Last Fall I traveled to New York where I acquired a literary agent, met with editors at Amazon, and was asked to write a book on intuition. These moments are a highlight of any author’s career, especially an undiscovered, struggling writer like myself.
I was on a high, feeling on top of the world and ready to write my next book with vigor and inspiration.
Then life put a barricade in my brain, and I could not write. I experienced a dry spell, going from an oasis of words to the Sahara Desert. The words just one day disappeared. My hands were challenged to pick up a pen, or put fingers on a computer keyboard. My riverbed of words was in a drought, a serious drought. I was incredibly frustrated by my numb and unmotivated mind, saddened by the death of my passion for the written word, and confused that my water tap of emotions had been turned off.
After months had passed, and seasons had changed, I awoke one day with the muse of expression in my heart. And this is what I heard and was then able to write.
As human beings we actually think we can control life. We convince ourselves that if we pray enough, do enough good deeds, make enough money, exercise daily, and eat our fruits and vegetables we can control our fate.
Because of all our good actions we unconsciously believe we won’t get cancer, or be in a car accident. We won’t lose all our money, or a loved one. We plan out our day to go just right: drop off the kids at school, go to work, get our groceries, meet our friends, or clean our house. We seduce ourselves into believing we have control over our life, in order to ultimately control our destiny. The truth is that none of us have the remote control to life. Life will take its course whether we like it our not.
I learned this lesson the hard way. While I was in my writing drought, life taught me about my lack of control.
I continued my life as a wife, mother, therapist, sibling, and friend. My kids went to school, my husband went to work, I spoke at Apple, I had an art show, and lived my day in and day out of cooking, cleaning, and seeing clients.
I also followed one of my life long passions of living overseas with my family. I applied, interviewed, and received a job to be a high school counselor at the American School in Barcelona, Spain. Overwhelmed with joy and excitement to embark on this adventure with my family, I started the moving process. I applied for our visas, told our friends and family we were going, started packing and renting our house, and put check marks on our incredibly long list of “To Do’s” in order to move overseas.
During all of this chaos of excitement I continued to unconsciously believe that I had control over my life. I believed that my plan was going to go exactly as I thought, not so abnormal. I was living in the exotic dream of “Our my family is moving to Spain, aren’t we are so adventurous and brave?”
Then life slapped me right across the face and humbly reminded me of my lack of control.
The slap came by hearing my brother’s voice saying, “Mom has pancreatic cancer.”
I lost my father four years ago, learning at 40 years old about the preciousness of a life, and how fast it can disappear. So when I heard about my Mom, I had to do some serious soul searching around my family’s move to Barcelona.
I did this soul searching walking the halls at KU Med Center while my Mom was recovering from the daunting Whipple surgery. I did this soul searching while folding clothes, lying awake at 2 am, and sitting with my clients listening to their stories of life. I did this soul searching alone in my tears, and in laughter with my friends around a table of food and wine. I sat in contemplation for two weeks that felt like two years around whether or not I could live in Spain while my Mom was receiving treatment.
Just to let you know, my Mom said to me several times, “You sign that contract.” Or “You make the best decision for you, not me.” And this is exactly what I did; I made the best decision for me. And this was to not move to Spain.
Why? Because my soul searching reminded me that I am person who would not be able visit the brilliant architecture of Gaudi with lightness and joy knowing my siblings and their families were taking care of my Mom. It is not in my blood. I am someone who wants to be there as much as I can. I want to have the option to hop on a plane and be with my Mom in 6 hours. I am not saying I am Mother Teresa, it is just who I am. I want to be in Omaha versus visiting the Eiffel Tower.
This is where I am today: in grief around the loss of a dream, but confidant that I made the best decision for my family to not move to Spain. I am reminded again that I am not in control of my life; I have choice, but not control. And the gift in all of this is it took losing control of my life, to find my words again.
I can put my fingers on the keyboard and words are coming out. I can grab a pen and write a metaphor, emotion, or thought that may be used in my next book, and I am able to sit in silence and hear from another place words that can hopefully move another soul. I am writing about how life is going to move at its own pace, whether we want it to or not.
During my writing drought, and lessons around my lack of control, I am reminded of surfing, even though I am an awful surfer. What I feel is I can either ride the waves of life as they come regardless if they are big or small, gentle or rough, or I can fight them, crash into their force and be taken away by their riptide. I can choose to enjoy the ride in its trials and tribulations, but I do not have control over nature and how it will affect my life. And even though I may not be moving to Spain, I am choosing to surf and write the best that I can in whatever wave that comes my way in Bend, Oregon.