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Hyacinths to feed the soul (The writing life is all about priorities)

If thou of fortune be bereft,
And in thy store there be but left,
Two loaves, sell one, and with the dole,
Buy Hyacinths to feed thy soul.

~Muslih-uddin Sadi


With two kids in college and the economy what it is, Gary and I are on credit card lock-down. No non-biz expenditures, and we've been good about it, but today is my birthday, and I refuse to give up my long-standing birthday tradition: I sent my mom flowers. It's a priority that might not pass the Suze Orman smell test, but I have never felt a twinge about it. There were times in my rock 'n' roll youth that I had to hock my guitar or take an odd job I'd rather not talk about in order to scrape up enough to order my mom's birthday bouquet, but that actually made it more fun because it reminded me how important it is and how lucky I am to have been born to two unbelievably talented, intelligent, loving, courageous people. I was introduced early to life outside the box, and witnessing the way my parents have lived their lives taught me a lot about priorities. Family, faith, adventure and art rank high. Money, caution, and status -- not s'much.

Setting priorities is one of the great ongoing challenges of the writing life. Weighting ideas. Is this a project I want to take on? Managing time. How should I spend the next 45 minutes of my work day? The next 45 days? The coming year? I'm 47 today, and I'm not complaining. Not for a free boob job and a bag of gold bullion would I go back to my 20s. But I do feel the clock ticking on my career. I came to this calling fairly late, and there's a lot I want to do. The after-effects of chemo have shortened my life expectancy a bit, but that doesn't mean I expect any less from life -- today, this week, this year. And I'm not talking about money or gigs, I'm talking about happiness.

If joy is not part of your business plan, you seriously need to think about your priorities. It's comfortable to be lazy, but "comfort" and "joy" coexist only in the chorus of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"; everywhere else, joy requires challenge, sacrifice, effort, doubt, and industriousness. Sometimes the reward is a book contract. Sometimes it's a bouquet of soul-feeding flowers.

Comments

Happy birthday, Joni! And you're a darned fine daughter to send your mother flowers on *your* birthday. What a wonderful, out-of-the-box idea.

One thing my mother taught me is to send flowers while the ones you love are living rather than waiting 'til the funeral, when they aren't around to enjoy them.

And you're absolutely right about priorities. Rail against it though we might, all of us have expiration days, and you don't get any bonus points at the end for leaving parts of your life unlived.
Suzan Harden said…
I envy you your family, Joni. Not everyone is lucky enough to have the love and support to forge their own paths in life.

Right now, I find my joy in the little things. My son and I curled under a blanket while I read to him. Opening the blinds so my beagle has a sun spot to sprawl an sleep and still keep an eye on me while I'm writing. I can still count all my real regrets in life on the fingers of one hand (and I'm trying very hard not to move the net hand).

You're so right. The economy may suck, but life's pretty good right now.
Dorothy Hagan said…
Forty-seven? Why you're a spring chicken. As I approach fifty, I think we are just about now getting smart enough to produce our Absolute Best.

Happiest of birthdays, Joni.
TJ Bennett said…
Hippo birdy two ewe, hippo birdy two ewe, hippo BIRDy dear Joni....

HIPPO BIRDY TWO EEWWWWWE.

And many moooorrrre. Sleep on the flooor. Now close the dooooorrrrr!

;-)

TJB
Joni Rodgers said…
Thanks, gals. It's been a beautiful and eventful day so far!
Happy Birthday! I celebrate the day you were born.

With hope, Wendy

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