I find myself with 30 minutes and no obvious task pressing itself upon me, demanding to get done. Next week is a short one, only three days of classes before a four-day weekend. I'm running (well, jogging) (well, mostly walking) (okay, all walking) a race tonight, so I don't need to squeeze in time at the gym. I glance up at my open tabs and there is my blog, opened when my browser starts like everyday. So here is my 30 minutes.
Like this unscheduled time, I feel the unbearable lightness of waiting. The steps toward my book's publication have been many in the last four months -- some big, like the compiling of the index and the final proofing of the galleys, which I did in late July and early August; and some small, like approving cover copy and answering copy-editor queries. But on October 5 my patient production editor sent the book to the printer. Now I look forward to holding it in my hands. A part of me worries that it will seem small and insignificant when I do, not worth the years I invested (not to mention the unbounded generosity of my interviewees). A part of me defensively shouts that I don't care if nobody reads it. But of course I do. All those steps, large and small, have left me proud of what it's turned out to be -- a pride that makes me vulnerable to what becomes of it.
And meanwhile my husband takes his own career-expanding steps (like his byline in the New York Times) and my children grow (into their choirs and online communities and YouTube channels and artistic endeavors). I think about what comes next after this book. I'm contracted to write a volume in this series, and I'm looking forward to it, but taking the first step is always difficult. I'm having a great semester teaching, and that makes me want to create new classes, but I also know that I should be making what I'm already teaching even better, for next time -- learning by redoing.
I turned 50 last week. It was marvelous; I feel great, I've lost 30 pounds since this time last year, I'm so much happier than I was two years ago. 50 feels like a freeing milestone instead of an ominous one, like the moment when the drive to the trailhead ends and the actual adventure begins. Noel threw a little gathering over Mexican food and fishbowl-sized margaritas, and I thanked my lucky stars that my terrible friendship skills haven't yet driven away my generous and forgiving friends. We're starting our twentieth year of marriage. I find it hard to believe how much we've done of what we always wanted to do, and how close we are to what we always wanted to become.
My time is up, and I'm off to the conclusion of a work week, spent as always with my students listening to some provocative, challenging, informative ideas. Until the next half-hour presents itself ...