Owning the Path You’re On

Breaking News: Flashes of War has been selected as a Finalist for the Literary Fiction BOOK OF THE YEAR award given by the Military Writers Society of America. It looks like I’m in good company with 3 other authors. The winner will be announced September 28th, 2013. Meantime, the Los Angeles Review of Books published a blush-worthy nod to my debut: “a deceptively minimalist style that out-Carvers Carver and exposes the traumas of war without any breast-beating outrage.” Yowzah!

It’s been an interesting summer. That’s putting in mildly, but perhaps I can be specific: Like all writers I know, I worked hard to get to this first book. During my three years on the road–which also included many moments of joy and peace and beauty [use links for photo slideshow]–I hit a few low points. Everything I owned fit into my car. I didn’t have a steady boyfriend and, as the miles rolled beneath me, I left a trail of could-have-beens, what-ifs, and hard-earned tears in my wake. I missed weddings and births in the lives of people I have known for decades. Friends took on mortgages and earned promotions. Others lost loved ones and earned degrees. Was I there for them, if not also in spirit, at least via a phone call? I hope so, but I know I missed things in my flurry of bags packed and routes mapped.

I think I can safely say I started shedding the baggage of my decision about a year ago, right
here at Interlochen, on this very specific night. This was before I’d received the book contract but after I realized my time on the road was over and my next stop would be going home…and staying home, for as long as I possibly could. I loved what I had done and knew I was better for the experiences–professionally and personally–that life on the road offered. But for too many weeks (or months?), I’d been focusing on the path I didn’t choose. I felt ashamed. Didn’t I have an entire world of freedom to be thankful for? And yet, something in me had worn thin. The open road and uncertainties that once invigorated me, now created a sense of dread and made me want to withdraw. Sure, I could keep going. I could go and go and go forever. I frequently had visions of walking for days, weeks…dropping my belongings piece by piece as I went. It felt thrilling and terrifying all at once, and I wondered if my parents would ever forgive me if I left them–and this world–in that way. I wanted to walk off the map and disappear into the fullest and deepest manifestation of life on the road. That was when I knew I had to stop.

So much of life is about owning the path that you’re on. We get ourselves to where we end up, after all, right? People and places influence and steer us along the way, but ultimately we’re the ones who get ourselves onto the track. I owned the open road literary lifestyle for as long as I could, and then it owned me and I had to stop. This summer, I’ve been trying hard to own the book tour path…but part of me feels torn and tugged by home, home, home. As soon as I realized the split-brain feeling I was having, I got edgy. I spent about two weeks fretting over everything–when would I get back, how would I pick up where I left off, what about all the things I was missing, when was my personal life going to move forward instead of staying on pause, how many more weeks would I have to be gone in the next year for the book, blah blah blah. I wanted this book. Now I have it. I’ve got to own it and let it take me where it needs to. Home will still be there when I’m finished. It always has, and thank goodness for that.

Home, Sweet Home.

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