The key to moving forward might be letting go. When your heart is broken, for instance. Letting go of the possibility of working things out is absolutely key to moving forward. So long as you hope, you're at the whim of events beyond your control. Will s/he or won't s/he let me live my life? You've lost all power in determining the outcome.
|It was fun and the pictures were funny|
To seize power is to forget about hope. You move forward from zero when you have no alternative. We want to live in the present and not in the past or the future. We are alive right now. We are breathing and the world is before us and although we cannot make our sun stand still, yet we will make him run!
But the example I really wanted to share with you is about knocking for years at the closed doors of traditional publishing houses. For years, I stood knocking, shifting from foot to foot and biting my nails on the doorstep, waiting hopefully for acceptance. My stories and articles seemed to fend for themselves well enough, so why not this novel? After all, I had so much invested. Oh, this novel and the pain of rejection! This was my baby over which I had laboured long and hard.
I might have done better to leave it in the hands of my capable literary agent and move on with my life. How I tried. I began a new novel, and focused on my sculpture, my teaching, on my friends and family. But somehow I couldn't let go of this book, because I lived in the hope of its eventual publication. This is the cycle of despair: living in hope, gutted by rejection. How much longer could I reasonably keep hoping before I became ridiculous, not just to others but to myself?
Then over dinner with our friends Brett and Bill I had a conversation in which Bill posed a fascinating question. He asked me to imagine my past present and future in physical space. Where did I place them? Some people, he told me, put their past behind them, their future before them and themselves in the present. Others saw their past present and future in a row of panels in front of them on the table.
I realized I pictured my past and present directly before me -while my future was off to the right hand side, somewhere in midair and unsupported, waiting to realize that gravity couldn't hold it up.
Was I waiting for it to drop out of sight?
How would it feel, said Bill, if you moved your future to a position more closely in front of you?
With this, I experienced a surprising mental breakthrough. I saw, for instance, that our home was moving from present into future. It wasn't stuck in the past. Ben and I decided to make a library in the largest most beautiful room, and thus shift the gravitational focus of the home.
In September, I traveled for several weeks to England and France, visiting friends and family. We talked, my friends and I - and most of them are in the arts - about our books, our music and our theatrical careers. My report seemed always to be the same old same old: my book -- yes I was still harping on about this same bloody book -- and though it was represented by a very capable agent, it had still not found a publisher! The market was dire, I told my friends once more! Nobody wanted to take the chance, even when they liked it.
"I'm on the verge of giving up," I told my dear friend Alice, a novelist, as we sat together in a coffee shop in Stroud. "I think instead, I'm going to be a person who does Bikram yoga. That's going to be my identity from now on. I will be a person who practices Bikram yoga."
She laughed. She might have been relieved. Or perhaps she didn't believe me. But it was a good idea. Because in yoga we learn to be present. We learn to let go of the pose that went before - and not to think about postures yet to come. Wasn't my book just a posture I had done? It was something I'd worked on, admittedly very hard, in the past. But now I was in a different posture. This was the present. What was my present going to be about?
In Paris I had the sudden and peculiar impulse to draw. I bought a little sketch book in a Japanese shop in Les Halles. I was fascinated by the rooftops outside my daughter's window - the straight lines of chimney stacks, drainpipes and antennas, the jutting attic windows. My energies shifted and I felt myself fully present. It was fun and the pictures were quite funny. I was full of energy.
|Nothing invested but the present moment, nothing to lose|
I returned to Virginia and resumed my practice of Bikram yoga. I got back into the sculpture studio and also some new and inspiring teaching work lined up.
Then I received an email. It came from my wonderful agent in London. "I have good news..." she wrote. And yes, it was my novel. Without any help from my constant worry and hope, she had found it a publisher.
|I sketched silly pictures of rooftops|