It was Sunday night at 10:30 p.m. (22.30) and we were getting up at four next morning to get ready for our big trip to the other side of the world. There were still around ten things left on my “what to do before leaving” list. Peter and the kids had just walked in the door after having delivered the cats to the families who had volunteered to care for them while we were gone. (In case you wonder, we have three cats. They are Mummy cat, Lala, and Turbo.) The kids were debating whether it was right to leave Lala with a family who already have two cats on their own. – Of our three cats, Lala, is the only one who would settle there, I said, in an attempt to console them. – You know, she is always the boss wherever she goes or whoever’s around, so she’ll make it. – Mom’s right, Tim said, – I think she’ll be ok. The little one seemed to agree and rested her case as well, but Simone was not convinced. – I wish we didn’t have to leave them, she said with a tiny voice and walked over to me and put her face into my lap. She had always been such an animal lover. In the outskirts of our lot, she had made a graveyard where all kinds of dead animals were buried. Birds, mice, adder, pike, and even a mink, and a beaver had been put to rest there by her. It was not surprising that it would be difficult for her, leaving behind those cats. I stroke her hair. – We are making this trip in part to help the red monkeys in Zanzibar, remember? So, we’ll still qualify as “animal helpers”, don’t you think (we had as a family coined ourselves “animal helpers”). – And there is no way we can bring the cats, you know. They will be fine until we come back, I’m sure. I lifted her chin and gave her a kiss on her forehead and pushed her lightly away. – Go now and pack your backpack with the things you are bringing for the plain trip. And then off to bed. It’s a lot of hours on a plane, remember. And be sure to remember your new diary.
She nodded and wandered off. Hmm, I thought to myself. I was not sure that our cats would be fine in their respective foster homes. But there just wasn’t any other way. I sent a thought out into the universe, hoping for some help from afar. There were so many practicalities involved in taking this trip that I had not thought of when deciding to do it. But it seemed like a long time since we had reached the point of no return. Now we simply had to move ahead and stand tall while doing it.
I walked into my home office and sat down. My to-do-list was still long, and my head was full of things to think about. I needed to prioritize with a sharp determination. Probably should have done that a long time ago, but hey, welcome to my last minute, working-best-under-time-pressure world.
Ok, I had managed to prepare all the material that I would send off to Amanda for the web site and so could tick that one off. Not that I was very pleased with what I had been able to dig up, but I had no more time to think it through, and so be it. Deadlines are a blessing for people like me who have this innate urge for perfectionism at the same time as we find everything equally important and interesting. There’s always something more to add, something more to explore or rework. If I hadn’t had deadlines, I wouldn’t finish a thing. Obviously, deadlines stressed me as much as the next person. They gave me headaches and made me snap when disturbed at the wrong time, but also helped me stay up half the night in order to complete something that simply had to be completed. I considered deadlines a blessing.
Come to think of it, that’s probably why I left the bullet point “make copy of book script and send to publisher” at the bottom of the to do list. It was referring to my own personal coffee table manuscript that I had been working on for the last five years. In fact, it was my number one hobby project which I loved spending time on whenever I had some free time. I could probably keep working on it for another five years. Yeah I told you before how it felt ‘unfinished’. And that I would spend my leisure time at Zanzibar deciding what to do about it. But I had decided to make one shot at it before leaving, right here, right now.
Actually, I had dreamt of making an inspirational coffee table book ever since I stumbled over the first one at a friend’s house when I was about 20. (For readers informed on the Norwegian book market, it was “Veien blir til mens du går”, by Ferdinand Finne.) I had loved that book which was full of illustrations, mixed with self biographical reflections, poems and citations. The next book that caught my attention in a similar way was the cooking book “Smak”, by the Norwegian chef Trond Moi. Again, the illustrations were as important as the content, in this case being photos of food and the ingredients going into the recipes.
Ever since I started working on women and leadership issues, I had tried to come up with ideas about how to present this rather serious topic in a more “light” way. I knew that the content would capture an audience, but I wanted to present in a different way. (Too many people draw a parallel between gender issues and man hating, masculine feminists who were angry with everyone, unfortunately.) Thus, the idea of an inspiring coffee table book.
I had made many collage like projects over the years, ever since I was very young in fact. It started with the women’s magazines my mother used to buy every Tuesday. After she had finished reading them, I took over, first devouring every sentence there was, including all the novels and articles and whatever else was in there like cartoons and the ‘Dear Abby column’. Then I would go through all the fashion shots and other photographs and cut out the pictures that I liked. Later I would glue the photos into my diary or make collages that I would frame and hang on the wall in my room, collages that were hopeful and glamorous and colorful and which helped me remember ‘the unbearable lightness of being’ when life otherwise felt rough and tough and heavy during my teenage years. When the PC programs got more advanced, it was possible to make collages in word documents, by scanning in pictures and designing a layout completely on my own, or even better, taking photos on my own camera and editing them so that they gave the exact feel that I was looking for. It was such a creative process putting it all together. However, so far they had purely been for private consumption.
Not to say, that there wasn’t a lot of hope hidden in the work. In fact, in the back of my mind was this thought of what if….! What if this could be something that others, too, would enjoy. What if someone would be willing to publish it.
Thus, here I was, going away on the second sabbatical of a lifetime, and deciding whether I would want to carry that hope with me in the coming years. But first, I would give fate a chance and send the manuscript off to a publisher.
So, at 11.10 pm that night I found the last version of the document in my folder, made a pdf version of it and sent it off – all within ten minutes. Off you go, I thought to myself with a smile, – we’ll see how the universe responds.