Recently, I was lying in bed, awake, when I was hit with the 2 am terrors. I had stuffed up. Big time. You’ve had that happen, haven’t you? You did something a while back and your subconscious takes ten days to process what you did and then decides to remind you in the middle of the night?
You see, I’d had one of those de-cluttering fits that sweeps through the house every now and then, the type that end in three piles: keep, sell, give away. And while I am loathe to muck around with books, I simply do have to accept that I am not a national library and therefore must manage my book collection in some way so I don’t die, trapped in my own house because I can’t climb over the towers of tomes to get to the door (or end up as the lead story on World’s Worst Hoarders). My three piles, in the case of the books, was restricted to just two: trade-in, and lend-to-a-friend-for-guaranteed-return. And in that second pile was my copy of Monica McInerney’s The House of Memories, which she had written in for me when I met her in 2012.
Now, you may know that I adore Monica and her work and it was in fact because of her that I cracked my first publishing deal, so I am sure you realise how special that book was to me. And if you have any sense of storytelling, you probably realise that, at 2 am, I did in fact jolt straight up in bed, heart pounding, with seeping, cold dread filling my belly with the absolute certainty that you can only have at that time of the morning because…
I had accidentally put The House of Memories in the wrong pile.
Yes, friends, I had traded my personalised copy of the book by the very woman who voluntarily and generously jumpstarted my career, and I had done it for just $5.
How? How could this have happened?!
Simple, really. I have too many balls in the air and working extra long hours due to a perfect storm of deadlines, events and an energetic toddler combined with a temporary absence of childcare or home help and a husband also working extra long hours.
AND… I’ve given up sugar and coffee. How crazy is that?
So, on the day of book trade-in, I had dumped the bag of novels unceremoniously on the counter of the bookstore before sprinting after the little running bookstore bandit who was making a beeline straight for a pyramid display of perfectly-sized pocketbooks to hurl into orbit, ripping open a packet of pink pig stickers at the same time, and I didn’t stay to watch the trade-in from the pile that contained my precious copy of Monica’s book. The toddler continued to rampage around the bookstore and eats pages so I hoisted him under my arm, shouted to the store person for the total sum of my trade-in, grabbed a few books in return (as well as the pink pig stickers that I now had to purchase) and left before toddler could cause some sort of building collapse.
And now, it was 2 a.m., ten days later, and my subconscious had done its work and finally alerted me to the problem.
There was much hand-wringing and fretting about my book, where it had gone, what the new owner was thinking about the message inside, and wondering how on earth I was going to tell Monica (or even if I should — but I was certain if I didn’t, the new owner would email her and tell her she had her book and wondered what it was all about, and then Monica would know and think I was an ungrateful wretch and… well, you get the picture…)
I went back to the store the next day and, blessed be, there, high up on the shelf out of easy eye access, was my book! Bless their haphazard shelving! I bought it back again and took it home, the little lost sheep who’d wandered off on its own back on the shelf with the rest of the treasured flock.
This all happened in the same span of time in which (a) I realised I’d been washing the dishes in floor cleaner for more than a week, and (b) despite the fact that I was doing washing every day, for some inexplicable reason, I had NO clean underwear and had to resort to wearing my husband’s Jockeys. (TMI? Forgive me.)
Look, all of this ‘stuff’ going on in my life is great. (Well, not so much the washing, I could without that.) But if I’m going to have so much stuff going on then I need some management tools, yes? Yes. So, I’ve learnt three things from this episode:
1. If there is only half of my brain on duty at a time, I need to check everything twice to make sure a whole brain is on board. (That makes mathematical sense to me.)
2. When it comes time for me to sign books, I now know not to ever write anything particularly personal or anything I don’t want other people to read because that book could end up anywhere.
3. I need a personal assistant. Case closed. Keep an eye out for my job ad, which you’ll see soon, providing I don’t throw it into the washing machine on a hot super sudsy cycle with the hose conveniently positioned to drain into the electrical circuits of the dryer, thereby starting a house fire.