2017: Counting and Not Counting


In December of 2014, I had my first meeting with Deborah Siegel of Girl Meets Voice, a consulting firm helping women get their thoughts and world-changing ideas out into the world. Deborah looked with bright, interested eyes over the table at me and asked, “what’s your idea? what do you need to say?”

I had walked into that meeting thinking that I knew exactly what I wanted to say, but when she asked me so directly, I wasn’t sure. I stammered out that I wanted parents to feel empowered to push against doctors who weren’t listening. I added that I wanted those parents to feel less alone, that their worries were shared and that they had more in common with each other than their distracted glances in crowded hospital waiting rooms.

“I want to write a book,” I said.

“A self-help book?” Deborah asked. “With strategies and tips?”

“Sort of,” I answered, staring at my blank notebook. “But also with my family’s story.”

“A memoir?” she pressed me. “Like, ‘learn from my example?'”

“Kind of,” I said, realizing how confused I was. “It’s kind of both? I guess?”

“A crossover book!” she announced, decisively, with twinkling eyes. “That’ll be great!”

I just wasn’t sure. I had all these ideas clanking around in my head. I knew I needed a public platform, and I also knew that I didn’t know how to make that happen.

“Start with a blog,” Deborah suggested.

After I’d written several posts and shared them with her and the other writer in our group, we met again, and Deborah smiled and opened her arms to greet me. “You’re a writerly writer!” she said. “I didn’t know! You have to write the book.”

Three years later, Girl Meets Voice posted a list of questions on their Facebook page for all their thought-leaders or thought-leader-aspirants to answer, sort of an end-of-year wrap-up and gear-up. The first question was What public voice goals have you attained in 2017? Write down everything that comes to mind, no matter how large or small.

I thought of myself three years ago, not even sure what public voice meant or how I would approach it. I felt I owed the old-me an answer, and so I repsonded publicly:

Wrote 36 (so far) blog posts and had 5 pieces published in online publications. Added another (roughly) 45k words to my book-in-progress. Began trying out some on-stage storytelling. Read mountains of pages for research. Finally got brave enough to look at the worst, most frightening research materials. Carved time out of nearly every day in November to write!

When I look at it, it seems like a lot. When I was doing it, it felt like not-enough. Somewhere in the middle is the reality — that I am not a full-time writer, that I am doing my writing largely alone, in secret, in private, without a net. Reading my daughter’s medical charts is a gut-wrenching experience, sometimes so painful that I get lost in them for an hour, poring over sentences like the lung was retracted anteriorly. Like picking at a scab, I find pieces of our history stuck under my fingernails all day long.

However, when I think about all the things I could count this year besides pages, words, and bylines, it should be no surprise that the most important things that happened this year cannot be counted because I was not even paying attention.

  • This year, Sammi ate some undetermined number of meals; before 2015, I would have been able to tell you exactly how many.
  • This year, Sammi probably went to the doctor once or twice; before 2015, I would have been able to sort through a stack of medical bills and return a specific number and dollar value.
  • This year, Sammi grew in inches and pounds, which I know because I had to buy her clothes; before 2015, I could have described her growth down to the 1/4 inch and ounce.
  • This year, Sammi began learning to chant Torah for her upcoming Bat Mitzvah; before 2015, I wouldn’t have dared to imagine her old enough.

It’s been a big year, and it’s been a small year. I’m counting less and breathing more, seeing my book take form and shape in my dreams and on my computer screen. I’m hugging a girl who comes up to the bridge of my nose, and learning all the ways to love her grown-self, and you are reading my public voice right now, right here.

I want to write a book, and in 2018, I will finish it.

This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, hosted by Kristi of FindingNinee.com . This week’s sentence is “This year…”

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17 thoughts on “2017: Counting and Not Counting

  1. Good luck with that book!

  2. Can’t wait to read that book!

    I like to think your blog has helped give you a sense of us readers, who may not exactly qualify as a net, but who definitely care about your work (and you, of course).

    Write on into 2018!

  3. Most definitely a public voice! I’m so glad you’ve made so much progress with your book and yay to finishing in 2018! I also know what you need about looking back and thinking it looks like a lot but at the time doesn’t feel like it’s enough… and I loved the line about learning to love your more grown daughter. That’s a big one for me. Loving my ever-growing son while also sometimes missing littler him. I hope you’ll let me read your book early and help announce it for you!

  4. Michael Orenstein

    Hi, Debi! I’m glad to hear about your book — and I’m really glad to hear is how well Sammi is doing. I hope all of you have a great 2018.

  5. Good luck as you move ahead with your book. Happy new year to you!

  6. Congratulations on all of those beautiful ways of counting out a year…it is all celebration-worthy! I can’t wait to follow your next steps with the book!

  7. I love that you are writing a book! Good luck and I’m excited to read it. This community can be your net. We may not have the exact same issues, but we do understand the emotions and frustrations that go with have a child that has chronic medical issues.

  8. […] set a goal in January: by June, I would have a solid crummy-first-draft of my book done. I even went to a workshop on how to create a daily writing practice; notes in my backpack, […]

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