(Photo Courtesy of Cindy Pope Lowman)
After working in Corporate America for thirty years and writing a novel, I finally signed a three-book contract with a local publisher. Knowing I had to get the rewrites completed in a few months, plus two other books written within the next two years, why not retire and concentrate on my writing? This had to be God’s timing.
Great! No more getting up before dawn every weekday, no more beginning my commute before the sun comes up, no more coming home in the dark. Instead, I could sleep late, go to the lake during the week when it is not so crowded, go to the park, walk the dogs, and stay up late. Oh yeah, and get some writing done.
But there were two things I had not counted on.
The reality was that suddenly, it was just me, my spouse, the dogs, the cat, and my computer. Now I had no co-workers around, no one to talk to or laugh with. All of my friends and family were either at work or had already retired and were busier than ever with grandchildren or volunteer work.
The second was worry. Every morning between three and five, I would roll over, wide awake, my mind refusing to shut down. Did I have enough income to last me the rest of my days? Can I afford to go to writing conferences? What if something goes wrong? What if there is a medical emergency? What if I lost the house? What if . . .?
That feeling of gloom and doom sat heavily in my heart.
I worried so, I became sick to my stomach. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t write.
But I could pray. Each time I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, I prayed. And cried. Oh, God, how I cried. I laid everything out at God’s feet. And I prayed some more.
During this time, I continued attending my critique writing group. One Saturday, I got there early and was able to speak to our hostess, alone. Since she and her husband were retired, I had to know how they coped.
She smiled and advised that I was transitioning into a whole new way of life. She said that everyone went through these changes, and that I was perfectly normal. It’s a period of adjustment that takes about six months to get used to. Because everything was so new to me, I was afraid of the change.
I also spoke with my editor about this. With her having a degree in counseling, I told her candidly how I felt. She told me that I was feeling guilty for following my dream instead of contributing the household responsibilities, as I had for the past thirty-plus years.
She then advised that I get up at the same time every day, perform my morning toiletries, and make sure I dressed and put makeup on. She said for me to find out my best writing time and make sure to schedule my day around that time.
She advised me to go write in a public place, like Starbucks, a park, etc. That way I would be around people and surround myself with new sights and sounds. I could also people watch for body language and listen to their voices and speech patterns. Maybe I could use these for making my characters realistic.
It all made sense, and I agreed to all of the above.
But that fear, doubt, worry and gloom and doom would not leave.
At one of my lowest periods of feeling lost and useless, someone posted on Facebook a motivational video from Les Brown on the Chinese Bamboo tree. He said it takes five years for the tree to break through the soil. During that time, it has to be watered and nurtured, with nothing to show for the time, effort and patience the planter put in. After five years, it is fully grown and standing tall in five weeks. And I just knew this was God talking to me again.
But worry and doubt again prevailed in my gut.
In order for me to become even remotely successful as an author, it will take at least three years, which is a lot of time, patience, and effort to put into a dream, with no guarantee that the book will ever be a success.
Could I hang on for that long to get my book published, my name branded, and my platform going?
Another day, my daughter posted a Cookie Monster meme on Facebook that read “Live in the Moment.” That was yet another message from God I was meant to see.
Suddenly, it hit me that I had been living in the future. My mind kept repeating, “If you do this now, will there be enough money in ten years? Will you even be alive in ten years? Will you have something to leave the kids after ten years?”
I finally calmed down enough to listen to God, who asked a simple question. “You’re going to have to transition to retirement soon anyway. Why not now?”
I realized that our dreams are like the Chinese Bamboo tree. They have to be nurtured with our time, patience and effort.
And our belief in God.