In September, as the book tour schedule was being assembled—even though I very much want to be out in the world promoting WATL—I had a bit of a panic attack when I saw that I'd be flying every day for the first week. I don't like being in enclosed spaces and used to rely on a drink or two to get me through a flight.
With my heart pounding about the tour schedule, I went for a walk in the woods with Alicia. Toward the end, we crossed paths with a young father, his small daughter, and their aging dog. As if we had known each other for her entire life, the little girl walked right up to me and said something too quickly for my ears to catch.
"She comes at you fast," the young dad said and then gave me a sympathetic look that seemed to say, You're on your own.
I bent down and—in my best talking-to-a-little-kid voice—said, "Hey there, what would you like to tell me?"
A little slower, but with as much unfettered joy as the first time, she said: "At your home what kind of dog do you have?" and then looked up at me like she and I were going to be the greatest of friends.
"A border terrier," I said.
"What's his name?"
"Do you want to see who is on my cup?" she asked and—before I could answer—she was introducing me to all the PAW Patrol characters with such an unbridled sense of giving and fearlessness that I immediately stopped feeling anxious. It was like she infected me with her ease and joy.
You could literally feel purity and light emanating from her.
She was the opposite of anxiety.
"Let's let the nice people have their walk," the dad said—sending a warm thank-you-for-indulging-my-daughter nod in my direction. The little girl replied, "Okay," and then skipped on down the road.
I've since made that little girl my role model for being more open and at ease in the world. And I plan to carry the memory of that interaction on all those planes and through all those airports. Maybe I can even practice a little unencumbered friendliness and let go of all the clenched-fist adulting I've picked up over the last almost forty-nine years. Maybe if I get really brave I'll even turn to a fellow weary traveler and say the adult equivalent of, "At your home what kind of dog do you have?"
Two plus years of Jungian analysis has taught me the value of seeking answers within, rather than trying to solve everything externally. I work on my mental health in the safe container of analysis. And I try to always look within for validation and a sense of selfhood. Some days this is harder than others, but I keep trying and inching forward in the right direction.
There is no golden ring somewhere out there waiting to be grasped. There is only what is and always has been within each and every one of us. All the rest is an illusion with which our unchecked egos collude.
My sobriety has also helped to cut down on the emotional rollercoaster rides.
And I have come to embrace what my old writing mentor, Roland Merullo, told me back when I was still a green unpublished novelist:
"Every novel has a fate."
That doesn't mean that novelists shouldn't try to do what they can to promote their books. It just means that the ultimate destiny of a creative project is often decided above our pay grades. Internally raging against this reality caused me much suffering over the years.
I still very much want We Are the Light to find a large audience and I have been doing everything I can—without making myself mentally or emotionally sick—to promote. I am, of course, hoping my latest will be embraced by the world. But I also hope that this time around I can maintain the right perspective, stay psychologically grounded, and enjoy the ride, regardless of outcome.
I'm hoping to maintain the humility necessary to accept that We Are the Light has a fate that is mostly beyond my scope of influence.
All that said...
If you have enjoyed the M.P.L. and would like to repay the favor—and give me an early birthday present in the process—please consider preordering copies of We Are the Light from your local bookstore. You can give them to your family members, friends, neighbors, lovers, enemies, coworkers, and/or even complete strangers. Every new copy of a book sold is a vote for an author's career. Publishers keep publishing those who sell. And you can vote as many times as you like.
If you'd like a signed copy of We Are the Light, please contact Downtown Books in Manteo, NC or hit the SIGNED COPIES button on my website.
And here's where you can see me live (and virtually) in November: EVENTS. Feel free to check the website periodically, as events will continue to be added and modified. Some events require registration.