A year ago, I set a goal to have a book published–or at least a manuscript ready to submit for its final revision–by today.
The mean voice in me likes to point out that I still don’t wake up an hour or two earlier, so how should I expect to author more than this blog? She easily dismisses the outlines and chapters and character development that I’ve done for a futuristic trilogy, a semi-autobiographical childhood novel, and several captivating plot lines.
Despite distance learning with all my kids home last year, despite an ice storm, the arborgeddon that leveled more than a hundred trees on our property that we then cleared, and despite a long list of surprises that includes the recent acquisition of four more (outdoor) cats (don’t ask) to add to the usual excitement of my relatively comfortable life, I would love to say, “I wrote a book, and here it is.”
Well, here it isn’t.
Because it’s not my time just yet.
Back in September, just as I was joyously anticipating the return of my three school-age children to normally scheduled school, I came across this post in our community Facebook page:
I am looking for a dedicated individual or small team of secretarial assistants. Must have strong typing, Word, and organizational skills and self motivated and able to work one on one. I need help in the final stages of readying a manuscript for publication or possibly self publication. This is a compilation of nearly 30 years autobiographical account of my Bipolar Journey, also including my poetry, photography, and commentary on the mental health field in general.You must have a laptop and/or home computer, somewhat flexible schedule and decent editing and word skills This will be a non-paid position[…]So you must currently have financial security. My goal is to have the manuscript ready for publication by the end of November. We will maintain strict deadline goals to make this possible. It is currently in several various formats, much is handwritten and needs typing, is scattered on a couple different computers and flash drives, much is typed but needs general editing, and I still have a little of the first draft writing to do on a few chapters.The title of the book is Experiencing the Joy of the Bipolar Condition. Preferably you have basic knowledge on Bipolar or manic depression but not necessary.This work contains intimate sharing of a lifetime of various topics and experiences and therefore requires a large degree of trust on my part to find just the right person and a working maturity and discretion on your part.Whether there is someone out there that could actually meet this task head on will be interesting to see.
He had just described me. Minus the secretary and organizational part. I’m still looking for one of those myself. I also can’t lay claim to maturity or discretion without sounding like an immature blabbermouth, which I sometimes am.
It turns out that two other ladies also offered to help this gentleman, and their names were something like Ellie and Lissa. I wasn’t sure if I should shudder or take it as a good sign that the bookends of this team were me split in two.
I am good at throwing myself too deep into a situation, turning it into a rescue operation, and creating a preventable disaster in the process. I’m not saying I won’t still do that, but I managed to stay somewhat aloof when I communicated more with this future author, Nathaniel DenHartog.
Incidentally, I had met him once before at a community Bible study class, and I want to say he was using a walker and mourning the death of his chihuahua at the time (I had no idea then what a privilege it was that he had told me about her). With my finely tuned profiling skills (stereotyping), I had ruled out murderer as a possible role he would play in my life.
So armed with my plan to not care too much and avoid bodily harm, I walked into Starbucks to scrutinize this potential client. I wasn’t sure I could work him in, considering that I already had a client who required nearly an hour of my time each week (this is me poking fun at my comfy circumstances).
I want to include a rundown of my initial impressions, but those assumptions grabbed their things and ran for the hills the moment he began speaking about his book, so there’s no point describing them. They’re long gone.
I sat in the presence of someone whose spirit spoke to mine.
Since I don’t know how to explain that with words, I’ll use a comparison from my past life.
I used to be a nurse. Before I met a new patient, I usually received a history and report from the prior nurse so that I could carry on as seamlessly as possible for a critically ill or injured child. The way that nurse described the patient set an expectation for who I would find in the isolette, crib, or bed. Because we focused so much on systems, objective data, and clinical judgment, we usually forgot to convey love in those hand-offs. But I recall a handful of nurses who always set me up to love the charge(s) they were turning over to me.
I felt that kind of love as Nathaniel prepared to hand over to me his narrative, poetry, and art documenting his now thirty one years in the bipolar condition. Just like a patient who clearly needed critical support and healing, I took what he offered in hushed tones. Just like you might receive a sleeping baby into your unpracticed arms, I was afraid I might break it.
He hoped to have this baby ready for its new home, meaning the hearts and hands of people joining him on his honest journey, by his birthday. He knew that without a tight deadline his current–managed–mania might steer him away from his goal. He told me that date, and my eyes filled with tears because it was the beginning of December, when I planned to have a book ready.
He misunderstood my tears as something else, so I explained the significance of that date, and then forgetting that I wasn’t going to care, gushed out, “Now I know it’s your book. Your book is the one I’m going to get published.”
I thought I would be bringing my own baby into the world, but it seems I am needed a little longer as a nurse. An unapologetic little life, full of personality and potential, is nearing its time to shine.
The work is coming along, so stay tuned. Nathaniel deals with quite a few challenges, and the more I learn by reading and editing the chapters of his autobiography, the more in awe I am of this new little life. It comes from someone I would call one of the least among us. I know most of you won’t have a chance to meet him, and I don’t know if his work would speak to you, but the sharing of it is what inspires me. It takes a lot of courage to outlast one’s destructive narrative and gain the perspective to share it candidly. Even more, I am in awe at the joy that he has found despite and due to his struggles. He has learned that he never walks this path alone, making him one of the mightiest among us.