I have just been through the most challenging several months of my life so far. Without going into all the gory details, suffice to say that facing a loved one’s grim health diagnosis, medical emergencies attendant to that, spending way too many hours in hospitals and medical clinics, together with selling one house and buying another, then moving from one home to another with an interim four-month stop living with relatives (I love you two!) and putting most of my worldly possessions into storage, then packing up and moving a law office at the same time, has sent me very close to the edge. There is a limit to what one person can handle and, while I did not take to my bed in desperation, I wanted to. Often. But let’s move on. Because moving on is what keeps us going.
This morning, eight days after our official move-in to our new home, I finally unpacked those little doo dads that hold shelves into bookcases. Mind you, I’ve been unpacking boxes for seven days and seven nights and feeling weighed down by the sheer volume of stuff we still own— even after reading the tidying up book and dong my best to only hold onto things that sparked joy! (See blog post of May 2.) But here I am with the reality of a life lived with so much joy! Of course I kept the baby/toddler clothes that my mother (long since gone) sewed with love for my oldest daughter. Of course I kept the camping gear, even though I no longer like to sleep on the ground but don’t want to admit that. And, of course I never got to that project of going through all the boxes of photos and scanning them to manageable DVDs! Tomorrow is another day, as Scarlett and I like to say.
But today! Today I found the bookshelf hardware and started my day by unpacking and
placing the first books on the shelf in my new office — the one with the great window facing a boulevard and beautiful homes on the other side. Did I mention, I LOVE our new house and especially this Mt. Baker neighborhood? I digress. So, which books to place on the very top shelf of my bookcase? Well, of course I chose my writing friends. By that I mean those writers I love who have written books on writing that I have turned to over and over again. First? Jane of course! Jane Smiley is my best writer friend. So with much joy, I place 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel on the top shelf. This makes me smile. My husband peeks into the room and notices: This is the first smile I’ve seen on your face in days, he says. I hold up the bag marked Office Bookshelf Hardware and he smiles back and leaves me to it.
Next I choose Anne, Elizabeth and then Sue (Lamott, George and Grafton.) My smile widens as I feel the energy of these favorite writer girlfriends on my shelf. So now I’m ready for a few of my most-loved guys. I happily place Stephen next to Anne, then Charles, then Oakley to round things out. (King, Baxter and Hall.) I have half a thought about what a fabulous dinner party this would make, then admit that I’d be too shy and in awe to say much at any gathering of high-powered authors. Like the time I met Jane Smiley at a book reading at Elliott Bay Books here in Seattle. I had bought a copy of the book she was promoting, and also carried with me 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, which I asked her to sign because, I gushed, “This one’s my favorite!” Jane looked up from her signing task and smiled, “That’s my favorite too,” she said with a kind and knowing look. And I was tongue-tied but managed to comment on how much I’d enjoyed her selection of the one hundred novels she read in preparation for writing that book. I mention The Decameron for some reason which now escapes me and she suggests I read it so I promise I will. And I will Jane, I will!
So now I face the joyous task of unpacking the rest of these boxes of books and deciding where to place them on the shelves so empty of books, but so full of possibility. And I think I’ll take my time about it. There’s no deadline after all.
And next, if only we could unpack a medical miracle. That would really spark some joy.
- – Rachel