A bookseller I count among my friends and whose opinion I respect once shared an essay he wrote about how he decided to become an antiquarian bookseller. In the essay he quoted John Lennon’s statement, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” In the past few months, I’ve come to discover the applicability of that statement to my own life.
Just as it seemed that my work schedule was going to free up some time to devote solely to the Dante catalogue — no book fairs for six months, kids in school, no need to write an article for BookThink every month — my personal life got a bit more complicated. I don’t want to go into too much detail here, because I don’t want to appear to be whining about my life. In truth, I am so grateful for my life and for the way I get to live it. And I have, considering recent events, been spared of any massive tragedy in my own life. However, the past few months have been filled with more than the usual amount of drama and more than the usual amount of people who needed my support.
The short story is that two mothers (both around my age) at our school have died since November, leaving behind shocked husbands and devastated young children. My mother-in-law — who can no longer drive — needed eye surgery in December. Another friend, who is my age and has a 10 year old son (friend of Tom’s) and a baby, had a stroke during Thanksgiving weekend. All of these people have endured calamities in the past two months far worse than not being able to complete a catalogue on a self-imposed deadline. The short story is that some people needed meals, some needed a ride from point A to point B, some needed temporary childcare, and all just needed a friend. I am one of many others who have tried to help when and where I can. Nothing extraordinary; just trying to be supportive, but being supportive takes time. The reality is that, other than blogging, attending a library sale, and making a couple of sales, very little book work has happened in either November and December. My focus necessarily had to be elsewhere. And I know I am lucky that I could direct my focus elsewhere with very little consequence to my own life. But I still feel awful that I haven’t completed the catalogue, a project I started so long ago. I feel I appear ungrateful to those who offered advice and encouragement along the way, and I want to assure them that I am most grateful and that I haven’t forgotten their helpful words and ideas along the way.
I anticipated that my personal life would begin to settle down with the New Year, and I was right. I was beginning to catch up, running my 2008 sales tax report and beginning to contact a graphic designer about the catalogue. I’ll let you imagine the words that came out of my mouth last week when I injured my back and spent yet another week not working. 😉
I suppose it’s cliched but true, that statement that life is what happens while your busy making other plans. That certainly seems to me to be what’s happened in the past few months. I guess what I really wanted to say in this two part post is —
If you’re one of the kind booksellers who has helped and encouraged me along the way and you’ve been waiting for my catalogue and think I don’t take it or bookselling seriously, please don’t give up on me. I may work slowly and intermittently these days, but I will get it done and done well. I could have worked on the catalogue at midnight every night for the past two months, but I’m positively drained by then and I don’t think it would be the kind of catalogue of which I could be proud. Much as I wish I had a finished product, I want to give it the time and attention it deserves. More importantly, having spent a couple of years in the business, I think I now have a more realistic understanding of the kind of time and effort a catalogue takes. I am humbled and in awe of those of you who are able to issue regular catalogues. I see myself in bookselling for the long-term, and I try to take a long-term view of my career. I now realize that I don’t have to learn the trade, open a shop, have a website, exhibit at book fairs, and issue print catalogues simultaneously. I may want to do it all at once, but I know that my business and my customers will be best served if I do things as I can. I know that at some point I will have more time and less demands on my schedule. Tempis fugit! Right?
I am also finished with excuses. My life is what it is. I do my best and that’s all I can do. That catalogue is coming. Mark my words. (I say this more to myself than to any of you in particular.)
Coming soon: Sorting out priorities, or, how best to complete this catalogue.