Well, I’ve been sitting on this very exciting news for quite a while. I’m not sure why I have waited to spill the beans. Normally, I would be the first to tell the world about me having a new book coming out. Especially since it’s a picture book, a market I’ve been trying to break into for many years.
Snowball Moon was acquired by Little Bee Books this past summer, and I’ve been “allowed” to tell about it for a number of months now. I guess keeping the news to myself reflects how deeply tired I’ve been over the last few months, as I’ve wrestled with getting off steroids. Until very recently, I haven’t had much energy to blog.
But I think there is something deeper, too, about keeping the news to myself. Perhaps something that has to do with my own identity.
I am an attorney.
I am a children’s book author.
I am a wife and mother.
I am a daughter.
I am a person living with brain cancer.
Saying all these things has meaning to me, and all are certainly descriptive of who I am in one way or another. When I was a prosecutor, my identity was very much wrapped up in being a prosecutor. “I’m a prosecutor,” I would say, with no little bit of pride. It was my first job out of law school. I was creating a career for myself. I was “doing good” of some sort, in my own mind at least.
After my first novel, When the Whistle Blows (Philomel, 2009), was published I saw myself as a novelist. I’ve always loved writing. Being published prompted me to say “I’m a writer,” or better yet “I’m an author.” Talk about pride! Still, writing is how I’ve found out who I am, time and time again. It’s how I’ve developed an understanding of my various circumstances and some kind of comprehensive narrative about what my life means.
I’ve always loved being a wife and a mother and a daughter. These are the “jobs” I’ve loved the best, with my whole self. These roles have come much closer to my heart in describing my identity. I truly am these things, mentally, emotionally, physically, biologically.
I guess thinking of self in terms of the function, role, or work I perform is relatively normal in our “go go go” society. Never rest. Must. Do. More. Must. Fill. Role. But thinking this way also shines light on the fact that I always like to grow and learn and become something more than I was in each previous stage of my life. Or if not something more, at least something different.
Being a person with cancer, now that is different. It is certainly not a label or role or identity I sought out or wanted. I have never thought of having cancer as “functional.” In fact, the majority of time in the past year I would describe it as making me more “non-functional.” And yet…
Is there not some function in having cancer? I think there can be.
For me, lately, cancer has had the function of slowing me down. I am tired. I can’t do as much. Many days (depending on the medication I am or am not taking) I’ve found I can’t even really think clearly. On these days, I get no work done. I don’t even get any real thinking done. Time passes. The house gets dustier. Our family stays home more. I may not be doing anything at all, but – at least some of the time – I am slowing the pace of life down for the ones who are closest to me. They stay home with me. They watch me do nothing. They take a load off. They rest. They may even become bored (heaven forbid!). But they are off the expressway. For a while.
Other times, me having cancer has the opposite effect on our family. I can’t do much of anything, so others have to pick up the slack. This can cause them stress and worry. It can make them tired and feel overworked. They have to figure out a way to be more efficient. They have to reorder their priorities. They have to cut some things out of their lives for awhile. They have to figure out how to forgive me for this even if it isn’t, logically, my “fault.” They also have to learn some self-care. In my family, fortunately, this has meant choosing to eat more nutritional foods and cutting out the ones that make them feel bad. It also means talking about how we feel and coming up with solutions that work for all of us. And it means frequent trips to the gym for the healthiest of us to relieve stress and make sure the ol’ bod keeps working properly.
The nature of my being – how I am in the world – affects others. Whether I am full of energy plotting my next “scheme,” or so exhausted I can’t move, my very being has an impact. A function. Sometimes, my function is to be the focal point of love, the spot on the newspaper that flames in the white light that shines through the magnifying glass.
Even in my cancerous fatigue, I keep finding this joy in my gut at simply being alive. It’s like driving fast over a hill and feeling your stomach weightless, like a spaceship is floating around inside your belly. It’s physically thrilling, this being. I realize time and again that I don’t have to do anything to be a part of Life.
So maybe I didn’t spill the beans about selling my book because I’ve been, by necessity, exploring being more than doing lately. Don’t get me wrong, doing is good. Function is good. And getting a book published is beyond words great! (And so is Little Bee Books, by the way!) But the doing of my writing must come from the nature of my being – from who I am, and who I am becoming. And I can’t become who I am if I am always busy doing.
So anyway, did I mention I’ve written this book . . .