Knowing the Questions but Not All the Answers
I moved to Costa Rica to write the book that’s been roiling around in my head for nearly 15 years. I first thought of it in 1999 when, at the lowest depth of my despair, I decided to take a silent walk across the Sahara desert. I had come to realize that somehow in building a business, I had lost touch with my true self. To others, I seemed to be swimming in a sea of success, but inside I was gasping for air. My drive to succeed overtook my spirit to fully live, to the degree that I found myself staring at the ceiling at night, wondering, “Is this all there is?”
Since that time, I have measured my life by “before the desert” and “after the desert.” That trip started me on a journey to explore my inner spirit, and led me to the question that so many business people ask themselves: is there a way to be accomplished in business and still keep my spirit engaged and fulfilled? Can I be successful and stay true to myself? I made a brave but futile attempt to write this book back then, thinking that I had all the answers. It turned out I had a lot more work to do.
As I searched for meaning, I took trips to exotic places like Tibet, Mongolia and Botswana, all with an organization called Cross Cultural Journeys. CCJ founder Carole Angermeir saw to it that we were exposed to wisdom in each of these spiritual places, which helped me find a path to connecting my business and personal life in a way that brought me fulfillment and contentment. The journey wasn’t always pretty and it certainly wasn’t easy.
One of the guides who helped me sort through it all was Tracy, a Cross Cultural trip manager who later became a close friend. Tracy was a jack-of-all-trades—part cat herder, part money manager, part shoulder-to-cry-on, who made sure that our journeys were safe and inspiring and included plenty of bottled water. Her magical, bottomless cotton tote always had the just the right thing when we needed it: an extra toothbrush, a jar of peanut butter, or an inspirational quote about the transformation that travel brings us. She has been my muse as I’ve been writing, trying to answer the question I hear from so many people: can we possibly connect success to self?
Writing a book hasn’t been easy. A lot has transpired since that trip to the desert. I’ve had successes and setbacks and everything in between. Figuring out how to put it all down in a way that helps the reader find connection in these two seemingly opposed concepts is, in some ways, like plotting out a spreadsheet to me—excruciatingly painful and not all that attractive. I’ve had as many roadblocks in the last four months as I’ve had in my nearly 30-year career. There have been times when I’ve hated everything I’ve written and I’ve asked myself, “Who do I think I am, anyway?”
At one particularly painful stretch a few months ago, I met with an intuitive healer and told him about my recent setbacks and how much I had invested in seeing this book published. He took my hands and looked in my eyes. “It is not your job to worry about publication”, he said. “It’s your job to write from your divinity. Tell the story you need to tell. If the world wants it, it will ask for it.”
After that, I threw everything out the window. I decided to write from my heart, potential publishers be damned. I forgot about the marketplace and woke up every morning to write a story—many of which are set in my Cross Cultural Journeys trips that Tracy led—not caring if it would ever end up in the book. And you know what? The stuff I am writing now is good. I wake up every day excited about getting to the computer. There are times when I am so in the flow that the only thing that gets me to shut it down is my aching wrist after 12 hours of writing.
When I first got to Costa Rica, I used to write in between yoga classes. Now I take yoga classes in between my writing.
And, in a lovely example of life coming full circle, I’ve been talking to the Carole, the owner of Cross Cultural Journeys about leading trips in the future. It looks like my first one will be a trip to Cuba this fall. It’s a lovely affirmation that I’m on the right path. I can only hope to provide the same life guidance to my travelers that I got from Tracy.
In the words of a former American President, “This is hard work.” Writing is sometimes lonely and many times frustrating. But it’s exactly what I’m meant to be doing right now. Fifteen years ago, I thought I knew all the answers to write this book. Now I’m finding I only know the questions. And somehow, that is enough.