In March of 2008 I was reading Eckhart Tolle’s A NEW EARTH and underlined these passages: “Some changes may look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge….When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life….If uncertainty is unacceptable, it turns into fear. If it is perfectly acceptable, it turns into increased aliveness, alertness, and creativity.” I felt inspired by the book, made a mental note to read it again soon, stuffed it in my bedside table, and got back to work.

In July of 2008, as I was contending with some particularly prickly patches of chaos and mayhem in my position of VP, Publisher at Simon & Schuster, I scribbled the following words in my journal: "Is this all one big message—a flag, an arrow, a road sign— telling me to go somewhere else, do something else? To do something NEW? Is it my time to go and try something new, fresh, a new beginning? “When you're ready to take a risk, the world will crack open.” The world seems to be ready for me to take some risks. Now I just need to be ready and willing!" I wrestled with the tumult of feelings, hurriedly wrote the words to get them out of my system, secreted my journal away, and got back to work.

In May of 2009, after nearly nineteen years with the company, I was laid off. Although I’d felt inspired and energized by Tolle’s words and although I’d expressed serious questions and doubts in my journal a year before, I didn’t for one moment recall anything Tolle said nor did I recall writing those words. All I knew was that I was being shaken to my roots by events out of my control—the world was cracked open and uncertainty was unraveling itself about me.

It’s May 2010—and today marks the year anniversary of my last day with the company. It’s a day that marks an end and a beginning of such magnitude that I cannot but witness this day emotionally, physically, and spiritually. This past year’s been a time of enormous upheaval and great calm, anger and peace, imbalance and precision, doubt and determination, disbelief and proof, betrayal and friendship, loss and family. Having been forced into a position of having no choice but to make some remarkable unexpected choices, I’ve wended my way through a year that has led up to this day. It was only a few weeks ago that I happened to re-read those lines in Tolle and discovered my journal entry—and today I marvel at my place in a universe that delivers messages to us with far more clarity than I will ever be able to see or sense.

In hindsight, I wish I’d somehow documented this past year more thoroughly, perhaps jotting down a word or phrase to define and capture the essence of each passing day. But who among us has the wherewithal to do that? There’s so much I won’t ever remember. What I’m left with of this past year are the memories and repercussions of some of the lowest lows and some of the highest highs I’ve ever experienced. And in between I’ve lived a whole lot of plain old life. I’ve come to appreciate that so often it’s how we live the plain old life in between the extremes that helps us to know better who we are and of what we’re capable.

On this day and at this point in my life, I am infused with a quiet stillness and a crackling like lightning. Dreaming and wildly awake. Rooted and soaring in flight. And so, it certainly seems to have all transpired just as it was meant to: Change happened in order to create space in my life for something new to emerge. It was time for the world to crack open. It was time for a new story to begin. And so, the story is unfolding. I have no idea what comes next. And I can’t think of a more wonderful reason to get up tomorrow.

(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks llc


  1. "I am infused with a quiet stillness and a crackling like lightning..." What a truly wonderful way to feel about life!

  2. "It was time for the world to crack open. It was time for a new story to begin. And so, the story is unfolding. I have no idea what comes next. And I can’t think of a more wonderful reason to get up tomorrow."

    How I relate to this. When I was laid off from the last corporate job I held, I was told by countless headhunters that I "had all the requirements for this job except a BA." So I got the BA and was told the same thing, except now I didn't have an MBA.

    I've been an editor/editorial director for newspapers and direct mail companies and now I need an MBA to do the jobs I'd done without that degree?

    To quote myself—"I don't think so." I decided to get an MFA in Creative Writing instead of an MBA. What happens next? No idea. And what a wonderful reason to get up tomorrow.

    Thanks for this reminder. I needed it, again.

  3. Anonymous5/15/2010

    Let it rain Emmma, let it rain!
    You are more beautiful than any job.. or any job title...
    I am a National Book Finalist, because you could see beyond a few mistakes in a manuscript.
    You understand the voices of my people.
    You are loved!
    Shelia Moses

  4. Lovely, Emma! This particularly is beautiful to me:

    It’s how we live the plain old life in between the extremes that helps us to know better who we are and of what we’re capable.

    Brava! So happy for you.

  5. I love this entry. Here are some words from my sister that have helped me go forward more than a few times--

    I remember asking Tom Calcagni, late one night at a party, "How can you fling yourself off that tower?" For years I, the non-skier, had admired ski jumpers, how they arced their bodies into the unseen air. "It's no big deal," he said. We were sitting side by side in two large green chairs. "The air is soft. It's like a pillow. It cushions you. You just go into your tuck and do it." What he didn't tell me was that the "cushion" was there and then not there, and it could move you all over the place, depending on air pockets and wind gusts. I know that now, but what I have always gone back to is that first, long ago comment: You just go into your tuck and do it.

    Tom Calcagni, as told by Alison McGhee, in an essay honoring her 25th college reunion

  6. Linda Hayward5/15/2010

    A powerful piece of writing, my friend! Know that you'll eventually be able to recall a lot of what you can't remember now...especially when you write about it.

  7. Anonymous5/15/2010

    This is truly beautiful. It oozes truth. Worlds do crack open when it's time for change, sometimes long over due change, be it relationship, employment, or position. It's a call to action of sorts, answered only by the brave. It's sometimes abrupt and disturbing, but the calm after the storm proves enlightening and engaging. Well worth pursuing. Well worth the change. You are truly an insightful and eloquent writer, as well as an extremely valued and talented, person and editor.Thanks for sharing. I think you've found your new calling. Thank goodness the world cracked open so you could fall through.

  8. Dear Emma. Reading this reminds me that much of the good that's come your way within the last year has come because you've been so open and willing to love and learn, even during those darker moments. I think of so many people I know who simply would have shut the door and locked themselves away. You, on the other hand, have done the opposite. You've opened doors, stepped into new territory, taken on the world, all with an open heart filled with love, hope, and a contagious joy for life and the work you do. By your shining example, you've helped all of us aim for the stars.

  9. Happy first re-birthday!!
    The only thing we can ever count on is change.
    My prediction:
    Dryden Books will thrive and fill needs the publishers didn't know they had. Agents will use your hand in things as a pitch point. Publishers will smile. "Really? Send it over, then. Can we have a ten day exclusive on this?"

    Warm wishes always.

  10. Anonymous5/15/2010

    Emma: The change you experienced will help you
    with future changes...and know...there will be!
    We grow stronger, bolder, calmer with each upheaval. More important than a career are friends and loved ones to depend on. It is the
    friends and loved ones who make you soar to new
    heights because they believe in you. Know what?
    So many believe in YOU. Love...Lee

  11. When I once asked the universal question: Why me? A friend simply answered "Why NOT?"
    Life isn't about what's fair but about finding the tools, sometimes hidden within ourselves, to adjust, make the change and be positive even though anger is the easier route. Been there, done that. Welcome to the survivors club.

  12. I appreciate your beautiful words. They inspire me. It makes me want to reread "A New Earth." Sometimes I feel like I'm on the verge of...something. Some nameless thing. Me? Me not resisting. Me making space for uncertainty. I am reminded to love and be grateful for the plain old life that is filled with surprising blessings. As my favorite songwriter Jason Mraz writes, "There is only love. Everything else is our resistance to it."

  13. Kitty Griffin5/15/2010

    Gretel would tell you to think about St. Willemede--"St. Willemede hear my plea, help me find the strength to see, guide me with thy shining light, past the demons of the night." If the demons don't go away, then just fly for goodness sake, just fly. Seems to me you got your wings, lady.

  14. i can so relate. same thing happened to me when i was in corporate amer. Id journalled about leaving and writing. Then one day I was laid off. Im now where I wanted and supposed to be.

  15. Deborah5/16/2010

    Dear, dear Emma,
    How beautifully you express your sense of the lows and highs, and how beautifully you represent the best of all of us who have been there, done that.
    The door is wide open and you are walking through. Happy anniversary, Emma--may you go from strength to strength!

  16. Anne Davis5/16/2010

    Thank you for sharing. As I read your words I was reminded of similar feelings I experienced when we ended our dairy farming operation. And then suddenly I realized that May 14th is also the anniversary of the day our world 'cracked open.' We sold our cattle on May 14, 2004. And as you so eloquently point out, endings bring new beginnings. Since then we have enjoyed many new opportunities.

  17. Beautiful essay, and one I'm especially glad to have read today.

    I believe that whatever choices we make, as well as whatever things "happen" to us without our choosing, we are always right where we are meant to be, in our lives.

    Another of my favorite bits of truth about change and the journey comes from Lord of the Rings: "Remember what Bilbo used to say: 'It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.'"

  18. Thank you for this courageous post. "A New Earth" is one of the most important books I've read, and I try to read it or "The Power of Now" at least once a year.

    I left my job on my own accord at the end of 2009 to focus, once and for all, on my writing. I'd always dreamed of making a living by writing, and I figured I wasn't getting any younger, as they say.

    Since then, I've had moments of euphoria, fear, doubt and contentedness, sometimes within a few hours of each other. It is not a safe, cozy, coasting way to live, but it is exciting, and I am passionate for the first time in a long time.

    Anyway, it is always inspiring to hear about people walking a similar path and finding goodness along the way.

  19. So beautifully written with so much truth to it. I watched my daughter go through a year much like the one you describe, after not getting accepted to any college she wanted to go to....it was so painful to watch at times, but she has grown so much in the past year, and is in a much better place now, excited about her future. Such valuable life lessons she learned, by NOT listening to her parents and choosing her own path!

  20. In so many ways, to so many people, this 'cracking open' of life is happening these days. You've said it SO meaningfully...it connects with the readers sense of life too. Thank you for sharing Emma! I remember once (as it's president) speaking to a philanthropic group of mothers and young daughters and enouraging them to JUMP IN WITH ABANDON... to allow life to happen to them in this, and other ways. You've reminded me to be open and welcoming like that. Very timely reminder.
    many 'gifts' to you Emma....

  21. Margaret Milnes5/19/2010

    I left my job of ten years at Nickelodeon a few weeks after you left yours. I cannot fully express how much the passage above moved me. You have given voice to so many of the feelings I have had over the last year. Although we never met in our professional lives, I read your postings on Facebook and here on your blog and am inspired by your passion, curiosty, good sense and courage. Onward into yet another remarkable year!

  22. Anonymous5/19/2010

    I keep Eckhart Tolle's books and Sue Monk Kidd's Firstlight, on my night-stand.

    Happy one year anniversary. NOW, that you have found your path, every step should bring you joy.
    (If it doesn't, I recommend Bryers mint chocolate chip;)

  23. I was browsing through your enormously impressive website and came across this amazing blog entry. The rediscovery of the quoted passage is the sort of miracle I believe in. Congratulations on the inspired way you are moving forward and all the best, Barbara

  24. Change is fully loaded and you capture it beautifully. You move through life with graceful honesty and whatever the universe has in store, you are clearly ready to receive it. Thanks for sharing at Tahoe! Best, Jamie

  25. Man, what a great post!

  26. Thanks for a beautiful post. In times like this, full of so much change, it's easy to be beaten down by it. But your words help others to soar.