An old friend from far away.
It started out as a typical, impromptu, somewhat poorly planned, last minute adventure. A "Jodie" adventure as I would like to start calling these events with this same common theme.
My favorite author or all time, who lives in dreamy Taos, New Mexico and writes about (drum roll).... “how to write.” And meditation. And life. And shame. And chaos. and all those glorious events that make us humans, "beings.” Natalie Goldberg was coming to Seattle for a book tour and I could hardly believe it. I have been trying for the better part of my twenties to make it to one of her enviable writing workshops, but let’s be real here, they are not for the common folk.
So needless to say I was not going to miss this golden opportunity.
I knew I had to work that day (and couldn't get out of it), so I planned my commute to work with a change of comfortable clothes and a 2 hour bus ride. I planned the commute after work, to the island, where I also needed to find a bookstore....without much thought, besides using Googlemaps.
First of all, what are the odds my favorite author comes to Seattle after I move out here? Hmm...Come to think of it I haven't heard much from her in the last few years, maybe she has came out with a fantastic new book and I (being away at sea and all) was unaware of anything happening. So upon hearing of her appearance at this bookstore, which I only happened to see by mere chance, I prepped by going through all of the books I had by her, which upon a shock of discovery, I had given away to everyone upon my travels.
So I thought, it would be FINE, I would surely remember things once at the bookstore, and honestly all I cared to do was listen to her speak and dispel her numerous words of magical wisdom and zen and all that stuff that will make ANYONE a better writer...or so they say.
So I work until 4, but oh wait, my coworker is late to work again, so I have to stay even later. I check the ferry schedule to the island via my phone. I think to myself "they must run every fifteen minutes." Oh my stars!! The ferry only runs once an hour!! Which means I must make the 5 o'clock ferry to get to the island on time.
I leave my job in a half changed, slightly disgruntled mess with a little perfume and a quick sweep of deodarant and decide the only way I'm going to make it to the ferry dock on time (in this traffic mess) is to physically RUN down Capitol Hill with no sports bra and in a dress. So I take off running and the inner city pedestrian girl brain switches on.
“This block has construction, this is a one way street from hell, this block will be crammed with rush hour pedestrians, this block will never let me cross because the drivers hate pedestrians, this light always changes the fastest” and on and on with the calculated time risks of making the ferry.
Somehow, a forty minute sprint and a hectic ticket sell, and I make the ferry in a disgusting, sweaty mess.
Hmm, now to find coffee if I'm going to stay awake for this ordeal, because including the ferry time ride, the book lecture, the signing, the question and answer session, and the ferry ride back I will be lucky to get home by midnight.
I find the bathroom to go wash my face, brush my hair to look halfway presentable and then grab a coffee. Once I find a seat on the ferry, I look up and realize where I'm going. This ferry contains every rich person in Seattle, with expensive suits, cutting edge technology, porcelain veneers and Botox. I spend the majority of the ferry ride listening to people complain about how inefficient their maids are, and which horses to buy to breed, and whether they should go to brunch in the morning.
I shrink away in the corner of the ferry trying to figure out how far the bookstore is. At least a fifteen minute walk. Okay perfect. Also I can smell my own b.o. at this point so cheers to the irony of life.
As I exit the ferry, and watch the littering of elite, elaborate model cars drive off, I stumble around and follow the hoard of people to where I can guess the center of town is.
Another 15 minutes later and I find the bookstore. It is literally immaculate and kitschy and upperscale. I go buy another coffee because I can feel how tired I am starting to get.
Finally a group of people file in (surprisingly not too large, I think this is due to the commute aspect) and an introduction is made and the author takes the stage. "Well she's just like I thought she would be," I say to myself and find myself wondering what brilliant question I'll ask and if she can tell innately that I'm an avid reader of hers.
One tiny, minor, minute speck of a detail that I do not consider. This is indeed about her new book (which I bought right before this ordeal, 5 minutes ago) but her new book is about...death. Particularly her rather agonizing battle with cancer for the last few years.
Then I scan the room as I nearly knock over my entire americano spilling it on my dress. Everyone in this room has cancer.
Oh how I was not prepared for this.
So she reads from her book, and everyone listens and the emotion in the room is heavy at times and light at times as everyone laughs at the perils of talking about such an uncomfortable subject. She talks of her frustrations, I can hear the anger in her voice. How she doesn't know if she'll get better and the only way she thinks she's alive right now is because she could afford the medication she needed due to her book sales, unlike most people.
She doesn't talk about how to become a better writer, or how to write or anything about it. She says she was glad for once to not have the same questions from people about how to write, and how to "make it" in the writing world.
So people in the room take turns asking questions about her life, her illness, her books, if she still meditates and they also talk about their own battle and what to do, and if she had any advice, etc.
It was truly a beautiful conversation with strangers, and albeit, most people my age do not really talk/think about cancer...you can probably imagine I'm feeling a bit out of place.
One, because I didn't read this book beforehand, and had NO IDEA she was sick. Two, I was the only person in the room who didn't have a question, because I felt stupid to ask a question when I myself was not having to deal with this personally. Three, I'm already an emotional person, so putting me in the room with people who are suffering is like asking me to try not to cry every 5 seconds. Four, despite my complete unawareness of the events that were to happen this day, I have been surrounded and encompassed by this terrible disease for as long as I can remember and have NOT truly processed it or thought about it from the first person POV.
I have watched many many many family members deal with this disease, or friends, or friends family. I have been to enough funerals for someone my age. And I have had to grieve from afar when I was unable to go back home, (Is it worse to grieve far away? I think so for some reason.) And I think there is an unspoken conversation between my siblings of what now? Will it be us one day? Maybe, maybe not, but I do know, we are all probably just as tired of dealing with it.
So I needed to be there, just like everyone else, but just didn't quite know it.
So afterwards, I brought my book forward and mumbled something about being a "lifelong fan"
...”okay Jodie don't be creepy” I think to myself through my coffee jitters.
She smiles and signs my books with my name.
"Jodie think of something clever, something that you read somewhere in a book. Think? Be memorable!! Stand out. Say something you doof. Maybe she'll write about how cool you are and you’ll be famous!”
This is legit what I was thinking like a lunatic.
All I could say was "I'm sorry you are going through this."
And she smiled.
And I said thank you
and walked away
along the long quiet highway
back towards the dock
to start my commute back home.
Life is mysterious and beautiful.