Finding one’s dharma can be a torturous journey—one fraught with perils and disappointments. Luckily, at age eleven I read Harriet the Spy and started taking notes. Eventually, I found my dharma and its tools—namely pencil and paper. This did not stop me from exploring other options. Here are my failed attempts fraught with perils and disappointment.
Age 6 Baker’s Apprentice
My mother and I made a chocolate cake. The putting together of the ingredients went well. I turned on the mixer on and stuck it into the cake batter. It got away from me and next thing we knew the entire kitchen including the Baker’s apprentice was covered in chocolate cake mix. It looked like a CSI blood spatter pattern.
Age 12 Fashion Designer/ Seamstress
I sewed my first pair of culottes. I was going to make a fashion statement, “Are they pants or are they a skirt? They’re both!” I chose a dashing leopard print. I finished the sewing, turned off the machine and tried on my creation. I felt so accomplished until I discovered I’d sewed the pockets on the outside of the culottes. My culottes looked like they had oversized ears.
Age 19 Writer-in-progress
I wrote my first book. I thought it was a masterpiece. I called it Ticonderoga Blues. I pasted all my rejection slips on the bathroom wall so I could look at them while defecating. Then I went back to college to get my English degree and learn about commas.
Age 22 Furniture Maker
I was in college. I didn’t have a dresser and the apartment I rented had little to no closet space. I decided I’d build a set of shelves that would fit all my clothes. I went to the lumber yard and got the wood and began my project. I got the shelf together only to discover that it wouldn’t fit through the bedroom door and it was too tall for the room itself. Somehow, I’d built the Eiffel tower without realizing. I cut the shelf in half and finally got it into the bedroom. And the second half became a kitchen counter/ironing board.
Age 26 Auto Mechanic
In grad school I had a Volkswagen Rabbit that I named the BBOW—beige box on wheels. She wasn’t much to look at but she ran forever. During a period of serious financial scarcity the BBOW’s muffler went. I crawled under the car and surveyed the damage. It was just a small hole about the size of a golf ball. It seemed silly that the whole pipe needed to be replaced. I went to the hardware store and bought a piece of flashing and two clamps. I crawled back under the BBOW and wrapped the flashing around the hole and clamped it. Insta-Muff fix! I can only imagine what the mechanic at the car lot thought when I traded her in.
Age 31 Writer-almost-published
I wrote another book called Never say Never. I thought it portentous at the time and sent it to Barbara Grier at Naiad Press. She called back to say I wrote like an over-sexed eighth grader. I cried. She told me to keep writing.
Age 33 Published writer!
I send Naiad another book query. Barbara Grier called again. This time she liked my book The Wish List. She told me to take a walk, make love to my girlfriend and cut twenty pages.
Age 42 Interior Design
I bought a fixer-upper house that needed the entire inside painted. I was into Martha Stewart at the time. I decided that color was my friend. I went to Home Depot and Lowes and brought home color swatches. I taped them to the wall and studied them for weeks. At one point there were more color swatches than walls. I finally made my decision. Mustard for the Den. Peach for the kitchen. Green and yellow for the front room. Friends came. The painting started. All went well. Until at the end of the weekend and after a few beers the critique began. The consensus was I had just painted my house to look like Pee Wee’s Playhouse. I re-painted everything beige and cancelled my subscription to Martha Stewart’s Living magazine.
Age 51 Happy Camper
I found the love of my life and become a parent. I still love to write and do it each and every morning without fail even on vacation and weekends–just an hour a day. I’ve come to understand that dharma isn’t always what you do – sometimes it’s who you are: The lover, the parent and the writer –and that makes me a happy camper who eventually found her dharma.