I am working on my speech for the Women and Leadership in Philanthropy at Virginia Tech. I am the keynote speaker at an upcoming conference June 1st. The idea that I have been asked to speak at my alma mater has seeped into my consciousness with warmth and sparkle, making me realize that I have, indeed, done OK. I did not pursue my dreams with a goal as specific as "Be asked to speak at my alma mater", but I will admit the idea has crossed my mind now and then over the years that speaking at Virginia Tech one day would be a very cool thing.
So here I am, having been asked to speak about my experiences of making dreams real. And I am writing stories about this, and find myself feeling suddenly awash in emotion, as if all these memories are flooding my mind with crystal clear waters, so clear I can see an array of objects that I associate with these stories. Paint brushes, pens, rubber stamp alphabets, letters with a New Hampshire postmark, a flashlight, and a copy of "Ordinary Sparkling Moments". I am drowning in all of this, and it is beautiful.
I have, over the months, gotten into a frenzy over details that did not go the way I thought they might go. Whenever I do an inventory count of all the books stuffed and stored all over my house, I get a bit deflated. The reality of marketing and selling a book entirely on my own has definitely sunk in, and I have had to work hard to embrace the truth that this book is going to have a long journey, that word of it is going to trickle out slowly here and there, and that it might not really make itself known on a large scale for many months, maybe years. Sometimes this unsettles me, but then I think of May Sarton, and how I had never heard of her until many years after she died. And now here she is - a magnificent, inspiring force in my life, all made possible because of her books, books that include struggles of her own along these same themes: "We do the best we can and hope for the best, knowing that 'the best', so far as selling goes, is a matter of chance. The only thing that is not chance is what one asks of oneself and how well or how badly one meets one's own standard."
And I also think of so many other moments, moments that would have made all of this worthwhile even if I had sold only one book. The moment when I came downstairs the morning after my husband and I got into a huge fight - so huge we slept in separate beds - to find him reading "Ordinary Sparkling Moments" for the first time (he had insisted from the beginning that he did not want to read it until it was finished), looking up at me and showing me in the look on his face how blown away he was. Him telling me that he had envisioned a happy, flirty book that was all about being an artist and having fun, that he had no idea of the substance that would be in the book. How our marriage - our partnership - changed in that instant, and we began writing an entirely new story together. It was through "Ordinary Sparkling Moments" that he began to see me, and this alone makes every moment I've spent on this book worth it.
I could take up your entire afternoon with more stories like these, stories that aren't about The New York Times bestsellers lists, Amazon ratings, quantifiable data or blog statistics, but stories about moments in my life that are more precious than any book advance or accolade. This book has its own plans, and the most important thing I can do on this journey is recognize and appreciate all the gifts I am being given along the way. That is the reward; that is the meaning beyhind all of this.