up for my neighborhood, and by Thanksgiving, the drug dealers moved on to places unknown. 
            For nearly ten years, I had been living next door to seedy people of all kinds.  A man who beat his wife and children followed by a couple of alcoholics who rampaged nightly in front of their baby daughter...and with the windows wide open so I could hear every word, including the night the man threatened to kill his girlfriend.  There was a stripper and a suspected prostitute and a couple of people who were evicted.  Tired of the mayhem, I set the intention that the duplex would remain empty until kind, clean, law-abiding, and quiet people could move in.  I was fierce in my request, and stalwart in holding that mindset. 
And so it was.
I had no idea how oppressive it had been to have one side of my house feel like a torture chamber, only to have it magically disappear.For five months I lived in peace and silence.  I opened my north windows and breathed in the delights of freedom.  I spent hours enjoying my "new home," for that's what it seemed to be.  

            This afternoon I'm sitting in my office window, my little kitten tucked into the screen, watching for my neighbor, Tyler, to walk by.  His brother lives upstairs and for over three years, I have felt safe and happy to be home.  It was long overdue and not a day goes by that I don't thank God and whatever grace ended my long and arduous passageway to this place of peace.  
I've asked for many things that I've never received, but the most important things in life...well, those are always there for the asking.  I no longer wish for the Three P's.  Parenting won't be a reality in this lifetime.  The idea of partnering and the reality of publishing are still floating out there in the ether.
Now I embody another set of P's:  peace and patience and productivity and endless possibilities.  These are always available and when I ask for them, they gently land with compassion and grace into my open hands.