It’s Not You; It’s Me.

If you’ve invited me to meet you for coffee, I have likely said no. And I’m sorry about that. It’s not you; it’s me.

I know it seems like I’m not working during the day, but I am.

I know it seems like I love to talk because I’m spilling words all the time, but I actually often have kind of very little to say.

I know it seems like, if I’m having a good day, if I’m in a good place, then I should be able to meet with someone I enjoy to make the day even better.

I know I may seem like an extrovert, and maybe I will be again.

I know I may seem like a hermit, and I probably am, just a little bit.

Please forgive me. It’s not you; it’s me.

***

I believe that solitude, more than anything, breeds creativity, breeds originality.

~ Elizabeth Berg

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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.

These Saturday Nights

Hey, Mom,
remember on the weekends
when we could sleep on the floor in your room
and after we finished watching a movie together
you turned off all the lights
but you kept music streaming through the TV
and we could see the glow of your laptop
and hear the click of your fingertips on the keys
and we knew you were thinking and writing and creating
while you were humming your melodies
and we listened to you while you listened to us,
until you were the only one listening to our sleeping breaths?
Those were my favorite.

That’s what they’ll say to me someday.
That’s what they’ll say about this night.
These weekends. These Saturday nights.

This life we’ve made for ourselves.

Neither Pam Beasley nor Queen Latifah

I came to terms with the fact that I needed to hire an assistant. And that sentence still feels so strange in my head and at the tips of my fingers.

An assistant? What kind of assistant? Are we talking Pam Beasley from The Office? Or more like Queen Latifah from Stranger Than Fiction? And who am I to think I need an assistant?

Well, if you’ve been recently waiting for me to fulfill some seemingly small request, then you might be a person to wildly wave your arms and say, “I do. I do, Tricia. I am one to think you need an assistant.”

I realized that having an assistant isn’t a matter of pride, but rather a matter of humility. It isn’t about tossing around the words “have your people call my people” and making sure someone in the world knows how I like my coffee, at what temperature, time, and color.

No, it’s actually about coming to terms with the honest truth: this endeavor has become bigger than me. Administrative tasks and appointments, contacts and contracts, hotel reservations and airlines tickets – these and many of their cousins are piling up all around me.

This, in itself, is altogether awesome because there’s a strong admin streak in me that loves to make a list, cross things off, connect the dots, and make the details come together flawlessly.

(Please don’t laugh. It’s true. I used to make a living at this. Until I abandoned it all to teach America’s future how to read.)

The problem right now, though, is that administrative tasks are not my job – writing is my job. And I haven’t been able to do the things only I can do because I’ve been distracted and overloaded doing the things that I can hire someone else to do.

This morning, I interviewed my leading candidate, and while she and I talked shop at my dining table, Tucker offered himself as our (shirtless) barista, making Keurig coffee for each of us, serving cream on the side, muffins with forks, and randomly a jar of chocolate almonds. He called us “you girls.” As in, “Would you girls care for anything else this morning?”

I didn’t ask him to step into this role as server/barista/butler, but I have perhaps never found him more charming.

Ashley was charmed as well: I offered her the job, and she said y-e-s. And with those three letters, that one simple word, I’m already breathing easier. Someone else is thinking with me.

“Let me run these details past my assistant.”
“I’ll forward this email to my assistant.”
“My assistant knows all about that – she’s running that event.”

(I’m practicing.)

Because, my friends, Ashley is on. the. job.

Captain Crunch and Job.

I spilled a bowl of Captain Crunch Berries into my bible this morning.

My elbow came down, right into the bowl, everything toppled over, and just like that, Murphy had a feast of dairy and sugar on the floor, and my delightful disposition had been altered just a few degrees.

I’ve always said that I respect and admire damage to a book. (I am a faithful damager of books.) It breeds character. It tells the story of the story.

I think the swollen pages say, “She took this book to the pool on a summer afternoon, and her fingertips were drippy as she read.”

Or, “The pages are stuck together because she was eating graham crackers and frosting while she read.”

Or, “The black streak on the back cover is some kind of librarian code from the bookstore where she bought it.”

Or, “The scribbles on the inside cover are from her toddler, and she has dozens of such books from that season in her life.”

Or, “She dropped it in a puddle. Give her a freaking break.”

Or, “She was reading while she was fixing dinner, hence the marinara sauce on the binding.”

And now my bible, Job 19-23, is stained, tattered, torn, sticky, and lumpy. The pages are crispy and crunchy.

But on these pages, I had underlined these words Job spoke to his friends, those who meant so well but were really only good for him while they sat quietly without speaking. (Let this be a lesson to us all: silence is not uncaring. It is gracious being.)

Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever. I know that my Redeemer lives.

To read this, on the very week when I will hold in my hands the dream come true, the fruition of two years of writing and many years of life, the book I have written.

Today I claimed these words over this book and any other I will write:

If anyone understands anything from my words, may it be this: I know that my Redeemer lives.

Anything else is love and dry wit and thoughtful endings. But at the core, there is that truth: I know that my Redeemer lives.

I know that my Redeemer lives, and Captain Crunch has left his mark in the book of Job.