Getting Off the Train in Van Nuys
I’ve traveled across the U.S. and parts of Europe by train a number of times, and when the train pulls into a station in some small town, I always like to imagine what it would be like to get off, find a job, a place to live, meet new friends and have a whole new life.
In some ways, that’s exactly what I’ve be doing since my last blog post in January after my husband of twenty-eight years, Lance, suddenly died – only I got off the “train” in Van Nuys, California, just a few miles from the townhouse I used to live in in Woodland Hills. Van Nuys feels so far away. It might as well be somewhere in the middle of America. New building, new neighbors, new grocery stores, new streets, new Starbucks, new noises, new cooking smells at dinner time.
When Lance died a mere three weeks after a stage four lung cancer diagnosis, followed by a major heart attack and strokes, my life was up-ended. We’d planned to move into a new house at the end of December; I’d planned on starting book promotion for my new book, The Therapist Writer, which was finally finished and up on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kindle. Then he died.
There’s a lot of work to do when someone dies, plus on top of that I also had to move, which is also a lot of work. I tried to squeeze townhouse worth of stuff collected over the twenty-three years we were there into a tiny one-bedroom apartment. I ended up putting furniture, books and crockery out in the hallway of my building with a sign: “Free! I Can’t Fit It All In!” — and it all disappeared. Poof! The apartment building is next to the San Diego Freeway, which sounds ghastly, but the freeway sound wall protects me from all but a soft hum of traffic, and all I can see out my window and patio is trees. I can’t even see the sound wall. It’s actually serene and cozy here and my cat likes it.
As a new widow (so strange to be using that word), I occasionally have strange thoughts, such as, “I’ve been out a long time so I probably should be getting home or Lance will worry.” It takes a second to remember there is no Lance and there is no “home.” Van Nuys is my home now. I had an errand in my old neighborhood the other day and I drove by “our” townhouse. It was garbage day and somebody else’s garbage was out where my garbage used to be. Somebody else lives there now.
Today when something happens in my life, good or bad (I won a writing contest; I had a spat with a friend; I am confused about how to fill out Lance’s taxes) my impulse is to reach for my phone to “call Lance at the office” — until I remember he’s not at the office. He’s dead. I want to let it ring anyhow, just in case…
At other times I have tortured myself by listening to the always-cheerful messages Lance used to leave on my cell phone when I was out somewhere. It makes me want to reach into the phone and pull him out — alive. I also do a strange thing with calendar dates: When I read about an event that took place on a certain date, I figure out if that was before Lance died or after he died. If it was before he died, I feel as though I might be able to stop time and keep him alive: “Wait right there, Lance, don’t go anywhere, I’m on the way!”
I stopped eating and I lost weight and I lost my heart for my work. I didn’t care about my writing, or my blog, or promoting my new book. I read a quote from former President Bill Clinton about his first book: “I didn’t sell it because I didn’t promote it.” Clinton and I now have something in common. I’m not selling many books, either, and for same reason. I’m not promoting it. It shows you that you can be one of the most high profile people in the world, or a widow from Van Nuys who writes, but if you don’t promote your work you won’t sell anything. I knew this; I just have to start acting on it.
But now, after four months of living in Van Nuys, my new upside-down world, I’m starting to put my toe in the water and get back to eating, writing (I started a novel, my first), book promotion — and this blog. I accepted some speaking gigs (although I wanted to stay home under the covers), and I won that contest I mentioned above — the 2013 Beverly Hills Book Award in the writing and publishing category. That was nice. Slowly I’m going back to some of the organizations I belong to, both as a psychotherapist and as a writer/publisher.
My next blogs will be on the subjects of writing, publishing and book promotion – which is why I started the blog in the first place. I’m giving a speech soon in Sacramento on “Marketing Your Book Like Mad A-Z,” which is the subject of the last two chapters of my book, so I’m hoping that will kick-start me into promoting my own book as well as help you promote yours! Yes, that, too, is a lot of work.
But it’s nice to realize that in this new world of writing, publishing and the Internet, authors can promote their books from anywhere in the world – even from Van Nuys.
(c) Sylvia Cary, TheTherapistWriter.WordPress.com