When the Book Arrives (II)


Today it all changes. All that stuck-I-don’t-know-what-to-feel-in-limbo thing. I’m told that Oriented goes on sale. That I can buy a box of books. And transformation is just that simple. The words release me to go forward, leave yesterday and the day before behind. Like someone unplugged the bath and the dirtyclean water pooled in my soul just drains away. I realize that it’s not that it’s on sale, because it will take Amazon a few more days to get there. It’s that I can start giving out books to my family, to all the people who gave endorsements and edited it and helped the book come into being.  And just to some people that I really really like. Somehow, that’s the thing that makes it all real. Makes it all satisfying. And so, now…

When the Book Arrives (I)


It’s supposed to arrive today. My book. This thing I’ve slaved over, fretted about and exalted on for so long. I wait. Eager. Expectant. Looking for the UPS truck. My eyes cycling between the window and my phone, hoping for a text or call announcing its arrival. Ten a.m. drags itself into existence, leaving reluctantly. And minutes become hours, an agony that rotates through eleven. Then twelve. And I can’t take it.

Crossing to the office, I’m not surprised that the book hasn’t arrived. But my hope for the afternoon delivery is crushed. “Big shipments don’t usually come in the afternoon,” I’m told. I dial myself back. Don’t get all wired about this. Don’t put too much hope, desire, or excitement into this. Just be cool about it. Don’t bug Ben and Jon for the 1000th time… with your million questions about who, when and what for…about the process, about things I don’t need to know about. I blanket expectation with denial, indifference.



It arrives. Kevin sends me a picture. Boxes stacked on a pallet in the loading bay. But I am away for the day. Ugh.



I arrive at work at 7 am, pick up a copy. It’s beautiful. Smooth, lovely in its lines and fonts, its white spaces. I feel its skin in my hands, fingers sliding across it. I gingerly bend back the cover, pick up words and sentences, captions, quotes. The margins are clean spaces framing the text. I remember each passage as I read it. Flip to another spot. I notice the publishers announcements placed in the empty back pages. It is everything I want it to be. But…

…I feel schizophrenic.

I want to taste it and eat it, and cradle it and cry over it. And jump and dance and stick it next to my skin, next to my heart… like Christmas in November. It’s part of me… the part of me that wants to ingest it and let it merge back into my soul where it came from. But part of me doesn’t know what to do with it, doesn’t know how to feel anything. I can’t seem to shake off the disappointment of Monday. The intentional stuffing of my emotions. I should be jumping about the place in my underwear or something. But I’m not. All that’s happening is that my mind is spinning with a million questions about promotion and who I should send it to and how much it will cost me to buy copies of my own book. I feel crowded in my head.

It’s a surprise, this feeling. It’s not how I expected to feel when my first book actually got into my hand. I’m sure I won’t feel like this tomorrow. But it makes me think about my expectations. What did I really hope to feel? What is this about? It is about me, but maybe I have too much invested in this? I don’t know that I sort anything out. But I feel a mental sigh, an internal shift occur deep down inside. And with it a new thought, an old thought coming. When it’s all said and done, the book is just a thing. A window. An expression. Beautiful perhaps. Maybe even smart. But just a thing. And the most I can hope for is that it does what it was supposed to do: point beyond me.


Combat between couples is a many and varied thing. Some people yell and scream like Manchester United fans. Other people bang dishes, pans and slam doors. Others pull on the “deep-freeze” with each other. Like portable Antarctica. But Cathy and I are none of the above. If someone was watching, they might not even notice when we fight. Usually, it starts with a sentence or two that is a little sharper than normal. Maybe an eye roll (that’s me) or a shake of the head (that’s also me), then we retreat to opposite sides of the house to process it and maybe have a little rant (that’s me too). One of us always approaches the other and we work through it in a fairly rational way. Our counselors told us once: “You should fight more.” Really? Are you kidding?

In the first ten years of marriage, conflict was almost always about one thing: working on the weekend. My contemplative thought processes and performance issues meant that at week’s end I was never quite ready for my next teaching session. I would be stressed so my work week always soaked through into my weekend. On the surface, it didn’t look like it. I went out, played games, had dinner dates, went to parties.

It looked like time off, but it wasn’t. Not really. I was never fully switched off; work always made an appearance. Late arrivals home on Friday. Early morning writing. Practicing a presentation. Discussing an issue. And I was mildly resentful when anyone made a demand, impinged on that activity; when they wanted to take a bike ride, go on a picnic, sit outside. There was never a day in which I totally unhooked from my work to just be, to engage the main business of living. I wanted to excel. Be eminently knowledgeable. Be ready. But I was stealing time to get there and that came with a cost: the consistent grind in the gears of my marriage. Even more telling was that my creativity crashed and my humour died, starved of life. And I faked being ok and wore a lot of stick-on smiles. I was coasting toward being a zombie.

It’s not that I want to ignore the voices of my wife and my own mental state. But I cannot get off the work train. Not for years. And yet through all that time, the Book is also speaking to me: old words, seemingly irrelevant.

By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.  Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Gen 1:2-3)

The words sift me, diagnose me, tell me that I have no larger rhythm of rest; no stopping point. I merely drag my work, my mental to-do list from the structured environment of 9-5 into the unstructured hole of the weekend. But, at first I don’t see that. It merely strikes me that God rested on the seventh day. And in case I didn’t get it, the words were repeated in various ways multiple times.

Seventh… God rested… from the work he had done.

The questions swirl and the jester breaks out of his box. What was that about? Did God get tired? Did he get bored? How could that be? Was he a weakling? Didn’t he have a calendar to fill up with activities? I imagined God with his “To-Do” list:


Sunday: Make a Big Bang. Cool the Earth. Excite some photons and get light going.

Monday and Tuesday: Do Landscaping. Everywhere.

Wednesday: Focus on stellar and planetary formation. Remember to get the spin right.

Thursday: Let the birds out. Put the fish (plural) in the ponds…

Friday: Make some mammals and other critters. (Platypus, just for fun.) Whip up some human beings.

Saturday: Develop the atomic bomb and internet banking.

Sunday: Get the Justice System working. Judge some people.

Monday: Lots more to do…


I smile at the thought. Have a different one: that my mode of operation is different from God’s. If I was god – Gord Almighty – I would have started on creation and have stayed at it until it was done. Or gotten bored and quit. But I am reminded that God doesn’t get bored. That he likes himself and he likes the stuff he does. And he doesn’t have to prove anything; he’s already done that.

Despite this insight the questions keep coming, unrelenting. Dogs worrying at a beautiful rug. So why did God stop? And why was he repeating himself over and over about “stopping”? The repetition is parental. Patient. The wearing of grooves in a child’s understanding. It is underlining and highlighting. Boldfaced to stress importance. All this repetition is a marker pressed hard into the fabric of the world. A brand burned into the skin of reality, proclaiming ownership. Saying that he is done. Six days are enough for him. And then he gives a space.

But then why this seventh day? Why make a Sabbath and make it Stopping Day? A special day. A space in the world that he doesn’t need? A space I don’t need? Or do I? It is a thought pulled out of the tapestry of words. God doesn’t need Stopping Day. But maybe I do. If six days are good enough for him, perhaps they are good enough for me. Ideas click into place. My head does that intellectual thing, says Aha! but something deeper resists. That part in the shadow of my to-do list. The part that is in rebellion. I want to push on into the 7th and 8th and 9th days.  For in my unrest and dissatisfaction, I feel like I must complete these things. And yet, when I stop and really look at the list, all the lists, I realize they never stop growing.

My To-do List and Bucket List and Wish List, they are already overwhelming, so massive that if I let them rule me, I might never be able to stop. The mountain of tasks is daunting. Yet time is finite. And I cannot stuff everything in it, no matter how many days straight I work. I admit to myself that I’m not built for that. Can’t survive like that. Grinding away in unceasing dullness. Killing my heart in the process. My failure to recognize the weekly cycle of stopping is a failure to admit my humanness. It sounds ridiculous, but my propensity to work all the time is in some way an attempt to be godlike. More than I am. Indestructible. Glorious. It is to say I know better than this God. Can do better than this God. It is a strange realization. An odd combination of weakness and pride. This inability to stop. This idolatrous drive to do it all by myself. I don’t like it.