A package came for me today. It was something that I've been looking forward to for a long time. I waited with anticipation for it, and I may have even wanted to scream once or twice as I viewed the tracking records and tried to understand how Fed Ex could possibly keep moving it closer, only to send it to Chicago, and then closer once more. After nearly two weeks of waiting, my package arrived.
I opened my package as soon as I got home, tearing the cardboard and sliding out the contents. I was like a kid in a candy store, if candy stores were still a common thing. Some people might say that I was overreacting a bit to what was inside, but I beg to differ. In the long and tedious task of bringing a book from idea to completion, I never get more excited than when I see the printed cover for the first time. Today was twice as nice because there were two of them in the package.
There's something about seeing a finished cover that makes me happy. Yes, I designed the covers, and I went over them meticulously in Photoshop, yet looking at a jpeg, or even printing it out on a piece of paper, is not the same as seeing that cover wrapped around the binding that contains the story within. Seeing a near-complete version of the book brings a sense of accomplishment that rarely gets topped. Pressing the button that sends a story to Amazon doesn't feel like much. There's nothing tangible about pressing a button to upload something to a server somewhere. Even having that story suddenly available on my iPad or Kindle is just not the same as holding that physical copy.
One of the books that I received today was extra special to me because the art was done by my daughter, Alice. She drew me a picture on a restaurant placemat and it became an entire book. That's special to me in more ways than I can ever convey. Inspiration comes from many places, and this was one of the best realizations of that.
Both books that came today are still a ways from being complete. Other eyes will see them and edits will be made, but nothing will top the pure joy of seeing them come out of the box for the very first time.
When I was young, I thought that there was all the time in the world. Every day (especially school days) seemed to stretch out forever. There seemed to be so much that I could do on any given day. Play with toys? No problem. Go out and toss football with dad? As long as he wants to. Watch three hours of cartoons? Why not. I was naive enough to think that I would be able to accomplish anything and everything I'd ever want to do.
Boy, was I wrong.
As I've gotten older, time has found a way to somehow speed up. School has been replaced by an eight-hour-a-day/five-day-a-week job. Playing with toys has been replaced with doing things with my children. Tossing the football with dad now means I drive my children to event after event after their school day is over with. And no matter what happens, there isn't enough time for it all.
What used to seem like the longest day in the world in now me saying, "It's time to start another work week already?" My days off go by in a blur and I have to plan out my evenings to get in as many things as possible before I drag my exhausted butt to bed and start the process all over again. To get as much in as possible, I have to make sacrifices. I don't get to write as much as I want, and exercise and become almost nonexistent. Six hours of sleep has now become a good night.
I used to be cynical about the way that life seemed to be flying by. I used to dwell on days where little to nothing was accomplished and think that I had somehow wasted a day. I thought that feeling was going to be with me until my dying day.
Last year I got sick. VERY SICK! I didn't get to go to work for three months, and I was forced to stay at home on my sofa because I was too tired to do anything else. I figured it would be a good chance to write more and finish several stories that I've had, but I found that my memory was struggling as well. I'd forget simple things that I'd just done and have to figure out what was going on.
The illness continued to worsen and one doctor mentioned that I had pulmonary hypertension after checking my chest for what was causing some of my breathing issues. I looked that up and saw that it wasn't good. I was staring down not being around as long as I thought I would be. I got it in my head that all I wanted to do was live long enough to see my kids become adults.
I was fortunate. It turned out that I had ulcerative colitis and a hiatal hernia which combined to put pressure into my chest and cause symptoms similar to the hypertension. Instead of staring down something where it was possible I might not have a lot of time left, I now have a condition that is manageable if I do the right things. It meant that I potentially have more time.
Although the days still fly by, and still don't have enough time to get everything done that I'd like, I've grown to appreciate things so much more. Time may never be what it was like when I was a kid, but the reality was that back then, a minute was a much higher percentage of my existence than it is now. I've lived well and I love my life. I now appreciate what I have and I strive every day to do better than the day before.
I'm only going to be here for so long, so I better make the best of it.
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