A couple months ago, I was driving along the Pacific Coast, about a half hour south of Santa Barbara. All of a sudden my mind was filled with an idea that wanted to be born.
If you’re like me, you know how important it is to ink it when you think it. So, I pulled over, and here’s what poured out. (Really.)
“Some people are drawn to fire. I am drawn to water. After all, we are 65 percent water. It is our essence, our lifeblood. All of us are bodies of water.
“Yet, as Maslow pointed out, water is a fulfilled need. And fulfilled needs tend to get ignored, overlooked and taken for granted.
“So it is that I set out on my year by the water.
“I will spend a week by a different body of water — oceans, estuaries, lakes, mountain streams. Each week will have a theme. Can we really not step in the same river twice? Does salt water — sea, tears and sweat — cure what ails us? Why can’t we collect all the shells on the beach?
“So, Chesapeake Bay, Marina Del Rey, Salmon River, Sanibel Island… here I come. I will interview people along the way — surfers, swimmers, kayakers. I will cavort with manatees, houseboat on Lake Tahoe, snuba in Maui, sail off the coast of California.
I am clear that I am supposed to set this in motion and then ask for, receive, and act on suggestions. Instead of planning it, I am supposed to do the opposite of my always.”
As of Sept. 1, I am accepting the “Year by the Water” invitation that sprang into my mind that day.
In retrospect, I think this was prompted by something my son said. Andrew sensed a weariness in my voice on a recent phone call and asked, “Whazzup?”
I told him, “I’ve been in an all-day consult. I need to take the red-eye and then fly back for a convention in two days. I’m so exhausted, I don’t even want to get on this plane tonight.”
He said, “Mom, I don’t understand this. You’ve created a life where you can do pretty much anything you want, and you’re not taking advantage of it. Why don’t I book you a hotel? You can run your business from the road the next few days.”
An hour later, I went to sleep in the Laguna Beach Hotel with the sound of the ocean outside my window. The next day, I played hooky. I strolled the streets and found an independent bookstore with a whole shelf of books on writing.
As I immersed myself in the pages, a voice welled up in me, “I am a writer. That’s what I am.” But I’ve been too busy raising a family and paying the bills to write. Yes, I’ve authored several books that have done well, but months go by when I want to write and don’t have time to write.
Andrew nailed it. I have an open nest. Why am I still working 24/7, filling my calendar with commitments?
Paulo Coelho says, “One day you’re going to wake up and there won’t be any time left to do the things you’ve always wanted to do.”
What have I always wanted to do? Write full time. Be in and around water. Explore more.
So I am setting off to do, as Anne Sexton says, the things that when I’m doing them, I don’t want to be doing anything else — while I still have the time, health and freedom to do so.
A friend asked, “Is this a year-long vacation?” No.
James Taylor was asked in a recent CBS Sunday Morning interview why it’s been 13 years since his last album. He said, “I’ve been touring non-stop. I need empty space for songs to come to me and through me. Writing isn’t taking time off work, it’s doing a different kind of work.”
I am eager to do a different kind of work. To wake up every morning, ready to experience and write about life, using water, in its many forms, as a metaphorical palette.
Want to come along? The good news is, you don’t have to quit your job, abandon your family or have an open nest. You can vicariously experience bodies of water while reflecting on what you’ve always want to do and how to bring a different kind of work into your life.
Suggestions? What do I absolutely have to see and do? Can’t wait to hear your ideas and hit the road starting today… together.