The other day I was crying, as you do sometimes, out of self-pity. I try to avoid bemoaning my fate because I am highly privileged in a number of ways, but I’m also human, and so I was crying in bed at noon because I’ve been struggling with late-stage Lyme disease for three years and mental illness for over two decades. Which is very tiring. At times, you just become overwhelmed by how weary you are of fighting–I’d been notified the day before by my doctor that according to a medical report sent by my insurance company, I’d been followed by a private investigator for three days and was seen “smiling and laughing,” among other atrocities, and thus could no longer be seen as disabled, which means losing my benefits. There was the matter of the insurance company, right on the tail of a horrible flare-up that meant being half-conscious and bed-bound most of the week. There was the matter of folks saying insensitive things to me without meaning to. There was my headache, which is thought to be caused by inflammation (Lyme meningitis).
Anyway. So I was crying and texting and browsing the Internet (does anyone say “surfing the Internet” anymore?), and I suddenly stopped crying. Because I saw this.
This, my friends, is the Amazon page for my debut novel, The Border of Paradise. My editor had told me that the book would stealthily make an appearance online months before its April 2016 release date, but I wasn’t told about it; in fact, I hadn’t even seen the cover until this popped up.
Immediately, I began to have All the Feelings. Fear. Anxiety. Criticism. Excitement. Pride. Self-doubt. If not for the fact of my antibiotic regimen, I would have had a shot of whiskey. I immediately told everyone I could think of. My friend Dyana forwarded me the email receipt of her pre-order–I’m pretty sure she’s the first pre-order that exists of the thing. I was reeling.
Because this is a story about an idea that grew in my mind, and sprouted roots and branches and snagging twigs; this is a story about a book that took five years to write and edit and polish and two years to find a publisher that would stand behind its wonderful-ness and put it into the world for people to read; this is a story about a world that is as real to me as the one I exist in right now, tapping out these thoughts for you, dear Reader. This is a story about working hard and cultivating inspiration, while also building resilience through hardship.
This is a story about Sick and Successful.
There is a book description on the book’s Amazon/B&N pages, which was written by marketing people and not by me. I’m also aware that I’m scheduled to attend my first promotional event in October, and will be expected to answer, “So what’s the book about?” without stammering and assiduously looking at my hands.
My novel is about the way that we can do terrible things to people that we love, and that we can do those things because we love, because we’re doing our best. It’s a multigenerational saga about one New York family, the wealthy owners of a piano manufactory in mid-century America, and its ostracized son, who suffers from mental illness. It’s about how this ostracized son, David Nowak, meets a Taiwanese woman named Jia-Hui, and brings her to America for what he calls a better life. It’s about the exquisite isolation that the two cultivate in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, where they raise their two children, and what catastrophic shifts occur in the family after David ends his life in a motel room far from home. Obsession. Loneliness. A sort of Immigrant Gothic. I hope you love it.
You can find out more about the book here.
The whole experience, from texting and crying (the new “Netflix and chill”) to finding my novel on pre-sale was one that I interpret as a divine sign about my purpose. I’m still figuring it out, but it sounded something like, “It’s true that you are sick, but it is also true that you are magnificent.”
Perhaps you’re sick and successful, too. Give yourself a pat on the back, because you, too, are magnificent.
Perhaps you’re not sick–you’re in terrific health–but you feel broken in some other way.
Broken and successful. You’re doing it. We see your work toward healing. KEEP GOING. YOU’RE DOING GREAT, you magnificent creature.
Let this be a reminder to you who struggles, who wonders why everyone else seems to have their shit together more than you, who both self-doubts and has moments of grandiosity, who tries to put a brave face on awful pain. You who makes things, despite the struggle or because of it, and holds them close.
PS: Almost a year after the release of my debut novel, I put together a short-and-sweet email course about being sick and successful. A**-Kicking with Limitations is now available—over the course of five days, and with the help of this class, you can come up with a solid plan to go after your goals while living with chronic or mental illness, care-taking responsibilities, etc. (limitations!) Check out more about it here.