Three weeks ago, I arrived home to find a box tossed just inside my gate. (the beasties—my two Staffordshire Bull Terriers—can make a fuss if they spot a delivery man). I hadn’t ordered anything, it had to be for my body shop neighbor; it happens. I hefted up the box, headed down the street, and stopped. The box was addressed to me. From She Writes Press. My book Loveyoubye: Holding Fast, Letting Go, and Then There’s the Dog, in print: Advance Reading Copies—ARCs as they’re called—for me to send out to local bookstores, reviewers, etc. Twenty of them. Twenty bright and shiny real books, all the stages finally put together.
With one eye peeled for errors, along with a mixture of butterflies, and a feeling I can only describe as out-of-body, I flipped through the pages. I created this thing, this chronicle of my journey into the core of my being as I tried to come to terms with my husband’s disappearing acts, a dreaded journey home to Africa to help my mentally impaired brother, and the worsening ill health of my beloved dog. I needed to give voice to my experience, to articulate my feelings, to let off steam, to “see” what I thought. With each of these words I found power and mobilization. And then it was done.
Two months after signing with SWP (you can read about my journey to publication here), I wondered what the hell I was doing. Sure, I had to write the book, an imperative, but did I really have to publish it? Did I really have to lay myself bare and vulnerable for all to witness? But then would I be satisfied to stuff an account that had changed my life, that had also become an homage to my brother and to my cherished pet into a drawer and forget about it? For three months I anguished, ready to pull the book, especially after a bad night. But then something began to settle deep inside of me, a feeling that I needed to finish what I started. I needed to complete my journey out into the light of day, to claim it and set it free.
I continued to flip through the book, coming upon one photo after another: me as a sixteen-year-old, me carrying my baby brother, him as an adult, my dad and me, my ex and me, and my beloved dog. I’d worried about putting my hokey little photos in the book, but now it felt right, it felt complete. A new journey begins.