The last time I traveled from one coast of the United States to the other and back again was in 1971, when I hitchhiked the whole way (except for hopping freights from Colorado to Sacramento) with my boyfriend. Now, more than fifty years later, I’m going on my own, undertaking a tour for my new book, Fierce Consciousness: Surviving the Sorrows of Earth and Self. In 23 cities I’ll be doing readings and discussions at events organized by my friends, many of whom I haven’t seen in years.
As this event, which I have been planning with increasing attention to detail, has gotten closer and closer, I have watched as excitement and anxiety crash back and forth in me like waves splashing onto and rolling off of the shore.
It all starts in two days, March 10, my 75th birthday, with a reading here in Ithaca at Buffalo Street Books.
Anxiety is a sneaky visitor. It wants your full attention, so it vexes you by tossing the same hypotheses at you over and over again, demanding answers to questions that either cannot be answered from a far place and time or else don’t really matter that much anyhow. For example:
- What happens if there’s snow in the Rockies and I can’t get across?
- What if something goes wrong with the car?
- What if I don’t have enough books?
- What should I wear to the book launch in Ithaca?
One night, after tussling with anxiety instead of sleeping, I got up in the middle of the night and started making a very detailed day-by-day itinerary, including where I’m staying, the events of the book reading, how many books I’ll need, and approximately how long it’s going to take me to get from one city to the next.
That helped. Slowly excitement began taking over. Excitement, too, has its own personality. It appears to us more like a beguiling mystery than uncertainty. As I have, in fact, written in the book:
I sense that the unknown is beckoning me ahead, rather than threatening me from behind. I don’t know what may occur, but I’m not impatient for it, or at least not too impatient. I might feel some anxiety, for I know that if I step into new and untried ground, I may be tested. And yet, if I follow the allure instead of the fear, let the glimmer of mystery shine brighter than the fog that’s shrouding it, I feel excited. I know that things will emerge that I just haven’t noticed before.
No doubt anxiety and excitement will continue to splash in me once I’m on the road. One thing that would certainly be exciting though, would be if some of you, who read this, would come to an event near you! Here is my complete itinerary.