On What Comes Next

It’s Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles and I just did a Google search to see what time it is in Melbourne. 9AM, apparently. Melbourne is where my Australian publisher is located and today is the launch of my book over there. I’ve been getting emails from readers with photos of the book in bookstores and news of the book in the papers. Wish I was there for it! Please do send me word if you see it in a book shop, etc. So fun!

On my side of the world, I’m sitting here in my yoga clothes, having recently returned home from a class and easing into an afternoon of playdates followed by Oscar red carpet watching with friends. But what I’m really thinking about is what comes next. And I don’t mean next as in the flight I’m taking to Chicago and the AWP conference on Tuesday, or even next as in my prenatal appointment in a couple of weeks, or even the next as in my baby’s due date in June.

I mean next as in a much larger sense.

Today in yoga I stretched and leaned and twisted, settling into my body and breath and focused on being present, but part of me was rejecting that philosophy all the while. I feel like all I am these days is present. I’m hardly ever thinking about what’s behind me, nor am I concentrating on the bigger picture of my life. Instead, my day to day is filled up with what’s in front of me right this very minute — emails popping up, book sales numbers, dirty diapers, grocery lists, airplane seat assignments, the baby squirming in my abdomen, baskets of laundry and making sure the cat has had his medicine this morning. There’s so much on my plate these days that I often wake up in the early morning hours, my head buzzing with lists of things I need to do, unable to fall back asleep until just before it’s time to actually wrench myself from bed and into the frenzied day.

Granted, anyone who knows me well will tell you that I thrive on this kind of schedule, that I wouldn’t have it any other way, that I have always lived my life as fully and hectically as possible. And it’s true, but usually I have a better sense of what’s ahead on the path, of what’s coming next. And lately I haven’t had a breath to look much farther than what’s right in front of me at any given moment.

Yesterday, thanks to some lovely friends who took Vera for the afternoon, Greg and I went on a long hike through Temescal Canyon (where I took the above photo). It was late in the day and the shadows were cool. I zipped up my hoodie and really let my body settle in for the two hour hike, one that’s not easy at 6 months pregnant. On the stretches where breath and conversation flowed easily, our talk never strayed much farther than the last week or so, who we saw, what they said, what we did, what’s coming up in the next few days. It wasn’t hard to stay on those topics simply because there literally is so much to discuss, but I thought about it later and realized that even when we discussed the future, it didn’t extend beyond the next six months.

Later that evening, at the same friends’ house who watched Vera, after pizza and salad, just as we were on our way out the door, my friend Mark leaned in, and almost in a whisper, said, “I’ve been wanting to ask you. What’s next?” I knew he meant in a bigger picture sense and for a moment I could only look back at him, so stunned was I to be pulled so jarringly out of the present.

See, Mark is a big fan of my book and has recently played an instrumental way in making sure it has a chance of finding its way into more hands than I can imagine (more on that down the road). Mark is also a kindred spirit, someone who has walked his own long and hard path to finding the peace and love that surrounds him today. He’s someone I have trusted, and adored, since the moment I met him, and when he looked into my eyes last night and asked me that question, I felt like he was throwing me a life raft. And so I cleared my throat, and reached out through the roiling waters of my present-day life and took it. “That’s something I’m working on,” I said.

He nodded, his eyelids heavy for a moment, and I could tell he was thinking. I was thinking too.

In fact, I’ve been thinking ever since last night. I haven’t come to any conclusions, any answers or sage decisions, but I do know that it’s time to change my focus. I have this funny feeling that this water I’m treading in all the time isn’t so deep after all. That all I really need to do stand up and I’ll be able to see the horizon again.

14 comments

14 Comments

  • Posted February 26, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Recent convert to your story and your blog. I love reading about your journey. That last line about seeing the horizon was simply beautiful. Thank you for being so candid.

  • Posted February 28, 2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Maria! Always happy to have a new reader!

  • RzDrms
    Posted February 26, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    one of my favorite blogposts as of late. so raw, so real, so forward thinking. . .so. . .different.

    continued (quiet) congrats.

    congratulations, claire.

  • Posted February 28, 2012 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Aw, thanks RzDrms!

  • Helene
    Posted February 27, 2012 at 3:03 am | Permalink

    What’s next? Chicago 🙂

    A few weeks ago when your book came out I had ordered it through Amazon and knew it should’ve been here that Saturday. Got the mail, opened the door, looked up toward the mail slot (why I have no idea-it is a book after all) and nothing. So, not wanting to wait any longer, I ordered it for Kindle. 30 minutes later my son comes in carrying your book. It had been of course on the step under the mail slot, a place I hadn’t looked. Now I am just waiting for the audio book to come out, may as well get that one too 🙂 I am so glad I came across your blog a couple years ago and have seen this journey.

  • Posted February 28, 2012 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Hahaha…Helene, loved this comment. Glad you got your two versions — I’ll be sure to let you know when the audio hits! 🙂 And yes, Chicago is next. Writing this from the airport!

  • Posted February 27, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    It’s funny. I always want to know what’s next. A little while back, I came to the realization that it’s soothing to know what is next. It makes me less anxious when I know what is coming. You are in such a good place in the now…soak it in and bask in the “sun” of this time and place. What’s next always takes care of itself, rest assured. I’m sure you’ve already been planting those “next” seeds…

  • Posted February 28, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Ah, thanks Megan. I actually just feel a little overwhelmed by the present right now! I’m usually quite happy to stew in the present, but it has definitely been soothing to think about the next phase.

  • Posted February 27, 2012 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    I love this. This is exactly where I’m at right now. My situation is a bit different (my memoir is being shopped around by my agent; time will tell whether it sells), but nonetheless, I wonder what’s next. I’m usually such a driven person, but lately, I’ve been trying to let my thoughts percolate rather than rushing to set the next goal.

  • Posted February 28, 2012 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Percolation is good, Emma. Good luck with your memoir! Keep me posted — so exciting! (And nervewracking.)

  • Posted February 27, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    I’ll never forget as sat on the couch and looked over at Ken and I, both sitting on the hospital bed and asked in your gentle, unassuming voice, “What do you think comes next?” I immediately went to schedules and doctor’s appointments and…actions–things I could DO. I looked at Ken who was looking at me like I was answering the wrong question. He looked at you, smiling and you looked back at me said, “No. I mean what happens after this. What happens when we die.” Pivotal moment for me–probably less so for Ken because I’m sure it’s something that had been on his mind constantly since his diagnosis and being home for hospice care. It made me start thinking of “grander scale” things. A life line of its own. It will never escape me how such stereotypically uncomfortable discussion could be so honest–among all of us, particularly between Ken and me. And opened a door for further discussions we had. I’d gotten so used to living an in the moment, task-driven life, it was that cue that help me lift my head up out of the water and look around. One of the many beautiful gifts you gave to us together and individually. I’ll be eternally grateful for your guidance and support during that time in my life. And I’m excited to see what’s next for you. Maybe al title excited about what’s next for me, too. xoxo

  • Posted February 28, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Oh Ron, I just loved reading this rememberance. I recall that moment vividly as well. In fact, I remember all of my beautiful time with you and Ken so strongly. Can’t wait to hug you this week! xo

  • Helene
    Posted February 28, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Ron…I have also loved getting to “know” you through Claire’s blog. I am so sorry for your loss.

    A client of ours who is also my boss’s friend since high school (they are now 65) has been given 2 months. I had to call him the other week and ask for him to fax some important papers for the lawyer. He answered, he sounded great. I was sad because I didn’t know what to say so I said nothing other than that.

    Claire, I ripped through your book that first day, smiled at dad’s pale blue suit but then put it aside to savor my way through later. Some passages were me or very familiar. Older parents. Especially your mom…the hospital…your feelings during that time….that’s the kind of book one wants to write-one that elicits emotions even when writing a blog comment…

    See you at The Book Stall 🙂 I need to get an autographed copy for my collection 🙂

  • Posted March 5, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Helene, I loved, loved getting to meet you in person! Thank you for braving the weather and coming out! xo

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