My path is undeniable.
Once again I’m struck by how the universe responds when I clearly ask for what I want and take action toward that end.
On November 19, I posted a personal essay on my blog about my first year in public school in Mount Pleasant, Texas in 1949, a piece in which I experimented with writing my internal dialogue as events unfolded. My blog is set up to send new posts via email to subscribers, and the next day I got an message back from my friend and subscriber John Coats, who’d read my piece. John reminded me that his grandfather had been mayor of Mount Pleasant during the early 1950s, the period during which my family lived there. What’s more, John spent a portion of his summers at his grandfather’s home, an experience he’d written about and now shared with me. So our paths had crossed prior to my experiencing an intensive personal development workshop in Houston in 1986 at which John was the trainer.
I emailed John back commenting on our common history, letting him know how much I’d enjoyed his story about his grandfather and suggesting that he expand it into a full-blown memoir. And, since I was embarking on a memoir project of my own, tentatively titled “A Tale of Two Daughters,” I asked John if he knew of mentors or coaches who could support me in this project.
John highly recommended Cat Parnell, who he’d met at the Bennington Writing Seminars and who had very thoughtfully edited some of his work. John also reported that Cat had already had a look at my blog and my Amazon Author’s Page and was interested in working with me.
Subsequently I emailed Cat about my project, and in a sort of “a friend of John’s is a friend of mine” manner, she provided me with some suggested reading, and we set a time to talk.
One of the essays Cat suggested was “An Essay: Mr. Lytle” that was written by John Jeremiah Sullivan and published a few years ago in The Paris Review. The Mr. Lytle referred to in the essay’s title was Andrew Nelson Lytle, one of the Southern Agrarians, who had served as the editor of The Sewanee Review from 1961 to 1973 while a professor of English at Sewanee: The University of the South. Mr. Lytle taught creative writing at Sewanee during my tenure as a student there in the mid-1960s, and though I was drawn to this course, fear overrode my desire to explore my ability as a writer, a fear that took me decades to overcome. Besides playing football, consuming copious amounts of alcohol and road trips to women’s colleges (Sewanee was then an all-men’s school) were my primary objectives during that time. I should mention here that I later became related to Mr. Lytle through my first marriage and from time to time drank bourbon with him, his friends and family at his home on the Mountain.
Cat and I talked a few days later, and from the beginning it was apparent that we shared some common ground. First of all, Cat began her college education at Sewanee, albeit several decades after I had, during the period in which the first women students had been accepted as undergraduates there. And she knew Andrew Lytle. In addition, she resonated with my statements about why I write:
And my calling is to write. I am compelled to do so. Any other path would be a breach of my integrity. I am duty-bound to put my knowledge, thoughts, feelings, intuitions and inklings out into the world—for myself and in service to others. . . .
I write to help create a shift in the cultural paradigm—to one of greater love, connection, honesty, integrity, generosity, responsibility, respect and courage. I write in support of spiritual warriors, men and women who are willing to share their unique gifts in service of a better world regardless of the consequences.
Cat pointed me toward a similar sentiment by Russell Banks that deeply resonated with me:
Go, my book, and help destroy the world as it is.
Finally, I took a deep breath and asked Cat the ultimate question: Do you think I have the ability to pull this off? “Yes, you do,” she answered.
Given Cat’s straightforward, honest, accessible approach, a part of me wanted to jump in with both feet and immediately engage Cat as my mentor/coach/editor. However, she suggested a trial run, and I agreed that this would be the best approach. So I’m writing a 1200 word essay on a juicy topic that will remain confidential, at least for now, with a deadline of December 19. Cat will provide me with feedback and suggestions for improving my work. Then we’ll decide how, if, we go forward together.
Is all of this mere coincidence or is something larger at work here? For me these synchronicities as well as my intuition and the feeling of excitement in my body indicate that I’m on the proper path. I’ve pledged to devote myself to my writing for the first time in my life, and I’m filled with great anticipation and joy, mixed in with a touch of anxiety. I am a writer, and I intend to see this project through to completion, be it months or years.