Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Foreboding Joy/Cautiously Happy

“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” 
― Kahlil Gibran

Hello again! I have least for now. And I come bearing good news.  The last month has been a whirlwind of new experiences, fun times and dreams come true.

The most exciting event that has occurred is…drumroll please…
My memoir: Mami, the Island & Me is getting published by FloriCanto Press! I am currently in the process of editing it and polishing it up to send back to them by the end of the month. There’s no word on when the book will actually be released, and I know that publishing can be a slow and long process, but I am optimistic and excited. Thanks to everyone who has supported my writing efforts, and
believed in me all these years.

When I read the acceptance email, I quite nearly had a panic attack. I paced in my kitchen back and forth, hyperventilating and crying tears of joy. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more excited about anything in my life. (My wedding day was beautiful and wonderful in it’s own way, a different kind of joy).  I have dreamed about this since the age of 13, when it was an elusive, unachievable fantasy. Much like winning a Tony or appearing on Oprah.

In that moment, it really felt like all the hospital visits, the personal and professional sacrifices and time that I had given finally mattered. I knew deep down I always wanted this to happen, and I truly believed it would. But now that it has, it still feels a little unreal. And, because my life has not been a “crystal stair,” I quickly began to fear the worst.

Now that my book is getting published- My lungs are going to collapse.

Now that my book is getting published- My husband is going to die.

Now that my book is getting published- I’m going to get cancer.

Now that my book is getting published – My house will catch on fire.

Now that my book is getting published-  My scleroderma symptoms will return and I’ll be bedridden for life.

My tears of joy and my elation quickly transformed to angst and fear. The last time I felt this kind of joy, it was ripped out of me (quite literally) and taken away. The last time I felt this kind of joy I was pregnant, and then, I was not.
I began to question everything. It’s what a friend of mine calls “foreboding joy.”

What if they rethink they’re answer and say no?
What if I don’t sell any books?
What if I get horrible reviews?
What if it’s a great success and then everything else I write is measured by THIS?
What if I succeed and can’t handle it?
Do I really deserve this?
When will it be taken away?

I had to take a moment and just step back from it all. I had to separate my past from my hopeful future and just accept the present. A lesson my yoga and meditation practice has been desperately trying to teach me for the last 8 months.  So, I sat at my computer, re read the email, and just smiled.  I told my husband and my mom and asked them not to share the news with anyone. I wanted to enjoy it privately for just a little while, just in case…

When I told my husband about my initial fears and anguish, he told me something that put it all in perspective (I love that about him, he always makes everything better). He said:

“Honey, even the house does catch fire. Even if you do end up in the hospital, or get cancer, or whatever. Even if any or all or none of those things happen, it doesn’t change the fact that your book is getting published.”

And it hit me, there are some things in this life that can’t be taken away. I’ve known this about my education and my talents and skills, but I had yet to wrap my brain around it for my other dreams. No matter what tragic life events occur around me, there are certain life affirming events and milestones that will and can remain constant.

I am married to a man who loves me.

My parents support and love me everyday.

I know what my purpose in this life is, and I try to live it everyday.

My words, my life and my presence have inspired hundreds of people.

It no longer mattered if I sold 10 or 10,000 copies. I know my words will reach someone, and hopefully that someone will be changed because of it.  The fact that it’s going to get published is the greatest success of all, and what comes after is just a footnote, not the whole story.

Life has an interesting if not cynical way of working itself out (if you let it), and I think I finally just let go and let it. I finally truly listened to what my body was trying to tell me and I rested. I responded to my gut instincts by taking the time write while I gave my body time to rest. I took a risk and submitted my manuscript because I had to. You can call it God, the universe, divine intervention, whatever you want, but something greater than me guided me down this path and insisted that I pursue this dream. If not for myself, then for others whose lives might be changed because of it.

If only because, I remember when I first read “When I Was Puerto Rican, “ and Miguel Pinero’s “Seeking the Cause,” and how I finally felt like someone understood ME. That my story and my history was being told. That I was not alone in this world after all.

This first memoir is my baby. It is in recognition and in honor of the miracle of life that has been granted to me, on more than one occasion, when my illness could have wrecked havoc on my own dissipating body, but I fought it tooth and nail. 

This memoir is the concrete representation and metaphorical symbol for my own rebirth and awakening. Writing and publishing a book may not seem as miraculous as birthing a child, but for me, it has been and will continue to be a labor of love.