A blog about the amazing things teenagers do, about writing for teens, books for teens, and occasional forays into my world and the world of publishing.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Celebrating the Moment and Being Grateful for What You Have

Three weeks ago my daughter had knee surgery to repair the ACL she tore skiing last January. (We had to wait a year to do the surgery so she would mostly be done growing.) Today was her first day of physical therapy. I watched the physical therapist help my daughter bend and straighten her leg as much as possible. She's doing well, but she's a long way from full range of motion and her usual activities like skiing, soccer, basketball, and volleyball.

After she was finished I dropped her off at school and went to a weight training class at the gym. (I won't tell you how long it's been since I did that.) We did lunges and squats and calf raises, all the things that you would normally do at a weight training class, but for me it was different. Each of those exercises represented something that my daughter can't do right now. It made me think about how grateful I am for basic mobility. It also made me think about how grateful I am that she has a good doctor and good physical therapists, and that she'll regain the full use of her knee within a year.

It reminded me of another lifetime, in another gym, when I was getting three small children ready to go to the swimming pool. While I struggled to get them to hold still long enough to get their swimsuits on and to keep them from running out into the world naked, I was aware of two older ladies. They were slowly getting themselves dressed after a water aerobics class. I remember thinking, "How sad to get old and have to struggle with simple things like bending over to tie your shoes."

Then I overheard their conversation, it went something like this: "Do you see that poor woman over there?" "Do you remember those days?" "Do you remember how hard that was?" Laughter. "Aren't you glad to be past all of that?"

I realized they were feeling sorry for me because I had three small children besides myself to get dressed. They were grateful that they weren't in my position.

This all ties back in to another experience I had a couple of weeks ago as I was finishing up my "first pass pages," one of the last steps before my book is published. At first I was freaked out as I went through the pages. I realized this might be the last opportunity I had to make changes before my story went out into the world. I suddenly wanted to change everything! Fortunately, I'd been warned by my editor that I could only make small changes, like correcting typos. I had to force myself to just read.

As I read the last few pages, something strange happened, I started to cry. Not because the story was that sad, or that good (although it is :)) or because there were so many things I wanted to change. My tears were tears of gratitude. I was overwhelmed with the thought that I had actually reached this point; that somebody (actually a lot of somebodies) believed in my work enough to sell it, buy it, edit it, and ultimately publish it.

It struck me that I've had many opportunities to celebrate during this process; signing with an agent, getting a book deal, getting my edit letters, seeing my cover and my ARC for the first time. As I look back I realize, I never let myself fully enjoy or appreciate any of them. I rationalized with, "Well this is another step, there's still so much to come."

Using that logic you can rationalize the joy out of everything from raising kids; "I'll be happy when my kids can feed, dress, drive, support themselves," to writing a book; "I'll be happy when this book is finished, sells, is made into a movie, makes a million bucks, lands me a spot on Oprah's." (I know, she quit before she got the opportunity to interview me, how sad.) Anyway, my point is you can't base your happiness on the "what ifs" in life, it has to be on the NOW.

Through this whole journey I should have been celebrating every step. The way I celebrated all of my kids' first steps, the way I celebrated my daughter's first steps after her surgery, the way I celebrated the completion of the three novels I wrote that so far no one wants.

There are so many quotes about happiness being a journey and not a destination, but it's not a cliche, it's true. Today, (I know it's a week late for Thanksgiving) I'm grateful for my knees that bend. I'm grateful that all four of my kids can now dress themselves (and that I still don't have to struggle to tie my shoes). I'm grateful that I have a supportive family, that I have a book coming out next year, and that I have the time and ability to write.

I'm even grateful for the little trials and the moments that remind me how blessed I truly am.

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