A Life Beyond our Control

Thatata in 1966 on top of Bible Rock 1

I’ve been working on my book now for just over two years, and I realize now and then that most of my people have no idea what I’ve been up to. I write and write and write and don’t say a word.

The funny thing is I’d love to talk about my book, if only I knew where to start. Marketing people say I should start with an elevator pitch—the idea of it makes me cringe—to hook you with my story in the mere fifteen seconds that we are presumably trapped together in a moving metal box. But I don’t want to hook anybody and my story takes more than fifteen seconds to tell. That is why I have been sitting at my desk for two years.

I began writing the week after Zilla’s dad passed away. His parents live in Sri Lanka—we live in Seattle—and at the time his father got seriously ill—two years before that– Sri Lanka was in the last throes of civil war.  All-in-all we made seven around the world trips to Sri Lanka, most of them without a return ticket or a suitcase after emergency midnight calls. Instead of discussing what to eat for dinner we were arguing about what constitutes care and how much money we were willing—or able—to pay.

Sometimes I feel like I’m writing a travelogue about all the places a tourist never goes, or a story about how families change, or what it is like to lose a parent. But I’ve realized recently, as revisions have come together, that what I am really writing is a love story, a story about marriage. Loving one another is as rewarding as it is hard.  We all have to learn this lesson. The truth is you cannot always make a person change.

Why add another book to the world’s great library? I don’t know. I don’t mean that in the spirit of defeat, but of possibility. I don’t know what effect my book will have, and that, to me is the whole point of creating: to take our experiences and give them a life beyond our control.

Zilla is going to read the manuscript soon, which will be interesting. Both he and his mother have been so generous to let me write about them and what I now consider our family, at such a difficult time.  Especially generous because the honest me is often frustrated, more than a little impatient, and sometimes mean. We’ll see if they still love me after they read it. That was a joke. Maybe the whole point of my story is that I now know they will.

16 thoughts on “A Life Beyond our Control

  1. Hi Beth its Peter and Rosemary from Portugal! Do you remember Tapada? We have so enjoyed your snippets of life from around the world, so your book is going to be amazing. We also have a great love story but so far no time to write it! Hope all goes well in Seattle and love and best wishes to you and Zilla, and say hello to your folks.

    1. Hi Peter,

      Of course I remember! Zilla and I had the best time with you and Rosemary. Actually, right now Zilla is trying to recreate Pastis de Nata…the crust is proving to be a challenge. I’m very glad to hear your both are well.We are hoping to come back to Portugal. Maybe we will see you soon! Beth

  2. It’s a deep story, not an elevator pitch story. You are telling it the way it needs to be told.

    Janet (from Louisa’s)

  3. Lovely post, Beth. And you already have the beginning of the dreaded ‘pitch’;
    Life Beyond Our Control is an accidental travelogue about the places a tourist never goes, a story about how families change, losing a parent, and an American wife dealing with her father-in-law’s elder care in Sri Lanka. Above all, Life Beyond Our Control is a love story.

  4. It takes less than 15 seconds to read the 4th paragraph of this post. And it makes me really want to read the book! :). Great seeing you and Z last night. Still digesting!

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