Category Archives: My book

How did you do it all?

Cover - thumbnailToday I had my first real conversation with a person who had read my book and wanted to talk about it. My friend Laurie had a mental list of questions she wanted to ask me. One of them was: “How did you find the time to do all that you did?” Others have asked me the same question, but I didn’t give the answer much thought until today. I simply believed that I was doing what I had to do as I churned out translations for my full-time job, numerous term papers in school, a 578-page thesis, and many technical articles in its wake, and as I took on unending responsibilities, including my job, teaching, correcting papers, moonlighting, attending classes and studying, working with my husband on a research grant, and later, caring for my elderly mother and aunt. My husband memorialized my schedule in our 1977 Christmas card:

1977 Christmas card reduced w border

I gave Laurie a quick response, but then I got to thinking about it and I realized that there are answers at several levels.

To begin with, there were more available hours in my day. I cheated myself on sleep and structured my life so there was very little nonproductive time. My commutes were short: 10 minutes to get to they office and 15 minutes to get to school, and while I was driving, the radio was silent so I could think about my projects. I even thought about them in the bathtub. I spent almost no time on housekeeping or cooking: I had a cleaning lady and I ate fast food or TV dinners at my desk.

But more to the point, life was very different in the 1970s and 1980s. There was no e-mail: people wrote letters—or didn’t, in my case. No Internet: if you wanted to know something, you could look  it up in a dictionary, encyclopedia, almanac, or some other resource, but more often than not you simply left your curiosity unrewarded. No word processing: if you made a mistake, you covered it with paper tape if it was serious and delivered a copy rather than the original, or you settled for something less than the perfect mot juste. Dithering and obsessing weren’t an option. No cell phones: you weren’t at the beck and call of every Tom, Dick, or Harry at all times of day and night. And there was no Facebook or texting or tweeting or blogging(!): people didn’t need to report everything that was going on in their lives, and if they did, there probably wouldn’t have been an audience, at least among my cohorts: I was older than the me-generation. Also, I didn’t watch television. Our entertainment, when we took time off, was reading, listening to music on the stereo, having a good conversation, going to a show, eating out, or doing something outdoors. The beauty of it was that these leisure activities weren’t  interrupted. Looking back at how my life has changed has been a wake-up call. More than ever, I see that now much of my time gets frittered away on media of different kinds. I know I’m not alone in this.

When I mentioned to Laurie that I also felt I had to do all the things I was doing, she quickly pointed out that I had had the choice not to do them.  In some cases, I passionately loved what I was doing, and that gave me extra enegry.  In other cases, I was fulfilling obligations, and I think that’s another way in which people have changed. It seems to me that our sense of obligation has eroded in the last 30 years.  For my part, I have become a hedonist. While I’m quick to do the things I want to do, it’s almost painful to do the things I’m supposed to do, like pay my bills, drink 8 glasses of water a day, or floss my teeth.

In fact, I believe that at bottom I have always been a hedonist. When I was younger, various forces pulled me in different directions and I did what I thought I had to do in order to survive, financially, emotionally, and in society. It’s possible that that frenzy contributed to my cancer. I was a driven woman, and I ended up getting sick. Getting well again is the subject of my book. Nowadays, I’m much more in touch with my true nature.

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My book

I have spent New Year’s Day reviewing 2012 and considering plans for 2013. Though I’ve been known to fulfill resolutions that I’ve made in the past, I’m not thinking in those terms any more because I don’t want to box myself in. I find more and more that the Universe has sweeter surprises for me than I could possibly have imagined on my own. I want to stay open to whatever comes my way. This past year greatly rewarded my trust in letting go, and I found myself wishing it wouldn’t end.

The first thing I want to talk about is my book, which is the subject of this post.

Cover - for blogMy book.I did have one goal for 2012, and that was to publish my memoir, Finding My Invincible Summer, because my husband Sylvio, to whom it is dedicated, believed that even-numbered years were lucky. I managed to get it done in time for release in November, just before the holidays. Much of the book is a tribute to Sylvio and his gentle heart. I have written about his support through my first round with breast cancer and the wrenching experience of his death, then my struggle to find balance in the face of many challenges, and finally, a change in course that ultimately brought me peace and fulfillment. Turning the book into a reality that can be shared with others has been easily the most gratifying experience of my life.

As I progressed through the chapters, I found myself growing and changing. I became much more honest with my feelings—an evolution that several readers have noticed. My editorial consultant, Carolyn Allen, spurred me along the way with comments like: “I want to know how you felt when that happened. . .” She constantly urged me to go deeper. Then, when it was all over, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I could actually let go of my story. I was no longer stubbornly attached in it.

Still, I wanted people to read the book, though I worried they wouldn’t like it. The feedback I’ve received has been amazing—not only two wonderful reviews on amazon.com, but also many touching messages by e-mail. The response has exceeded my expectations by miles. I feel full and overflowing with gratitude.

This feedback has encouraged me to take the plunge, with some trepidation, and invest in promoting the book this year. I have contracted with a company to send e-mails to libraries and booksellers throughout the English-speaking world, and it will be displayed at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Convention in late January. In addition, I have ordered promotional business cards, bookmarks, and postcards, and I’m having a signing party on January 19. I also plan to take copies to local bookstores. Those are my plans so far. I look forward to seeing how this trajectory unfolds over the course of 2013.

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