And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
I’m on retreat this week and next, and so right now, my world has shrunk a bit. There’s just me, in a little house. This current little house (I’m moving to a different place tomorrow) is plunked smack dab in the middle of the middle of nowhere – and yes, the repetition is intentional. There is nothing here, not within a good half hour to hour drive.
Heavens, people, there isn’t even a television. Thank God for Netflix and Hulu. There is wifi.
So my first thought when I arrived here was, What in the hell am I going to do? I’m used to living in a city. My back yard is Walgreens, my front yard is a bus depot and parking garage. A block away is one of several fire departments and sirens can be heard any time of day or night. When I sit on my third floor deck to relax, it’s to the music of people singing in the bus depot to hear their own voices echo, the rumble of buses and trains, whackazoid city birds who call and call and never sleep and I have to tell you, I love it.
But here – While I’ve been here, I’ve looked up from my little writing table to watch Amish carts pulled by horses go by. I’ve wondered about their lifestyle, their quietness, and when I saw them in the only coffee shop for miles, their posture and their stride which just exemplifies humility and confidence all at once. I’ve laughed at a rooster who crows every day at six in the evening. The evening! There have been bleats from a goat or a sheep. And the constant sound of crickets and other bugs. One middle of the night, I couldn’t sleep, and I bravely ventured out to the front porch to sit in the silver dark of moonlight. When I heard a clip-clop, I wondered why the Amish would be out at three in the morning. But instead of a horse, a deer strolled down the road. She was more ghost than real, and she turned her head toward me and bowed, then kept on going.
The silence here is just as noisy and chaotic and wonderful as it is at home.
But it gave me something else too. I hesitated to write about it, because I was afraid it would make this post too writer-centric, but truly, I think anyone who becomes too busy to be mindful of dreams will get something from it.
My tenth book is coming out. Let me repeat that. My TENTH book is coming out.
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I remember when I was writing, but didn’t know that you could be such a thing, that it was possible to be the one who was putting those words down in books that I loved so much. I traced the pictures in my picture books with carbon paper and rewrote the stories my way, but I didn’t know that what I was doing was writing. My 5th grade English teacher told me I was a writer and it was like putting on a custom-made jacket. It fit.
My whole life has been devoted to writing and to writers. And now my tenth book. I hadn’t really stopped to consider it. Ten.
There have been some rough spots. I’ve taken on some really difficult subjects, and as a result, while I’ve been called a brave, honest, edgy writer, I’ve also been called dark and disturbing. Which has always disturbed me. I’ve never seen my work as disturbing. I see it as redemptive. My characters always come out the other side. But still, the dark and disturbing tattoo stuck, and I’ve actually had the experience of seeing someone pick up one of my books, read the back, and put it down. When the person standing next to this woman said, “No! You have to read that!”, she shook her head and said, “Too heavy. I don’t want to be depressed.”
I have never intended to depress. I’ve intended to lift up.
And so there have been some dark moments for this “dark and disturbing” writer.
And then a switch began two years ago.
When In Grace’s Time came out in 2017, for the first time, I was called “delightful.”
Last year, when Today’s Moment Of Happiness Despite The News came out, the book I never intended to write, and the book I didn’t write as a book, it was called “an absolute joy to read.”
And now, book #10. If You Tame Me. A novel. My fifth. This week, I received a 5-star review that proclaimed, “Above all, it is about doing something about your situation. Don’t feel powerless, whether it be at work, in a relationship or with whichever rather disappointing government you happen to live under – go and do something, big or small, go and live your life.
Yes, I loved this book. It is a joyous, life-affirming read.”
That is all I’ve ever wanted. THAT IS ALL I’VE EVER WANTED.
“Oh my god, Kathie. You’re a writer,” my fifth grade teacher said.
Yes, I am.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.