On March 7, 2018, I posted on Facebook:
I’m happy to announce, though I’m sure you already know, that I’ve fulfilled the promise I made 20 years ago. You told me to write about myself in English when I was still in Japan. I didn’t know what, why or how, but I agreed.
My life fell apart as I wrote. Before long I found myself in Montreal with a finished manuscript of Part I in my hand. My struggle for survival and integration began.
I had to continue with Part II, but not knowing where this new journey would lead me to, I could not. I had to be patient and just live.
Now, after 20 years, I finally completed it.
Please accept “Maktub: A Journey Home”
It was just before going out for my Integral Tai Chi class. When the participants arrived, one of them said to me, “Can I read your book?” What a surprise; it was less than 40 minutes ago that I posted it, and the person who asked the question was Angi! I replied, “When it is published, yes, but I don’t know when.” Participants turned to Donna and said, “She can edit your book; she used to be an editor.” I was even more surprised, pleasantly; I would have an editor, this quickly, and she is Japanese American, a rare person who can relate to some of my experiences!
My manuscript was transferred to Donna – in great, gentle, capable hands. She took time from her busy schedule and carefully went through it. By summer, my electronic file had turned into two thick piles of paper with red ink here and there. It was my turn to go through them and polish my manuscript.
When I was busy working on my manuscript, Pamela, a senior Tai Chi instructor, invited me to the upcoming Breast Cancer Survivors Retreat in early November. This weekend retreat was offered as a generous gift to 10 survivors chosen by lot among many nominees collected through Facebook. She’d been asked to volunteer there to offer Integral Tai Chi classes.
We got to a small, beautiful hotel on a lake. The snowy view from the window was breathtakingly spectacular. Daily noises were muffled in the unseasonal deep snow.
Participants were pampered with relaxing massages, esthetic facials, Yoga and Integral Tai Chi sessions, great food freshly prepared on site by volunteer professional cooks, lectures on body care, ceremonies, along with intimate sharing, music and dances. Peace, tears, laughter, joy… celebrating life.
Pamela and I mostly stayed in our room deepening our friendship and joined them for meals and exercises.
Saturday evening, we had joyous celebration dinner. After the meal, many participants started to dance to the lively Greek music. Pamela was talking with a participant and I was listening to them from a bit far. A strange lady walked in. She seemed to know many of the participants. She approached me; I was alone, and my Asian face might have stood out among the Caucasians. She asked why I came to Canada.
“Well, I went to Scotland about 20 years ago and met an angel. The angel told me to write about myself in English. When I began, my life went through an upheaval and I found myself in Canada. I just finished a book.”
As soon as she heard this, she grabbed my hand and took me to one participant in the dining section. “Listen, she wrote a book.” She summarized my story for her, then added, “Introduce her to your friend.” “ With pleasure” the lady smiled. “I have a long time friend – 35 years or so. We are very close and our families are close too. Actually she is responsible for my being here; she nominated me. She is a publishing coach. Call her on Monday. Here’s her number.”
I was very nervous Monday morning, as I didn’t know how to introduce myself to a complete stranger. But as I’d promised, I called Carolyn timidly, “My name is Naoko.”
“Oh Naoko! I was expecting your call.” The lady had introduced me to her 5 minutes prior to my call.
I was, at that time, totally occupied with a huge project for 2019 – organizing World Peace Gathering in Koyasan, Japan – a historic joint event between Japanese traditional Shingon Buddhism and US based Buddhist organization, Compassionate Service Society. CSS was planning to send 300 people to this event. I was not only organizing the event representing CSS but I was also the sole bilingual speaker for both parties. I had, literally, no time to spare for a personal affair – my book.
Carolyn was pleased that I already had a finished manuscript. She created a timeline for me and set the launch date for June 27, 2019. While it was a real, attainable goal in her mind, everything felt unreal on my side. She had all the necessary steps lined up for me, and gave me one task at a time to complete within a week: go to this website and get a copyright, get ISBN number, etc. Before I knew, things began moving, steadily. The book went through another thorough editing by her editor. Then her designer made a beautiful cover.
From time to time I had to visit Japan, and sometimes for a long time. During my March visit, I had my portrait taken by a former student, now a professional photographer. I emailed it to Carolyn’s team and the next day, it was on the back cover.
Mechanically I was completing small tasks as instructed, like a robot, not thinking for myself. Carolyn oversaw the whole procedure and gave me signposts to get to the big goal. As I was battling my way through to the historic event, my energy, time and will power was spent on it, leaving less than 5% for my personal project. I did my weekly assignments from Carolyn but once done, they were forgotten. Therefore I could not feel or believe that something was really happening.
In early May, the whole picture was finally revealed to me. A box arrived, containing a few author proof copies. I saw the book, held it and felt its weight. It was a real book, not digital data file or something printed on loose paper, any more. It was a book – with my name on.
In a week, I was on a plane to Japan with this copy, a red pen and lots of sticky tags. We did the final proofreading through Zoom, connecting three people at three places: two people at two different locations in Canada, and myself from a temple in remote Koyasan.
Two weeks before the big day (June 27), I came back to Canada. Carolyn organized a live Facebook event for my book launch.
Who would have thought this day would come, so quickly, so effortlessly, and so efficiently in the course of the most hectic time in my life? It was only 15 months since the day I posted the message of completion on Facebook.
Thank you Angel for accepting my book!