We drove through the rain, the yellow and black landscape muted in gray. Tall grasses leaned sideways, as if they carried a heavy weight, and boulders round and ancient were like the gnarled hands of giants. One thread followed another, our conversation winding like the road across the landscapes of our minds.
The first destination was a writers’ conference in Phoenix sponsored by Changing Hands Bookstore. The second should have been Mexico, but we forgot our passports and had to forego oysters and a deserted, estuary beach. As it turned out, this was a good thing. We needed time to process.
The conference promised help I desperately need. In a round about way, it delivered. Eventually, after hours in the rain, several drinks, and a long soak in a hot Jacuzzi I rediscovered an old truth. There are thousands of experts, many differing points of view, and no single way to do anything right. Why do I always forget this?
When I was pregnant for the first time, I read every book I could find on parenting and child development. One expert said the family should sleep together. Another said the baby should always sleep in its own bed in a different room. Yet another said it didn’t matter. Instead, the parents should always pick up a crying child. That one was countered by an expert who believed children should cry until they learned to comfort themselves. Yikes. In the end, my parenting was a combination of what worked for me, for my very different children, and for my sanity. I was not the perfect mother. Truly, I was lucky to manage a shower most days. Nevertheless, my children reached adulthood mostly intact, I survived three rambunctious boys, and they are wonderful people.
After the conference, I felt just like I did as a young mother. Terrified, confused, and very small, I sat in a full room and listened to experts share their knowledge and experience. Much of it was basic — build a platform, be a good social media friend, hire an editor. Some of it contradicted research I have done on the internet. Still more was irrelevant to my particular circumstances. There were, however, a few invaluable nuggets.
Not least of these was the realization that I will have to find my own path, be true to my voice, and risk being wrong. As in every endeavor, you only get to be right some of the time, but if you don’t trust yourself you’ll never get anywhere. I will continue to learn, seek the wisdom of those who have gone before me, and apply what I can. Then I will ditch most of it, because my journey is unique.