All of my marigolds are dead.
For the past 12 years since I've been a homeowner, every spring I plant marigolds and lovingly water and weed them daily. They serve as pops of color in front of my home and people comment on how wonderful and vibrant my plantings are.
But this year the marigolds are all dead. I haven't been watering them. The only comments my blooms are getting are pitying looks.
You see, for the past 8 months I've been writing a novel and attempting to get it published. And in doing this, I've had to let a lot of things go. I've had to take a hiatus from teaching Sunday School. I've had to ask for help in running my cub scout troop. I spent the last school year turning down lunches or walks with friends (or even catching up on laundry) while my children were are school because I would rush home, buckle down and write for the precious hours my 3 year old was out of the house.
I used to have it so together. So together in fact, that I'd always find the time to bake something when I was going to someone's house for a play date or a hang. I don't have time for that anymore. I buy cookies from Caputo's. Or just bring wine. Or go empty-handed.
And I keep forgetting to water my poor marigolds.
And you know what? Despite this crazy perma-feeling that everything is sort of out-of-control I have never felt happier.
Because we all have different dreams. And my dream, (in addition to having a loving, happy family, wide circle of terrific friends and good health) has always been to write and publish books for a living.
And you know what I've found? Following your dream can be really, really hard. I know this because the rejection is surprisingly painful. I know this because people tell me, repeatedly, that it cannot be done. And yet it's incredibly rewarding to follow your dream. It feels courageous to even admit out loud that this IS in fact my dream. Writing my book and attempting to get it published feels a bit like coming home in a way that even I, as a writer, have difficulty putting words to.
But it's a bit of a trade-off also. To make space for this kind of creativity and hard work, you have to clear away some other things that were taking up room. Things that you realize perhaps weren't that important. Like gorgeous flowers in your front lawn.
It's been a month since I've blogged because I've been so busy with my book project. My children have been watching way more television because that's how I hypnotize them when my co-author Jess comes over and we send out ever more query letters regarding our novel. Sorry, kids. Or maybe, you're welcome, kids.
But the truth is, I've never felt more alive, more stressed and happier all at the same time. I think I'd rather fail at writing books than succeed at anything else. It's both exhilarating and profound.
So if you have a dream (and we all do...you know that you do), whether it's opening your own bakery, becoming an actress or running the New York marathon, please at least attempt it. You're not too old, too fat, too unskilled or not good enough. Please don't squash that dream any further down than you already have. People won't laugh at you...they'll root for you and support you. And if they don't you can deep six them to make room for the amazing people who are waiting to come into your life who will.
I guarantee you will come to appreciate the excitement, growth and challenge that comes from pursuing that about which you are truly passionate.
But you may find yourself with a few dead flowers and store bought cookies along the way.
I'm going to be very upfront about something. You won't be seeing a picture of me in a sports bra and boy shorts on social media any time soon. I've noticed this trend popping up lately as everyone shows their before and after pics but I'm pretty modest. That's not to take away from the people who get a lot of pride and motivation out of posting these pictures but it's just not for me. And there's a context issue. While I'd be comfortable on the beach in my bathing suit with whoever, I just don't want pictures of a scantily dressed me popping up on a Facebook feed next to my cousin's newborn baby and a recipe for gluten-free lasagna. But these before-and-after pictures are generally posted with an emphasis on working out, weight loss and eating more nutritiously -- all of which are really good things.
Because as much as I wish I could eat mass quantities of Broad Street Dough and NEVER exercise, I think that eating healthily and exercising is really important. Not just so you whittle yourself away to nothing, but so you're strong, happy and possess an energy level higher than that of a snail. For the past 4 months, I have been exercising at least four times a week which is massive, considering the number of times I exercised from September to January was ZERO.
And I hate exercising. I mean, I really, REALLY hate it. I hate it more than the NJ Housewives, the wardrobe of Miley Cyrus and Goldschlager combined.
While I'm on a run, I waver between feeling like I'm being tortured and praying that no one is watching me. It's awful. Like really, really awful.
When I take my weekly karate class, I curse under my breath as I'm made to do squat thrusts, spar guys twice my size who bat me away like a fly and plank for two minutes at a time. "Why am I DOING THIS to myself?" I wonder angrily, thinking I could be home curled up with a book, a wheel of brie and a box of chocolates from the Red Bank Chocolate Shoppe.
However, as much as I truly HATE AND DESPISE working out, I love having exercised.