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Zen Peacekeeper.







You don’t always get what you want.

Friday, June 21, 2013 by Marianne Elliott

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A photo of Marianne looking very pleased with herself, with Lake Michigan and Chicago skyline in the background

(I find my appearance in this photo amusing. I think I look like the CEO of Chicago, arms-crossed and smiling as though to say, ‘I may have built this town, but I’m taking a break now to pose casually for this photo’ The photo itself is gorgeous, thanks to Rebecca Downes)

But you get what you need. At least, that’s what they say.

When I planned the Chicago stop on my book tour I wanted:

A standing room-only book event at a funky independent bookstore in downtown Chicago, where I would meet lots of the interesting people who I’ve connected with online over the years, reconnect with some old friends and make some new ones.

What I got instead was:

A book event at a lovely but hard-to-get-to bookstore in the outer suburbs of Chicago – a 45 minute drive out of downtown – attended by five people. One of those people was from my publishers, and one was my friend Rebecca who had come to Chicago with me.

In a word, humbling.

And – as most humbling moments in life are – good for me.

Doing this book tour is a bit like hosting a party every other night for a month. But the party is at someone else’s house, and you don’t know who’s going to show up – if anyone.

Cue: fairly intense social anxiety.

I’m touring a book about – amongst other things – how my meditation and yoga practice helped me survive life in a warzone, so you might assume this kind of garden variety social stress is child’s play for me.

Not so.

If we believe Louann Brizendine (author of The Female Brain, which I’m currently reading and am as yet undecided on) my brain is wired for connection. Which may help explain why the possibility of having no-one show up for my bi-nightly book parties can trigger so much anxiety.

Whatever the explanation, I feel it. The fear of letting down my publisher and the bookstore owner who agreed to host me, and the underlying fear of being exposed as a fraud. I keep it in check most of the time – or at least, I feel the fear and do it anyway – but sometimes it gets the better of me for an hour or so.

I had a bad feeling about the Chicago event. The location didn’t make a lot of sense to me, and the timing was really tricky: a 6pm event, 45 mins out of the city, spells traffic nightmares for most people and logistical impossibility for the rest. I explained this to Rebecca as we drove out there, conscious even as I did that I was trying to pre-empt the embarrassment of having no-one show up. If the worst did happen, I’d already given Rebecca my excuse.

Here’s what actually happened. Three people came (not including Rebecca or Heather, from the publisher).

Here’s what also happened.

  1. I met one of the people who has been working so hard to get Zen Under Fire out into the world, and got to say thank you in person.
  2. I also met two women with whom I’ve connected previously online, both of whom were really, really interesting women – the kind of people I’d go out of my way to spend time with if I got the chance again.
  3. I spent some time with a friend – including a lengthy visit to the marvellous Art Institute of Chicago and dinner at one of my favourite restaurants in the world – Fronterra Grill
  4. I explored more of Chicago – see above
  5. I spoke to to Dawn Hasbrouck on Good Day Chicago about Zen Under Fire
  6. I visited Madison, had a wonderful book reading at the gorgeous A Room of One’s Own bookstore, met Sara, went for a 10 mile bike ride and soaked up the gentle, green spirit of this lovely town.

So I didn’t get what I thought I wanted from Chicago.

But I got what I needed. And more than I expected. And there’s a lesson in that.

I’m guessing you can work it out for yourself.



PS: The bi-nightly book parties continue. Here are the dates still to come: 23 & 24 June: Arlington; 26 June: Toronto; 27 June: Vancouver; 28 June: possibly Seattle; 2 July: San Francisco; 13 July: San Francisco; 28 August: Portland, OR – read more details about all the book events here.


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