You know how people say bad things happen in threes? Well I think what they mean to say is that bad things happen in numbers that are divisible by three—like 39 and 60. Between the beginning of 1999 and the end of 2001 I lost four family members (one of whom was my father), filed for divorce, become a single mother, was pushed to the brink of bankruptcy, was the victim of identity theft, almost lost my home (which was built by one of the family members I lost), chauffeured someone very close to me to a psychiatric ward for a prolonged stay and was in a car accident. Believe it or not I’m leaving a lot out. When I had married several years earlier I had nurtured a vision of what I thought my life was going to be like and by the time 2001 came to a close I had come to accept the fact that my ‘vision’ was really an illusion.
So what do you do after the twentieth shoe has dropped? Well apparently you write a murder mystery.
Many people who’ve heard my story have taken the time to praise my strength and give me kudos for having the courage to turn lemons into lemonade. I’ll admit that I’m proud of my accomplishments but I’m not so sure they’re due to strength or courage. Becoming a writer wasn’t some life long dream that I continued to pursue despite all obstacles. Before I started writing Sex, Murder And A Double Latte I had never seriously considered becoming a professional writer—hell, the last fictional piece I’d written was an assignment given to me by my high school freshman English teacher. So I knew the odds of my getting published right out of the gate weren’t good. I could have failed. So what?
Sure, I wanted to succeed. I wanted to hit the New York Times Best Seller’s List—I still do. But when it comes to pursuing dreams success and failure are a lot less important than the pursuit itself. Think about it—how many times do we read about someone who achieved some major accomplishment only to turn around and kill himself? I would never be so presumptuous as to speculate on why someone I’ve never met would resort to suicide but I do know that realizing a dream in and of itself is not enough to save a person from depression.
You see, I wrote because I needed a new dream. In many ways my life had become an exercise of survival and it didn’t have to be that way. Right at my fingertips was the opportunity to pursue a goal that had nothing to do with survival and everything to do with living. So I dealt with the lawyers and the family crises when I needed to and then after the law offices had closed and my son was safely tucked in bed I would sit down with a notebook and pencil and pursue a dream. It didn’t take strength or courage. It was just me indulging in a luxury.
As a species we’re genetically designed to want to do more than survive. If that wasn’t the case there would be no art, no music, no civilization at all.
Sometimes pure survival is the only option available to us. Ask the people who live in Sudan or a soldier in a POW camp. Those people would literally give their right arm for the opportunity to pursue a dream. I had that opportunity—it was given to me in the form of a blank piece of paper. With every page I wrote I was filled with a new sense of hope—a new ‘what if.’
If I hadn’t landed a book contract I would have gone into a depression, I’m only human. But I don’t want to just survive—I want to live and so eventually I would have found yet another new dream to pursue and I would have been filled with a new hope and it is that pursuit that makes me whole.
If you’re reading this the chances are you’re not living on the streets of Sudan so if all you’re doing is surviving ask yourself why.
I urge you—pick up a pen, a paintbrush, a textbook, whatever and start living.
Sex, Murder And A Double Latte–May 2005