Friday, October 5, 2012

Meeting Laura Moriarty

I couldn't decide if I wanted to go or not. I felt like crap. The constant tickle in my throat caused by allergy-induced post-nasal drip was making me cranky and tired.  The only thing keeping me from suffocating on my snot was the gobs of diphenhydramine I was popping.  My body must be building a tolerance to the drug.  I no longer fall instantly asleep while on Benadryl, but instead I wander around in a foggy haze.

I came this close to not going.  But I'm happy I did.  I made it to the Laura Moriarty event at the library.  She read from her novel The Chaperone, answered audience questions, and afterwards, she signed books.  She's one of my favorite writers, so despite feeling under the weather, I felt over the moon when I finally met her.

And guess what?  She reads my blog.

Through a mutual friend, I had friend-requested Ms. Moriarty on Facebook.  That's where she found links to my blog posts.  I knew this as I approached the book-signing table, since she had commented on a couple of my posts, but we had never met in person so I didn't expect her to notice me right away.

"Hi Becky!  It's so nice to see you!"

I can't tell you how thrilling it is to stand in line for nearly an hour to meet one of my favorite authors who had just driven me to tears reading from her latest novel, and then have her rave about my blog, even referring to it by its odd name, This Ambiguous Life, to the others standing in line.  I can't stop smiling.

And when my smile begins to fade, when I feel like crap again and writing is hard and I'm confused and alone and I start to think, is this blog really worth my energy, Ms. Moriarty left me with this:

Keep writing
you're great.

Who, me?  This?  My silly little ole blog?

Who knew it would turn out this way when I decided as a young teen I wanted to be a writer, before the internet existed, avoiding my English homework, lying on my mattress, dreaming of the standing ovation I would receive as I stepped up to the podium to receive my latest award.  I made plans to be this big writer.  Then life got in the way.

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."  -- John Lennon "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)"

That's ok.

My best decisions are generally made completely without contemplation, while I'm busy making other plans.  A self-diagnosed victim of analysis paralysis, I'm the kind of person who never feels ready to make a decision--wait, there might be more data to consider--until I'm so sick of it all I-quick-leap out of thought and into action.

It often gets me into trouble.  But sometimes, it works out for the best.

When Will and I had been dating a couple of years, after a particularly exhilarating romp in the sack, with no previous plan practiced, I rolled over, smiling uncontrollably, and announced: "We should get married."

But that's not the best part.  It's this, Will's unhesitating response: "Sure, why not."  No thought to it.  And look at us.  We're really good together.

I similarly got involved with this blog without thinking things through.  My doctor suggested I cut back my hours at work to help cope with my bouts of depression and anxiety.  My therapist recommended I write as a way of coping with my posttraumatic stress disorder.  So when I found myself with more free time a little over a year ago, I blogged.  I thought of it as a sort of stretching exercise, something I'd do a little here and there before the more strenuous workout of writing a novel.

I finished the novel.  I can't find an agent.  And I can't say I blame them for not taking me on.  When I read over the novel I churned out even I grow tired of it.

So I figured I'd blog until something better came along.  I never knew This Ambiguous Life could be it.

While doing research about religious tolerance and workforce diversity, I came across the enlightened philosophy of The Dalai Lama:

"I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy.  From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering.  Neither social conditioning nor education nor ideology affect this.  From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment.  I don't know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves.  Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness."

--from Tenzin Gyatso, The Fourteenth Dalai Lama's Compassion and the Individual 

I'm a terrible follower of rules and dogma, but if I were going to affix a label to my spiritual affiliation, I'd call myself a Buddhist.  Or maybe a Buddhist Christian.  Oh hell, do I have to make a decision what religion I am?  I love God and I love people and I love Jesus and I love the Dalai Lama and I love all living things, even mice although I prefer not to cohabit with the little fuckers.  What does that make me?  A bourgeois hippie, surely, but what spiritual affiliation?  A Dudeist?  Whatever, it's not really that important what I call myself.  What's important is how I act.  Whether I call myself a Buddhist or a Christian or a Dudeist or a Humanist, if I don't treat people with love and empathy, I'm an empty, fancy-looking vessel.

Even if I never make a final decision about my faith, I agree with the Dalai Lama's statement that the purpose of life is to be happy.  I put a particularly high price on happiness perhaps because of my long history of depression and emotional turmoil, so now I count my blessings for all these happy feelings, grateful and mindful they are difficult to come by.

I want to be happy.  I want you to be happy.  And I understand it's not easy and sometimes the ultimate path to happiness is by slogging through lots of emotional muck.

But I want you, reader, dear friend, to know something.  I am happy.  My foggy plans of Pulitzer Prize winning fame and fortune by now have been wiped away with both my hands and the reality of my life smiles back at me each day I arise and look into the mirror and smile.  I am a writer.  I am a wife.  I am a mother.  I am a voter, a consumer, an advocate.  I am a sister, a daughter, a coworker, a neighbor, a friend.  And I feel most freely me when I express my joys and sorrows on this tangled web we weave.  That's what makes me happy.  The opportunity to put my thoughts into active verbs and rigorous rants in a way that makes me feel like my thoughts amount to action.

Thank you for joining me on this amazing, joyous journey we call This Ambiguous Life.