As I near the release of Sadie(around Thanksgiving time), I’m tempted to count days and weeks (hours even) until my first novel is officially published. I’m excited—really excited—anxious, and actually really, really nervous for people to see what kind of stuff lives inside my head. You see, Sadie has been a 3 ½ year project, involving more revisions than I care to admit. The characters may as well be my best friends for all I talk to them (and they talk back). I’m very nervous for people to meet them. It feels like the day I dropped off my kids at a new school, hoping/praying people would just give them a chance to find out what great people they really are.
Right now you’re thinking, “But Rebecca, your characters aren’t…uh…how do I put this delicately…real.”
I know—or at least I keep telling myself that. But until you’ve written your own story and had non-real people talk to you at all hours of the day, don’t judge me too harshly. Sadie, Josh, Kevin, and Sam might as well have been people I’ve met at some point in my life.
Okay, fine. I’m crazy. I admit it. Shannon Hale, one of my favorite YA authors, once put it perfectly, “Being a writer sounds more like a mental illness than a professional choice.” I totally get that now. But I’m off track anyway. Back to the point…
I found myself this morning driving kids to this new school and day dreaming about that day. The day when Sadie will be out and on hopefully-a-lot of bookshelves. Will I be happier? Will the sun shine brighter that day? I’m being a little dramatic, but deep down in the sub-conscious level, I caught myself this morning thinking that I’ll be happier then. I have the same feeling about a song I’ve been working on that is due to be sung at my Stake Conference this weekend. I’ll be happier when it’s over.
But will I?
I’ve had two experiences recently that caused me to stop my train of thoughts this morning. The first was the recent, sudden, and tragic death of my sweet, little, three-year-old great niece, Adria. Experiences like that always cause you to stop your crazy life, pull your runaway train from its tracks, and reevaluate. Where am I heading? What am I spending my time on? And more importantly, why? Why do I do what I do each day? And why am I in such a hurry to do it? If you can’t find acceptable answers to those questions—which there are often days that I can’t—maybe it’s time to find something more meaningful to fill your time. At least, that’s the conclusion I’ve come to as I’ve grieved for sweet, little Adria.
Yesterday was the two month anniversary of Adria’s passing. Over those two months I have been in awe of and inspired by her parents. They are amazing. Truly. If I had to pick the thing I’ve learned most from them (which is really hard because they have taught me so much) it’s this:
Live and cherish today.
Ben and Tricia are the kind of parents who took the time to stop that runaway train called life and finger paint with Adria, or listen to, record, and document her crazy, hilarious stories. They truly enjoyed every moment with their spunky little girl. They may not feel like they did this perfectly, but I disagree. Their pictures, blog, and stories suggest otherwise. How grateful they are now–as I am–that they did.
Live and cherish today.
But this is not the only time I have been taught this message recently. It came full force in the Relief Society Broadcast in September, during Elder Uchtdorf’s talk. He had five “Forget-me-not” counsels for the women of the Church, and the third was to forget not to be happy now.
He spoke about the story Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and how children’s worlds were suddenly turned upside-down in search of the illustrious golden ticket. People felt “their entire future happiness” depended on whether or not they could find that golden ticket. “But in their anxiousness,” Elder Uchtdorf said, “people began to forget the simple joy they used to find in a candy bar. The candy bar itself becomes an utter disappointment if it (did) not contain a golden ticket.”
He went on to ask if we are all waiting for our golden ticket. Are we completely missing the joys of today for the hope of a golden tomorrow?
“This is not to say that we should abandon hope or temper our goals,” he quickly clarified. “Never stop striving for the best that is within you. Never stop hoping for all of the righteous desires of your heart. But don’t close your eyes and hearts to the simple and elegant beauties of each day’s ordinary moments that make up a rich, well-lived life. The happiest people I know are not those who find their golden ticket; they are those who, while in pursuit of worthy goals, discover and treasure the beauty and sweetness of the everyday moments. They are the ones who, thread by daily thread, weave a tapestry of gratitude and wonder throughout their lives. These are they who are truly happy.”
So if you find yourself daydreaming of a golden tomorrow like I did this morning, try to remember the candy-bar you already hold, the precious child, or friend, or neighbor that you already hold. Life is good. Life is very, very good.