My Heart In the Marketplace

“What comes up, way down at the bottom, is that my heart is still broken from bringing out Writing Down the Bones.”  I gasp. I clutch at my heart. What is this you say, Natalie Goldberg? Broken hearted from producing Writing Down the Bones?

This is the book I have bought so many times over, and I’ve given these copies to many of my friends who could be writing or should be writing or I just want them to think about writing for my own selfish motive of getting to read their words.

And here, in her book Thunder and Lightning, she begins with a warning: she has never gotten over the heartbreak of writing that beloved book that sits tattered on my cover and sewn into my writing life.

“All I feel is aching. I was so innocent – I didn’t know what it meant to put my heart in the marketplace,” she says.

Well, if ever some words will stop me in my tracks, it is these from my favorite writing mentor as my book will be released in something just over 20 days.

Is my heart about to break? Do I have no idea how innocent I am, and will I only learn of my naivete when I’ve put my heart in the marketplace?

And Life Comes Back is generous in all it gives away. Some of my first critics have said, “Oh, Tricia, your vulnerability. I read with a lump in my throat, so aware of all that you were so generously giving away.” And, “I read thinking, ‘sweet girl, you’ve said so much.'” Indeed, I have said so much.

Metaphorically speaking, my heart is about to be available everywhere books are sold.

My friend Natalie Goldberg (you know how I call my favorite authors by their first name once we’ve become so deeply acquainted? I somehow always call her by her first and last. Natalie Goldberg. Always Natalie Goldberg.) continues on that same page, “And now this? Art leads to suffering? But it was true. I’d seen it again and again. I don’t know any writer who’s happy. But what else is there to do?”

I ask the same question: But what else is there to do? Live silently, quietly, and let nothing come of the truth that I know?

Not write? Ha. As if.

Many people have asked me in the last week or so, “Are you ready, Trish?” “Are you ready for your books to hit the shelves?” “Are you prepared?” “Have you done all the things you can do to get ready for the big release?”

Well, I have no idea, you scary people who think out loud.

I feel like I’m standing at the edge of the water, watching the tide roll in. “A wave is coming,” everyone says. “Are you ready? Get ready! Brace yourself!”

How do you prepare yourself for such a tidal sloshing?

Well, in my summers at the beach and my honeymoons at the ocean, I’ve learned just a little about the waves. The greatest lesson is this: if I resolve to stand still and keep my toes firmly planted in the sand, then first of all, the sand is going to erode beneath the soles of my feet in a creepy-crawly way that feels like something is eating at my foundations. And then, even as I stand where I am and fight the current, I’ll get knocked to the ground, the sand will burn its signature into my knees elbows and left shoulder, and I’ll come up sputtering and coughing salt water.

But. If I go a little deeper and let the water wash over me, if I pick up my feet and roll with the waves, if I keep in mind that this is bigger than me, then I’m in for a great and wild ride for however long the wave will roll. That’s the rush that keeps me coming back for more, wave after wave, day after day, summer after summer.

My first book is released in a matter of days. So, my heart could get broken, sure. Natalie Goldberg’s certainly did.

But here’s what I know: when the clock strikes midnight and the calendar turns to February 18, the day of the grand release, I’ll be the same girl. I’ll pack lunches and take my kids to school, if I’m lucky we will arrive just after the second bell, and I will come back home, pour a hearty amount of cream into my morning coffee, and start writing again.

God will do what he will do, and there’s no controlling the waves around me.

So I might as well kick up my feet and feel the rush.

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Old Enough to Know

I think the birthdays that end in -5 feel different than the ones that end in -0.

The -0 birthdays seem to mark a new regime, a changing of the guard, a new club you get to join. But the ones that end in -5 seem to feel like the ‘hump’ of a decade. You’ve made it five laps. Five more to go. No grand hoopla here. Just a Dixie cup of water as you run past.

Within the next year, I will turn 35. That feels like a turning point birthday, a big one. Perhaps that’s because I remember when my mom was 35.

Or perhaps it’s because I vaguely remember my middle school girlfriends and I saying to each other, “Does this look good? Or do I look like I’m 35?”

(Dear 13-year-old Tricia, the 35-year-old you is 20,000 leagues more beautiful than you want to be right now. And pegging the pantlegs doesn’t look good.)

I wonder when I will feel old enough to know what I have learned.

* * *

You don’t know what you don’t know when you’re young. How could you?

People who are older nod sagely and say you’ll learn — about love, about marriage, about failing and falling down and getting up and trying to stagger on toward success, about work and children and what really matters, in general and to you. It’s not, they’ll say, what’s on your business card.

I recall hearing this message constantly when I was younger, and thinking that I was getting older as fast as I could. In retrospect, this seems a bit of a shame as well as a vainglorious task.

You’re like a cake when you’re young. You can’t rush it or it will fall, or just turn out wrong. Rising takes patience and heat.

~ Anna Quindlen

Hard Truths and Soft Landings

We trust our friends to tell us what we need to know,

and to shield us from what we don’t need to discover,

and to have the wisdom to know the difference.

Real friends offer both hard truths and soft landings

and realize that it’s sometimes more important to be nice

than to be honest.

~ Anne Quindlen,

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

Becoming Sensuist

Use your eyes, as if tomorrow you would be stricken blind ….

Hear the music of voices, the song of the bird,

the mighty strains of an orchestra,

as if you would be stricken deaf tomorrow.

Touch each object as if tomorrow your tactile sense would fail.

Smell the perfume of the flowers, taste with relish each morsel,

as if tomorrow you could never smell and taste again.

Make the most of every sense;

glory in all the facets of pleasures and beauty which the world reveals to you.

~ Helen Keller

Small Slivers of Light

“It seems as though maybe this is an okay way to celebrate Christmas. That maybe this is the way you move on. You find the small slivers of light, and you hunker down in them. You hole up in the still warmth of this kind of beauty and you wait, knowing that the beams will get wider and wider every day. Knowing that one day, you will wake into the full power of the sun, and you will finally be warm.”

~Addie Zierman, When We Were On Fire