Four years and a few months ago, I started writing a book. A novel, more specifically. My whole life, I had been wanting to write a book, and I'd made a few attempts at starting, but I had never gotten very far. There were always other distractions, things pulling me in different directions (I let them), and, while I had a vague idea of what I wanted to write about, it never fully came into sharp focus for me. It always remained in somewhat hazy form in a not quite yet tangible future. Until one day in June or July of 2015, a different book idea began to crystallize for me, and I started writing in earnest.
A few months into my writing process, I embarked on a new relationship. Several months after that, I adopted a dog that I had sat with for an hour in the dark on a rainy Friday night after she'd been hit by a truck until Animal Control came to pick her up (nobody claimed her at the shelter). Within the year to follow, I moved to a different town and started commuting to work, I changed jobs (after 10 years in the same position), I got married, I adopted a kitten who had captured my heart one evening I stopped at the pet store for dog treats unsuspectingly, my marriage began to fall apart before it had even really begun, I found the perfect forever home for the dog I'd adopted (a wonderful young woman who would meet her needs better than I could), and, shortly thereafter, my wife convinced me to agree to a foster puppy (in addition to the dog we still had and our two cats). We ended up adopting that puppy because we fell heads over heels in love with him the moment we set eyes on him (complete foster fail). Our marriage was already hanging on by a mere thread at that point, and it wasn't long before my wife expressed she no longer wanted to continue on together. I began the process of searching for an apartment and moving again, not much more than a year after my last move. Incidentally, the very apartment I had lived in a couple of years before just "happened to" become available right as I needed it. The lady living in it right up until then had chosen to break her lease early. I figured it was a sign that the Universe was supporting me in this difficult transition. Rents had gone up significantly in just the two years since I'd moved out, and I couldn't help but wonder about the trouble I might have saved myself had I stayed put when I lived there before, rather than leave behind my little sanctuary to go through a couple of extremely challenging relationships. However, challenging as they may have been, there was also much beauty, and so much growth. Pain: yes. Love: definitely, yes. Passion: for sure. Innumerable tears and immeasurable heartache: fuck yes. Had it all been worth it to find myself back at square one, back in my old little studio, except paying three hundred dollars more per month than I had just two short years prior? I've had my moments when I would question that, but, in reality... absolutely, yes, it was worth every painful moment. Life is here to be lived fully, not to be played safe. It's in the depth and richness of life that we grow. It's where we find the zest, the multi-faceted nuances, and the delectable flavor that makes life so worth living. So it comes with a little pain sometimes... so you find yourself back at the "start" of that circle you think you've just gone around... except then you realize it's not, in fact, a circle. Instead, it's a spiral, and what may look like being back where you started out is really finding yourself in a place that looks eerily similar to where you once were, but actually has a whole new level of depth added to it. A whole other level of wisdom you've accrued from what you've been through. A whole other set of tools you've added to your toolbox, that you now get to carry forward with you into your next set of experiences.
There will be pain again. Make no mistake, there will be more pain. If you have any illusion that you may someday reach the point in your life where you've made it past all the pain, let me shatter that illusion for you right now: there will always be pain. And guess what: it's designed to be that way. It's how we grow. Don't shy away from pain. Don't chase it, either. (That would be foolish.) Be wise in the decisions you make and learn from past experiences. But, when there is pain that is inevitable, lean into it. Feel it. Embrace it. Taste it. Let it soften you. Let it change you. Let it teach you compassion. Through your own pain, let yourself feel the connection to the collective pain of all of humanity. Every one of us goes through our own pain experiences. Our stories may look different on the surface, but, deep down, the core feelings we experience are really not that different. Deep down, we all experience the same basic emotions, however nuanced, and, pain, just as much as joy, can be a gateway to our shared humanity. There is great healing to be found in accessing that collective emotional core. Spend some time there.
So I was moving yet again. It had been barely more than a year, and I had vowed it would be a very long time before I would move again (or go through another breakup - they are just about the most painful thing I can imagine, and I didn't want to go through another one ever again in this lifetime), but the circumstances were beyond my control. My heart was broken to pieces as I left behind dreams shattered of a life I had envisioned, not only with the woman I'd given my heart to, but also two dogs and a cat who'd taken up residence deep in my heart. I took Cooper with me, the kitten who'd locked eyes with me that fateful night at the pet store and left me with no doubt that he was meant to be with me. That we were meant to be together. He was my life saver. I don't know how I would have made it through the following year without him. Cooper was my bestest bud as I navigated the deep waters of grief and attempted to rebuild my life from the ground up, yet again. (Having experience at it really doesn't make it any less painful or difficult.)
Two of my neighbors - single women on the cusp of 40, like myself, living with their beloved cats, like myself, on their own healing journeys from broken relationships and broken hearts - quickly became my best friends and companions. We became each other's family. We came home to each other at the end of our work days. We shared our days with each other. We were there for each other. They were one of the very best things that happened to me that year, and I will forever be grateful for their presence in my life at just that time. I remember coming home from work on an ordinary Friday night. My neighbor saw me pull into the parking lot and came to join me at my place to sit and talk with me about our days while I settled in and prepared a simple dinner. I remember thinking this was the next best thing to coming home to a partner at the end of a long workday. I learned during that time that partners in life can come in many shapes and forms - not just as lovers and spouses. That year showed me in so many ways that I need never worry about being alone. The Universe would always bring the right people into my life for support.
One night, I took a medication I'd been resisting taking, as the list of side effects concerned me and my body tends to be more reactive than most. All my attempts to remedy the situation with natural approaches had remained futile, so I finally surrendered and took the drugs. The first two nights went off without a hitch, and I was relieved, but night three was a different story. About an hour into sleep, I woke up with my heart pounding, my extremities tingling, and feeling like I was about to faint. It was easily the scariest experience I'd ever had in my life. I was home alone and figured I could very well end up dead in my apartment without anybody knowing. (Who would take care of my cat was my greatest concern.) The complete lack of control over what was happening in my body was terrifying. (This has, by the way, given me so much empathy for patients who tell me about scary health episodes that I couldn't previously relate to in quite the same way.) I knocked on my friend/neighbor's door at two o'clock in the morning, and she was there for me, without a moment's hesitation. She brought me cold water to drink and an ice pack, as I lay in her bed, the disconcerting sensations gradually lessening. Her cat came to my side and snuggled into me. My friend offered for me to stay the night. She was like a sister to me in that moment. I'd only known her a few short months by then, but I'd known that I could go to her. I'll never be able to express the depth of the gratitude I felt for her presence that night. I would have spent the night, but, once I no longer felt I might pass out at any moment, I really just wanted to be back downstairs with my own cat. My trusted companion, my soulmate, my sweet lover boy. He'd been there for me through so much, and he was the one I most needed close to me in that moment. I think he needed me, too.
To this day, I feel beyond humbled that my neighbor/friend was there for me, took me in and cared for me without question. As scary as that night was for me, it taught me trust. It gave me confidence that support will always be there to catch me when I need it.
Another night, not long after I'd moved back into my old apartment, my kitty had an incident of bloody diarrhea. My fear reaction was immediate. I was so devastated by grief already, I couldn't possibly fathom handling more loss. I couldn't lose my boy, the only anchor I had in my life at that moment, the one I loved the most. Facing uncertainty as a single pet parent for the first time ever, I succumbed to a moment of weakness and texted my ex-wife, in the hopes she might lend some emotional support. She suggested I Google whether his symptoms warranted concern. (Of course, I had done that already. And, of course, they warranted concern.) That was the last time I reached out to her in the hopes of any kind of support. She wasn't capable of giving it, but other angels showed up who did: my neighbors, and a dear friend who's a pet sitter. They reassured me, calmed me, offered their perspectives, and, most importantly, their caring presence. They checked in with me over the days to come. They were there for me. It was another blessed opportunity to experience the value of friendship and community. (I took Cooper to the vet the next day, and he turned out to be just fine. No more bloody poop. It was an isolated incident. Thank the Heavens.)
The year following my divorce - well, following our separation and going through the divorce (my second divorce, I should add, but that's a different story) - turned out to be a year of profound healing. I felt both more alone than I'd ever felt and less alone than I'd ever felt. While that may sound confusing, these feelings can co-exist. For most of my adult life, I'd had a partner. Even during the couple of periods of time I had lived on my own, I'd still been in relationship for almost all of it. I'd always had a person who was "my person" - a person I knew I could call on when I needed them. For the first time in my life, I didn't have that, and being truly "alone" felt raw and vulnerable and sometimes scary. (It later turned out to feel quite empowering and enjoyable, but I had to sift through the vulnerable stuff first.) It wasn't long, however, before I felt less alone than I ever had, because the Universe brought people into my life who supported me in exactly the ways I needed at the exact right time. I truly experienced the support of sisterhood during that year - and years to follow since. At times when I would have previously reached for my partner... times where the support mattered most... I now reached for my girlfriends (a few guy friends, too), and they showed up for me. (At times family, too, although I really didn't want to involve them too much in my grieving process. I gravitated during that time towards folks who were familiar with my particular flavor of grieving, as well as lots of blessed solitude.) It was humbling and beautiful to experience the support that was there for me. I learned during this time that I would never be alone. No matter what, the Universe would always bring me the support I needed at the perfect time. Life is amazing that way. So full of wondrous surprises.
Well, the book I started writing in the summer of 2015 was put on hold for a couple of years, but, eventually, I did come back to it. As I settled, slowly but surely, back into my life in San Jose and into the new experience of being truly single for the first time in my adult life, really (just me and my boy cat), navigating the ebbs and flows of grieving (which felt like a full-time job in and of itself - oh man, grieving is exhausting!), I re-committed myself to my writing. I was determined to finish that book, and, when I'd finished it, I knew a part of me would have healed. The book has been such an integral part of my healing journey, and, I hope profoundly, that it will contribute to others' healing down the line.
I made a new friend who was a program manager at Google (read: super organized and disciplined), who created a spreadsheet for me to track my progress and kept me accountable (another angel the Universe delivered at the perfect time). That turned out to be a huge blessing. Every Monday, I sat by the pool in my apartment complex and wrote diligently. Some weeks, the writing flowed with ease, while, others, I muscled my way through, fighting resistance, trying to soften into it, getting interrupted by neighbors coming home from work and stopping to chit chat (which only strengthened my sense of community and feeling supported - they always cheered me on in my endeavor and asked about my progress). I had made it my goal to finish my manuscript by my 40th birthday, and so I did. Less than a week away from turning 40 (in April of 2019), I wrote the (preliminary) final chapter of my first draft (I ended up adding more). It felt exhilarating! I knew there was a long journey still ahead to getting my book published, but this was a big milestone, and I was damn proud of myself for having made it this far! I've heard that only two or three percent of people who set out to write a book even finish their first draft. So I figure making it this far is kinda like qualifying for the olympics. I mean, even if nobody cares unless the book actually sees the printed light of day, I think that's still a damn significant accomplishment! I put aside the thoughts of how much work was still ahead long enough to let myself relish in the satisfaction of having made it as far as I had. It wasn't until I began the process of editing and rewriting that I really realized how much work was still in front of me! I thought that part would be easier than writing the bones of the content, but I'm not sure that's actually the case... I've found myself sitting down with my manuscript, thinking I had a clear idea of how I wanted to tackle the rewrite, just to find myself completely stumped as to where to even begin. It's an ongoing journey...
A few weeks ago, I received an email newsletter from an energy intuitive I've been following for a while now (Lee Harris). The subject line read "Are You Serious About Writing A Book?" The words drew me in immediately. Damn right I'm serious! I opened the email introducing a writers' course that was being offered by two amazing women who call themselves the Book Doulas and whose mission is to help their course participants birth their books into the world. My cells vibrated with joy as I read the email, and I knew immediately this course was for me. It was a bit of an investment, and I had to sift through a few fear thoughts about taking the amount of money required out of my savings account - my safety net. But I knew deep inside that my soul was being called to participate in this class, and the Universe would support me in this endeavor one hundred percent. It was a leap of faith well worth taking. I spoke to the Book Doulas (Debra Evans and Kristine Carlson) on the phone, and it only solidified my resolve. I was ready to commit.
I am a week into the course, and, already, I am feeling so inspired and have received so much out of the class. The class is the whole reason I'm writing this blog and my website is in existence at this stage in the game. I'm actually amazed by how much I've accomplished in just the past week.
I'm taking steps to bring my book to life, and it's feeling more real than it ever has before. The feeling is nothing short of exhilarating. It has been my dream to be a published author my entire life, and this is me stepping into making that a reality. It feels more tangible than it ever has. I've always felt it out there in my distant future, but now it's almost within reach, and joy bubbles up from the depths of my being at the feeling of what lies ahead.
I have an incredibly rewarding career as an Acupuncturist, and I love my work and the wonderful people whose lives I get to touch and be touched by on a daily basis. It's something I hope to continue do dedicate my life to for years to come. In many ways, my work has fed my inspiration to write. Much of the life experience I've gained through my professional life has flown into my novel, as has so much of my personal life. My book is a work of fiction, and yet also deeply influenced by personal experiences. That makes it very vulnerable to even entertain the idea of publishing it for the whole world to read. But when I pause to think about the writers I admire most, the ones at the top of the list are those who are unafraid to be vulnerable: Brené Brown. Sue Monk Kidd. Elizabeth Gilbert. Kristine Carlson, whose beautiful writing on healing from heartbreak and finding back to joy I've just begun exploring. Gila Van Delden and Shirley McLaine, who inspired me at the onset of my spiritual journey at the tender age of eighteen. Dr. Judith Orloff, whose work showed up in my life at the perfect time in my early twenties and whom I had the pleasure of meeting once briefly - an encounter that has always stayed with me. These are only a few of the amazing women who've inspired me along the way. (There have been men, too, but the women are who I feel most connected to in an invisible web of writing sisterhood.) Every time I read any of their pieces of work, I felt the call to bring my own writing into the world.
It's my turn now.
I've done a lot of writing over the years. Some publicly (blog entries and newsletters). Most of it privately. I've found a lot of healing in writing. Writing has always been my therapy. My hope is that my writing can also bring healing to others.
I thank you for being on this journey with me. I've always been told I'm prolific with words. If you've read this far, I feel much gratitude for the time you spent here with me.
So much love.
Angie K 💗
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