Up, up, and away.
A successful launch party, more big life news, and a story from Topanga Canyon.
It was four days before my book launch party. I wanted it to be great, and wasn’t ready to trust some venue and some caterer to hold and feed my people. So I had made the irrational but not out-of-character decision to host the party at my home and to make the food myself. My dad and my publisher were both driving into town to help and attend the soiree, a taco night and talent show, to celebrate the official launch of my book, HALF WILD: A prayer for a generation of roaming malcontents.
I was excited. This party would be the first big gathering in the home I had bought almost a year prior. I moved into my house the weekend my mom died, and spent months thereafter coping with my grief by fussing to make the house cozy. (I learned not to select paint colors while grieving, although I have come to love my black kitchen walls.) The house slowly morphed and became mine, draped in sheepskins with spiritual statuary gazing down on us from various perches.
I optimized the office to facilitate meetings for my remote job. Marco began using the basement for therapeutic sessions with local clients. We were eager to see how the house held up when inundated with hungry guests.
Menus were planned. Supplies were laid in. I returned home from one of many trips to the grocery store to find a new and unexpected meeting placed on my calendar - an “Org Update” from the VP. My heart pounded as my mind raced through the options. My company was one of many tech firms doing massive rounds of layoffs to hunker down for the recession, but it wouldn’t ever impact my team. We were on the rise! We were doing great work!
I was incorrect. His voiced edged with frustration, the leader of my team told a collection of us, “Unfortunately, the company has decided it’s moving in a different direction. Everyone on this call is affected. Effective August 15.”
Cooking is a coping mechanism
Just like that, party planning became my full time job. I took it very seriously. I dove into the stash of local beef I had procured from Burley Stick Farm in Barnardsville, and turned brisket into barbacoa. I seared London broil for carne asada, and whipped up a homemade taco seasoning for several pounds of spicy ground beef.
The party took on new meaning. I was signaling to the universe that I was not only unafraid but I even welcomed the opportunity to stretch beyond my comfort zone. Not only would I be okay, I would eat well and feed my family in style while I was at it!
The timing was beautiful. Stung by the shock of a major ending, I put all of my attention and intention into crafting a new beginning. It was going to be delicious.
Earlier in the process, I had asked Marco why I needed to have a launch party. It felt like work. It felt like unnecessary expense.
“You have a launch party to celebrate your accomplishment,” he had reminded me. I wasn’t comfortable at the center of attention, so the launch party became a talent show, too. Our Asheville community is brimming with talent. We’ve got artists, singers, poets, and performers of all kinds to warm the stage up before I took my turn.
Marco played the role of emcee, with support from selectively shy four-year-old Jackson. They both crushed it, standing in the glow of the galaxy laser lights in the basement-turned-performance-space. Songs were sung. Poems recited. Stories shared.
Beginnings and endings
When it was my turn, I read a chapter from my book called Topanga, which took place while I was driving around the country trying on different lives.
While I was staying in a yurt in California, I stopped into a café for a taste of civilization. Sipping my coffee, I found myself judging the people around me because they seemed like they were trying too hard to be something. Different? Cool? Interesting? The chapter chronicles how I decoded my judgment to discover an enormous projection of my own fear of mediocrity. I was out there trying to prove that I was something special by collecting experiences, but when I saw that quality reflected back to me from others, it felt so, so hollow. It called my whole identity into question and forced me to grapple with my perceived purpose. Was I doing what I loved? Or doing what I thought I was supposed to love?
To read that story aloud in the basement of the house that I own, to a sea of friendly faces, with a belly full of local food, and a heart boiling over with connection, felt pivotal. I eulogized a former life of desperate chasing and keeping up appearances. I christened a new timeline by officially launching a new phase of experience, informed by but completely untethered from previous lives.
It’s a different kind of freedom. It’s not that “road trip freedom” of disconnection and frivolity. It’s a brand new kind, born out of trust in the universe, faith in the divine, and belief in my own integrity.
I don’t know what happens now. I know I can make a kickass barbacoa and bring cool people together to celebrate good news. I know I can take bad news in stride and transmute endings into exciting beginnings. I know that that’s enough, for now.
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Brilliant event. Loved every minute 💕