By Kate Kerry Spencer
Three years ago, I finished my first book, a memoir about my lost and found mother. I had written that book in the half light of dawn, the darkness of night, and the catch-up hours of the weekends.
To keep myself on track, inspired and accountable, I worked with an accomplished writer and book coach, Jennie Nash. A brilliant, brave, genuine, hilarious, persistent, powerhouse of a woman, Jennie was the midwife of my midlife dream.
Three years later, I’m still picking up the pieces of that dream.
A staggering-in-scope, nearly fatal health crisis in my family made survival the singular most important driver in my life. I chose it wholeheartedly, and through both the thick and thin of it, stayed the course. I drove an infinity loop of home-hospital-work-hospital-work-home nearly every day. It was one of the most meaningful, purposeful times of my life.
Against almost all the odds, my loved one lived, and is now thriving. I am still recovering.
During the time of the crisis, I would occasionally be given an article about the challenges of caregiving and the importance of self-care for the caregiver. I would gloss over the bullet points of the articles, nod my head in full agreement, and carry on. I had nearly-endless energy, the kind that comes to soldiers steeled for battle. And then, one day, the battle was over. It was one of the most soul-searing, exhausting times of my life.
What happens after the battle that can bring us to our knees. On our knees, we feel the ground more closely. On our knees, we have a broader view of the sky. On our knees is one of the oldest postures of grace. In that grace, we can find our way up and through.
On my knees, I knew I had to pick up the dreams of my own life and to care for those dreams as if they were the life of a beloved. Because, in fact, they are.
In the years between the completion of my first book and today, there are a million miles of life lived and one book still waiting to be born. Like many deferred dreams, it asks some fearful questions. Is it too late? Is the book good enough? Has someone already written that story much better than I could ever hope to?
The answers to my questions come more readily and steadily as I heal my own caregiver’s heart. The answers are as much about life as they are about a book: As long as we’re living, it’s never too late. What we offer with our whole heart is always good enough. Nobody else can write, or live, your life. It’s your story. Live it and tell it.
Tonight, before you go to sleep, sit comfortably in a warm, nurturing spot. Put your hand on your heart. Take a few, deep breaths and center yourself with the natural flow of your breathing. You don’t need to manipulate your breath in any way, just breathe naturally.
With each inhale silently say to yourself, “My life is an evolving story.”
With each exhale silently say to yourself, “I will live it and tell it with love and in truth.”
Kate Kerry Spencer is a Pacific Northwest writer, editor, and publisher. Learn more about her upcoming memoir, Smoke: A Story of Love, Lies and Cigarettes.
Smoke is the story of fatal consolations--tobacco, denial and deceit--and the second chances that can come to us in the most unlikely places. For this mother and daughter it was a rehab center where the two women wrestled with cigarettes, scrambled brains and each other--and in the process, found the long way back to love.