Friday, February 19, 2016

Get closer

One of my favorite gifts as a child was a microscope.  I was in third grade when my parents presented me with a compound version, complete with glass slides and a book (Greg's Microscope) which encouraged me to closely examine everything from a strand of dog hair to a carpet fiber.  Eager to get started, I magnified almost everything I could sandwich between the slides: a smattering of spit, a speck of dirt, even a drop of blood.  I'm not quite sure what happened to my miniature microscope, but I do recall enjoying Botany lab in college where I observed tiny bits of flora that often reflected the structure of the entire plant.
Perhaps all this examination was the genesis of a reoccurring dream I had throughout my thirties.  In a host of different settings I'd try to put in contacts that were way too big for my eyes.  No matter how much I moistened them, folded them, or tried to cajole them into place, they never fit.   Guess I was too focused on seeing the bigger picture and not the details therein. 
These days I usually try to strike a balance.  I'll hyper-focus on something, then take a step back and see the forest for the trees.  I've come to understand that through simple observation, that which is being watched will always undergo transformation.  It's simple quantum physics that I first discovered in the film, What the Bleep Do We Know?, and in application, it's not so difficult to see the fruits of letting go of the labor and playing in that interval of "no time and space".
Still, there's something to be said for getting closer to the heart of that which we can consciously alter. 

Last Monday I was at a loss.  Literally.  Every few years (usually at tax time), I take a look at my books and ponder the choice of letting go of my yoga business and finding a job that will provide a reliable, steady income.  It's been seventeen years, so you think I'd get used to it by now.  But no.  This time around, I actually formulated a good time to end my classes and get back into the corporate world.  It's never been something I've wanted to do, but every so often, I feel the need to think inside the box of possibilities, if only to imagine a more secure future.  Yet every time I do, my inner maverick challenges me to obliterate the box, get on my knees, ask for guidance, then take one step forward into the unknown. 
So I did.
After three years of self-publishing, I recently sent out some query letters pitching The Lace Makers to literary agents in New York, figuring I'd hear back from their assistants sometime in the next month or so.  Then I went to meditation class with my friend, Matt, where I sat in silence, stepping back from the ongoing thoughts swirling in my head.  I didn't get trapped in them, but when I allowed myself to just observe, it was easy to see that one thought, one desire, kept rising up above the others:  I need a miracle.
On the way home Matt and I talked about the possibilities and the realities of living an unconventional life.  "It wasn't supposed to take this long," I lamented.  "'Everyone tells me to be patient, but I've worked hard and waited for more than a decade.  When's it going to be my turn?" 
"I know, Katie, hang in there," Matt replied.  "It's hard, but you'll be always have been."
After he dropped me off at home, I plopped my meditation bench on the floor, then sat down to check my email and phone messages.  What a surprise to find a reply from one of the agents who liked the book enough to request the first fifty pages!   Naturally, I sent them pronto and got ready for bed.  Around ten-thirty the agent wrote back with suggestions for polishing the story, saying that The Lace Makers is exactly the type of novel he's been looking for.  We emailed a bit more, and since then, I've been up at all hours working on the manuscript. 
Not that it's been easy. 

As I take a closer look at Sapphire and Karin's narrations, I've been asked to clear the dross of detail so that the girls can be more invested in telling their truths more fully.  There's a certain amount of introspection that each character brings to their experiences, and I don't want to poke holes in their authenticity, but it's not lost on me why I've been given this rare opportunity to get closer to the reality of what I was trying to write in the initial version of the novel.  Now I have the unique chance to go back in time and do it better, all the while knowing that I need to get closer to my own life, my own pain and pleasure, my own desires, struggles, and surrender.
And it's no longer enough to slice up the story in order to magnify it under glass. 
I forgot how challenging it was this time last year to stay sane in the midst of finishing the first draft.  Perhaps that's why the literary agent gently suggested that the characters are standing outside of their stories (just as I've been standing outside of pieces of myself for a long time).  To have the characters get closer means that I have to get inside of them, not just write what I see in my imagination.  So I've been asking myself, What does it feel like to be Sapphire?  To be Karin?  I can't clearly answer that right now...but I'm doing my best.
I've always wanted to work with an agent and an editor who will challenge me to get better, to dig deeper, to evolve more as a writer and a woman and a human being.  The miracle I asked for isn't only appearing as an agent showing interest in my work, but in his insightful suggestion to let go of that which no longer needs to be told in order to reveal more of who Sapphire and Karin truly are.   No matter what happens next, it's a gift to rediscover them both...and remember the endless blessings of being given this story to tell.
So to all of my yoga students, have no fear.  I'll continue to teach classes as I take one step closer to realizing the privilege of a lifetime, not only in the publishing world, but in the quiet spaces that allow me to know...and be...who I truly am.