Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Great expectations

          A week before "Open Road" came out in January, I said to my friend, Lisa, "I'm so thankful to have this project finished.  It has been an incredible experience to write it...and has healed me in more ways that I could have imagined.   But once it's out of my hands, I have no expectations as to what happens next."
          Guess my ego didn't hear that the first time.

          It's been an interesting journey to watch how the book has been received.  How some friends have been joyfully present for the debut, and others have joined the celebration along the way.  The comments I receive from readers have been consistently positive and encouraging.  Sales have been steady...but really slow.  And while that's okay, it wasn't what I had expected to happen.
          A few weeks before the launch date, I was in contact with a publisher in New York who was helping me garner the rights to use a quote in the "Pruning" section of the memoir.  As HarperCollins receives numerous requests weekly, I had to wait my turn in line for approval.  However, I know the author of the quote as we are both represented by the same literary agency and had already garnered his approval.  His editor was on board and I even received a wonderful phone call from the head of the permissions department telling me I could use the quote gratis for up to 200 copies.  By then it would be my turn in the queue and the long-term agreement could be put into place.
          How wonderful!  I thought.  I'll probably be able to sell that many in a few weeks.
          Well, that's not exactly what happened.  And like I said, sales have been steady, but it's more like one book per day instead of ten or twenty.

          Am I disappointed?  No.
          Do I feel rejected?  Hardly.
          It's just that I needed to be met with my unconscious great expectations so that I could once again learn the lesson of letting go and allowing the book to grow in its own time.  If I've learned nothing else in the past twenty years, it's that gardening takes long hours of work.  Long weeks of patience.  Long stretches when nothing seems to be happening.  Then, all of the sudden, a bloom appears.  And then another.  And another. 
          And before I know it, the whole yard is bursting forth in color.

          Lisa and I were talking about this last week and she said, "It's like that Woman's Right to Shoes episode on 'Sex and the City.'  A single woman's accomplishments don't always get celebrated as much as one who's married and has kids.  But don't worry, Katie.  If you had it all happen at once, like a wedding reception or a baby shower, it would be over."  She smiled.  "This way, you're only just beginning and the celebration can last a lot longer...just give it time."
          I've let those thoughts percolate as I've been shoveling snow and scraping ice this week.  Mulling over my hopes and wishes as I prepare my home for rain showers that will arrive tomorrow.   Sometimes this winter has made me cry tears of frustration.  I'm so sick of being trapped inside by myself.  Tired of knitting (and THAT'S saying something)!  Tired of the cold weather.  Tired of listening to the furnace blow, the pipes creak in the frigid temperatures.  Isn't everyone who has lived through this -- the snowiest winter in over thirty years?
          But through it all, I've learned that when I let go of expectations, whether it be about the weather and the way I feel about it; my memoir and the way I want it to be successful; or even about the steps I'm taking to move forward in my life, I open myself to even greater opportunities.

          One of the best written shows I've ever watched was "Six Feet Under" and at times like these I remember a line that Nathaniel passed on to his son, David, who was complaining about how unfair life can be.  He gently put his arm around David and said, "Infinite possibilities and all you can do is whine."
          And so this afternoon as the sun shines brightly through my office window, I've told my whiny self to take a time out so I can be thankful for today's respite. Thankful I could go outside without a heavy jacket to chop down the three foot icicles that dangled precariously from the gutters.  Thankful for my neighbor who helped me unearth the downspouts.  
          Thankful I have the time and space to contemplate my unrealized great expectations and let them go with the realization that infinite possibilities are waiting...right around the corner.