I'm getting to the point with my book where I need to submit the final draft of my manuscript to the publishers. Because then, copyeditors and proofreaders can do their work and try to make some logical sense of the random places where I chose to put commas. Then, it will go off to the designers and on to the presses and off the presses and into cardboard boxes to go off to bookstores. It's entirely exciting.
And incredibly painful.
Because for the last several years, I've been watching this book grow from a crazy idea, into the 275 page manuscript that sits before me. I've been getting up in the middle of the night with this book. I've been startled awake by the persistent, restless whimpering of a thought or a memory or a funnier word choice - I get out of bed and rush to this computer. I sit in the glow and nurse my book to better health.
And that time is almost over. That part of my job is done.
Now, I have to send this book out into the world.
To be adored or criticized or ignored.
Not to be too dramatic or anthropomorphize too much (who am I kidding, I'm a writer/former actor and my car is named Gwen) but I feel like I'm sending my book off to college to live her own life and I'm not sure if I've done enough to prepare her. I'm not sure if she's strong enough to make it in the real world. I'm worried about where she's going to sit in the cafeteria.
Why is it that humans have such a hard time letting go? We live in a transient world, full of constant change. Births and deaths and seasons and uncontrollable events. And yet, we always assume that some things, if we hang on tight enough, will last forever.
But let's face it, that desperate clinging never feels good.
There is such beauty in change. In growth. We see that all around us right now. It's fall and the trees are turning magenta in preparation to let go of their leaves. It's the essential nature of life.
One of my favorite Buddhist stories is about a monk and a glass of water. He says, "I love this glass. It holds the water admirably. When the sun shines on it, it reflects the light beautifully. When I tap it, it has a lovely ring. Yet for me, this glass is already broken. When the wind knocks it over or my elbow knocks it off the shelf and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ But when I understand that this glass is already broken, every minute with it is precious.” *
I love this idea. This understanding that everything is impermanent, so why not embrace the present moment, with all its joy and discomfort and transformation -- right now? Why not surrender to the realities of this world and just choose to be happy in the face of it? It's all temporary. Even you. So have a blast and love wholeheartedly, before it's gone.
And then let it go with grace.
I want this book to go out in the world. Because I want you to read it. And because I want to sit up at 4 AM in the glow of my computer screen, and nurture another book into existence.
So, now you know where I'm going be the next few nights, until I have to turn my manuscript into an email attachment and push Send. I'll be sitting right here, enjoying my little baby...while she's still just mine.
And then I'll let it all go, and get ready for whatever comes next.
* This version of the quote is from a wonderful PBS documentary called The Buddha. It's a great introduction to the concepts of Buddhism and it has "Keep Until I Delete" status on my TiVo. Even though "Keep Until I Delete" reflects an amount of permanence and control that is clearly not very Buddhist...