October was the happiest, most productive, purposeful, and fulfilling month I can remember in recent history. Paradoxically, it wasn’t without its enormous challenges. I send my warmest heartfelt greetings and good wishes to you and all the loving, kind, generous-spirited friends who have individually and collectively supported me on my journey.
Great good news. My book “Joyful Living In the Real World” was sent to and received by my new literary agent Henry Thayer. He sent an email to my typist and it looks perfect. What Carl and I began, Henry and I will be able to complete. What I’m experiencing in this dramatic process of transition is that hard work and focus pays off. “Joyful Living In the Real World” is my 29th book. When I was close to finishing writing the book in pastel notebooks longhand, I dreamed up what I most wanted to write for my 30th book.
I went to begin “Book 30” (as I affectionately call it) when I let go of book 29 to be typed, before I did the necessary corrections and edits to send it off to Henry. My work on one book was behind me – until I received essays back from one of my two typists; rather than skipping a beat, I felt I was on a roll and wanted more than anything to continue writing, merely changing to a new book, although changing a page. Beginning a new book before the current one is complete has always been my habit. It is an emotional time when your private musings are seen by a professional. Because I love to write, I greatly value other people reading my thoughts, but I also want to be certain that what the reader sees is the best that’s in me at the time. My trusted literary agent and lifelong friend Carl Brandt was there for me, guiding me, until his death. Henry will now assume that critical role.
Thank you for your patience during this process. As I felt my deep commitment to write and publish books, I made some physical changes in the environment where I write that is proving to be far more inspiring than what I’d first envisioned. Adding the stand-up desk in my writing room led to rearranging the desk in front of the window. I had to clear the piles and piles of five years of work and research notes away from the surfaces to clear out the old and make way for the new. The bookcases are deep in order to house manuscript boxes and research documents and books.
Brooke saw the need for me to get myself settled into my newly expanded office space and offered to help me rearrange myself, expanding my writing room into Peter’s more spacious room. Putting my materials in his space feels so right. I feel his writing room has come back to life. I’m drawn to enter both rooms.
The added bonus of having Cooper, my nine-year-old writer in residence, love her desk in front of the window that looks directly across Harmony Street to her dear friend’s Stella and Mia’s house, adds to the attraction. One thing always leads to another. Rearranging the writing rooms on the second floor has inspired me to spend more time on “3,” in front of the fan window with the best view of the harbor. I have my back to the memorabilia, on a high swivel chair. It’s fun to swing around to Peter’s high desk and use it as an extra surface when I work. There is no more wonder-filled space imaginable. This space is where everything lands that weaves together the various threads of our earlier lives. The entire space is one huge treasure chest.
Equally as enchanting as climbing the stairs to putter and explore, is to light a candle, have one-flower meditation,and dip my fountain pen into a bottle of ink, aware of the quiet, calm, focused energy that makes me feel this is the exact place where I most want to be right now.
The other morning it was pouring. I went to “3” to light the lights and listen to the patter of rain on the roof. The wind and rain caused quite a stir, with the leaves falling freely. Soon the street will be bare exposing more water view. I anticipate long cozy visits to working up the stairs from the writing rooms when grandchildren are only there in spirit.
I was going to Washington to visit my family the end of October and I had it as a goal to complete all the edits to the entire book the week before I left for me not to have this book completion drag on indefinitely. My computer helpers agreed and worked together to make this happen, teaching me that without my own deadline I would not accomplish the necessary focused hours of commitment to the work. I dropped everything every day until 5pm.
One of the evenings was the Choosing Happiness fundraiser on October 5th from 7-9 pm at the Indulge Coffee Shop. With the help of friends, we transformed the already charming coffee shop space into a flower stem garden. Dahlias everywhere, flowered table cloths on all surfaces, and fifty votive candles, a few Roger Muhl paintings and a full house made the evening a celebration to long remember. Having so many finishing touches I brought from the cottage added to the intimacy of home. In my enthusiasm arranging the dahlias and setting the tables, I dashed home minutes before the guests arrived to change my clothes. A few minutes into my welcome remarks I realized I’d left my glasses at home when I took them off to change my clothes. If I had any urge to review my notes, I was spared. It was much more fun being spontaneous, resting my eyes!
I’m getting quite excited about the Happiness Retreat at the Inn on November 8, 9 and the morning of the 10th. Because it falls on my 76th birthday, I’m indulging in the pleasure of being with friends and new friends to experience these retreats with open hearts. All that is necessary is for everyone to show up with the best of intentions. The Tibetan Buddhists have an expression, “Good Intention, Good Result; Bad Intention, Bad Result.” I will report to you next month, and hope there will be other opportunities for you and friends to come if you weren’t able to this time.
I’m quite stimulated that I’ve sent my ship out to sail. I feel I have the wind on my back, moving me forward. It doesn’t matter where we are as long as we’re moving in the right direction I, like all of us, have no idea where I’m going, but I’m aware how thankful I am to be loving the adventure so passionately.
Pre-dawn Thursday, October 26th, I received a phone call from a dear friend. I called Mary Ellen in Vero Beach, Florida to tell her I had good news, “Joyful Living,” book 29, had been sent to Henry. She did the typing for several of Peter’s books and my book “Happiness For Two” and understands empathetically that this book is my lifeline. Mary Ellen was on her way to have cataract surgery. Her beloved father, Spencer Montgomery, is 103 years old, lives in Vero Beach near her, and is still class secretary at Yale. Every time I’d have the pleasure of seeing Spen he’d ask me how my favorite teacher Aristotle is. At 12:35 Thursday morning, her dad died, holding her hand. Now Mary Ellen has 20-20 vision. Spen could no longer see, so she can see for and with him in his new world. Spen died on a Thursday. I light candles on “All things Peter day” because he died at 2:57 pm. Now, Mary Ellen will share this ritual.
Before taking the train to Washington the end of October, I enjoyed a few soft, gentle, sweet unscheduled days bouncing around as though I have wings, feeling a paradoxical lightness of “being” now that I am temporarily working on book 29. However, the feeling isn’t relief, as it is awareness of my good fortune to love my work. I realize this is rare—life is made up of work and love; love of work makes life paradise on earth.
Most people know I don’t like Halloween. My daughters felt deprived growing up in New York City, not being able to trash the apartment with ugly ghosts and scary, mean witches. The color combination of orange and black is pretty unacceptable to me. Obviously, Halloween is not about me, and because this is one holiday I’m happy to have “gotten through,” I do hope children and grandchildren enjoyed dressing up in their costumes, as well as parents and grandparents willing to look and feel silly in order to bring more joy to a child.
The next holiday is Thanksgiving. This is an American tradition that is so vitally important to the majority of families. We think we are right out of a Normal Rockwell painting. Some are, some aren’t. I have a thought about the meaning of this holiday: Our lives have radically changed. Not everyone lives traditional lives; not everyone lives together on the farm. We are spread out. Some people in our family have died. Rather than this being a joyful gathering together to ask the Lord’s blessing, not everyone feels thankful on that Thursday, “at table.” Most people have their plans for Thanksgiving holiday. If this is a holiday you embrace, this is an ideal time to set an extra table setting or two for a stray friend, as I’m certain you always do. Folding chairs work fine. If you are not someone who appreciates the assumption that you “cook” and others “eat,” I have a suggestion: Go to a quiet spot in your house where you feel safe. Light a candle. Have a flower. With pen and paper, write a secret note to yourself that whatever your agreement and other people’s expectations, you will be fully present to the awareness that thankfulness is the greater meaning, and is the spirit of the holiday. Your attitude about whatever you are grateful for or you feel put upon is yours to figure out. Keep in mind, if you don’t feel comfortable maintaining your yearly tradition, feel free to flee. Some other family member will gladly take over the role of hosting the banquet. Study your notes. There is no need to do something that causes you to suffer. I have a friend whose husband died this year and she’s off on a cruise with her son. There’s no way anyone can sustain having everyone “at table.”
Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy doing or not doing whatever is left for you under the circumstances. I’ve never felt more thankful. I choose to be away this year. Everyday is Thanksgiving Day to loved ones. Thank you for being so understanding and empathetic, and loving.
Happy, Happy Thanksgiving.
Great Love to you.