Ah, summer. You have finally deigned to grace us with your presence, and those of us here in the midwest are appropriately grateful. I am showing my gratitude this Independence Day weekend by exercising my freedom to sit on the deck, read, ride my bike, read, go for a ride in our classic sports car, read, eat lunch at a favorite outdoor cafe, read...well, you get the picture.
Tonight I will be doing something brand new for me, at least new for me as a writer. Tonight I am attending a book club meeting in the role of “author,” a word I still feel strange applying to myself. It’s a momentous occasion, and, as you might guess for this introverted person, a little bit terrifying.
But still, it’s something I have been so looking forward to doing, something I was honored to be asked to do. And in the end, I keep reminding myself, these women in the book club who read Life In General are women very much like me. They are in the throes of this Life In General business just like I am. I am hoping there was something in my book, something in the words they read there that has connected with their heart and spirit.
This week I’ve been reading The 10 Letters Project, a book by Jen Lee and Tim Manley that captures a year’s worth of emails between these two creative people, emails in which they discussed the intersection of life and art and work. It’s the perfect book to read this week, as I prepare my thoughts for tonight’s gathering. Six months after the publication of Life In General, I’ve been able to see more clearly the importance of putting our voice into the world and gain some greater perspective on the reasons this endeavor was so important for me personally.
And because my original expectations for my book were small, I’ve felt continually bowled over by the reception it’s received. I have been given the gift of being heard, of connecting my story to the lives of other women, many of them total strangers, who now know me in some way, who carry a small piece of me around with them.
Make no mistake, it’s a scary thing to put your life out in the world for all to see. I have said jokingly to people that “my life is now an open book,” but it’s really true. There is part of me that sometimes want to pull it all back in, to run around and grab everyone’s book and say, “Just erase all that drivel from your mind.” That is the part of me that thinks my life is so ordinary that it’s not worth writing about, and certainly not worth reading about.
But then one of those readers will reach out to me with a comment like, “I feel so much better since I read the chapter you wrote about church and religion. I thought I was the only one who felt that way!”
The gift of a message like that is two-fold: of course it’s validation that my words and experiences can mean something to others. But it also gives me the gift of knowing I’m not alone either. And for someone like me, whose circle of family is SO small, it helps to know I’ve left something of myself behind, let it loose into a world of people that become a little bit like an extended family to me.
“The truth is,” Lee writes, “that with all of our work we are asked to do it on faith. Faith that it is worth making whether we ever see the difference it makes or the pleasure it brings or not, because we never really get to know how far it travels and how much it means and to whom.”
Tonight I will get a glimpse of where Life In General has traveled, and I’m thrilled to go out into the world along with it.