You should have seen my face that Friday night when I saw the subject line from Spirituality & Practice in my inbox. It said, “Editors’ Pick – The Best Spiritual Books of 2018.” It also seemed to say, “I dare you to open this email without any attachment to what you find inside.”
Since it was only 3 days since The Courage Way’s first book birthday, I was humbly hoping that maybe a birthday gift was inside. But I didn’t want to get my hopes up, because after all, a lot of best books are published each year. I opened the message…
The editors, Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, said this, “We had in mind the above sentiment from novelist and activist Kathleen Thompson Norris when we chose our Best Spiritual Books of 2018 awards. Whether these books lift your spirits, bring you helpful information, or prod you to consider how you’re being called to face challenges, we trust that they will contribute substantially to your happiness. Through diverse approaches, drawing upon the wisdom and practices of the world’s religions, these titles explore the quest for meaning and purpose, wholeness and healing, commitment and community, contemplation and social activism. These are books you won’t want to miss!”
I clicked the link. I started to scroll. I must admit I didn’t recognize many names. Then there was Anne Lamott, whose book Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year accompanied me in 1993 as a new mom. And two years later, her Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life book got me ready to write a cancer caregiving memoir, knowing on the first day of my husband’s brain tumor diagnosis that my spiral notebook at the doctor’s appointment was the first page of notes for My Book (as it came to be known until it was published, until my next book began to take root). It means a lot to be on the same list as her.
Anne Lamott reminds me that creative courage happens a bit at a time, and we have to be kind to ourselves:
“Hey–lighten up, Francis”
This is not a bad line to have taped to the wall of your office, writes Anne Lamott.
I must say, I love Amazon’s “Search Inside This Book” and the Surprise Me! link for it’s amazing mystic divination as a creative resource. I always find just what I’m seeking.
So back to that Friday night on my iphone, scrolling with my finger. Past Anne Lamott, scrolling scrolling, I saw the Dalai Lama’s latest book, A Call for Revolution, followed by a book with a big question mark on the cover, Can it Happen Here?. And then The Courage Way! There it was! On the list! In alphabetical order by title, not counting the The’s. I scrolled quickly then, to find On the Brink of Everything by Parker J. Palmer, which I knew would be there, too.
I was in the kitchen with my parents. “You won’t believe what I just found out?” I told them the news. My mom hugged me. A few minutes later, shock turning to joy, I looked at my mom and threw my arms in the air, rattled my hands and yelled something like “Wahoo!”
I texted the link to Parker, Both our books made the list at Spirituality & Practice website. I forwarded the email to a few friends. I texted a few others who I wanted to share the joy in the moment. I was about to post it to Facebook and then my courage choked up in my throat. I froze.
Would this be seen as bragging? Would this be seen as too much about the book just a few days after posting about the book’s first birthday? Would it be good to take a photo of my book with Parker’s and post that, or share it from the S&P Facebook page? My inner perfectionist was all hung up on aesthetics and the right/wrong of best practice for authors. Besides, it was time to eat dinner. First things first.
After dinner was too dark for a good photo of my book next to Parker’s. And besides, mine is a few inches taller and wider than his and that just didn’t look right to me, side by side. He’s the seasoned bestselling author.
The next morning, I went to a women’s writing group, the local chapter of Women Writing for (a) Change, to soak in the practices that I first learned for giving soulful, trustworthy feedback for women finding their voices by putting their truth into words. Back in 2002, maybe ’03, I first starting writing My First Book in earnest in a WWf(a)C circle of trust. That’s where I first heard about Parker. My facilitator friend from back then is who let me know of the job opening at the Center for Courage & Renewal, which she saw on Parker’s Facebook page. I was going to share my exciting news that Saturday morning, but I only knew the facilitator in this larger circle of mostly new writers. In the small circle of three, I mentioned I was an author and one of the women said, “Oh, that’s intimidating.” I decided then, for sure, not to mention word of the award. It’s important to celebrate with people who know you already, I thought.
Sunday I was sick to my stomach and besides throwing up, I slept most of the day. That wasn’t about the angst over sharing my news, it was a bug.
Monday morning, I was ready to share the news. I sent emails to colleagues, and I posted the screenshot on Facebook, on Twitter, even went as far as sharing the post on LinkedIn as well. It took more courage than I expected. But of course people were happy to Like the good news and share heartfelt Congratulations. I had nothing to worry about.
I had to reframe my worry about bragging into honest rejoicing. Of course we should celebrate the effort that goes into our work. And enjoy recognizing not only the content, but the wordsmithing. I had to remember, as Peggy Klaus says, that it’s okay to toot our own horn!! I wrote:
Thank you so much, everyone! I love the re- words especially — to revel and rejoice in the book’s recognition. It takes courage to even be seen in this way and to remember it’s not a brag-fest, but a celebration of important concepts, hard work and amazing leaders. And a blessing to have been tasked with weaving the words.
It takes courage to create a book, and it also takes courage to have the right amount of pride in your work. We must find that healthy place between humility and hubris. New authors require affirmation. We need to build up our street cred. We need helping spreading the word of good books. We need to take joy in the fruits of our labors, and invite our community to join in the fun. We can create our own celebration.
It brings to mind a few quotes. This one I had taped to my office wall while writing The Courage Way:
Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.
Or this one by Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love (part of which I had attributed to Nelson Mandela as many others have):
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Or the best one, thanks to Anne Lamott:
Look, honey, when it comes to fortifying your creative courage, this is not a bad line to have taped to the wall of your office.