‘Tis the season to think about faith. Here's what that means to Rebecca Rasmussen, author of the moving debut novel The Bird Sisters:
The world looks different to me now that it's winter and gets dark at 4:30. Each day, my four-year old daughter and I take a nap together in my bed after school and teaching, office hours and emails, and before my husband gets home from work. Usually, I feel restored and energized, peaceful. Lately, though, I have been waking up with an acute sense of panic. There isn't enough time! I think when I open my eyes and see the darkening windows and skyline.
This is adult panic, it turns out. Ava snores her way right through dusk. She's like Sleeping Beauty-the only way to wake her is with a kiss. She and my husband are my two true loves. Except that this other love has been swooping in at dusk, as it is doing right now, and whisking me away from my daughter and my husband and taking me to my coffee shop on the corner of Delmar and North & South Street.
You see, I have loved my other love--writing--since I was eighteen.
I just turned thirty-two. My first novel is coming out next April, and my instinct is to look after it with the same intensity that I looked after my daughter Ava from the time I found out I was pregnant and stopped drinking coffee, to the time she took her first breath outside of my belly and the doctor announced her her-ness and her shock of thick black hair. One of the big differences is that a first novel, or any novel for that matter, doesn't automatically breathe on its own, which is why I am helping The Bird Sisters along as much as I can.
I am emailing. I am blogging. I am tweeting. I am phoning. I am Friending. I am Digging. I am Redditing. I am Google Buzzing.
I'm dreaming about the weird bump on my right hand, and the good health insurance I can't afford that would allow me to see a doctor without bankrupting us. I'm dreaming about the word tenure-track and having nightmares about the word adjunct. Oh, book, please deliver me from that mean-spirited word.
What an awful load to put on a little book! To put on myself. I know better.
Just now, out in the dark yonder across the street from my coffee shop where I work nearly every evening these days, I see a sign that says "Mind, Body, Spirit" that I've never seen before. It's that soothing eco-green I have come to love so much, both for its symbolism and its likeness to summer grass and the stems of hearty dandelions. Suddenly, I know what I need to do: put my computer away and go home. I believe in signs, literal and otherwise. Turns out I believe in the new age store that sells crystals across the street.
Mind. Body. Spirit.
I have faith in all three of these things, in their connectivity. That's why I have gotten back to running and yoga recently, and why I'm working on being mindful and present as much as I can, even when I am click-click-clicking away on my computer. I am working on honoring this trinity, nurturing the me-ness of me.
So I say goodnight to all of the wonderful and generous people I have met online-and I mean wonderful and generous!-and shut my computer down. I thank the barista, who jokes, "You'll be back!"
I say, "Yes. Tomorrow," and smile at her widely. So what if it gets dark earlier? So what if I don't get everything done? Silly Old Me. (Insert kind laugh here.) Slow Down. I have SO, SO much to be thankful for.
For me, faith of any kind is rooted first in giving thanks for being placed on this earth. Daily, I am able to experience the joy of being able to walk down the street on my own two feet, of being able to stay up late to read a book if I feel like it, and fall asleep next to my daughter in the back bedroom in our little apartment on our cheerful street in St. Louis. Not everybody has my good fortune, my good health-the love of family. Mind. Body. Spirit.
I have faith that no matter how sidetracked I may get, how worried when I wake up in the dark and look at the clock and think I'm out of time and opportunities, that those words will always help return me to me. I have faith that in the end it will all work out the way it's supposed to. And you know what? I just realized something important: that the moment I put words down on paper, my novel was already breathing on its own, just like the moment the doctors pulled my daughter out of my belly. Now it is my job as the mother to let both of my babies grow into whom they're going to be...to worry less...to breathe more deeply.
I walk out of my coffee shop and brace myself against the cold wind. In the distance, I see another sign, this one less serious. Pizza! it blinks in red neon. Mmm...Tomato. Basil. Mozzarella. Husband. Daughter. Home.
I can't think of anything better right now. Can you?
Rebecca Rasmussen is the author of the novel The Bird Sisters, forthcoming from Crown Publishers on April 12th, 2011. She lives with her husband and daughter in St. Louis and teaches writing at Fontbonne University. Visit her at http://www.thebirdsisters.com.