Sejal Shah

How am I?

I don’t know how to answer that question. Mostly I’ve felt panicked in the days leading up to my book launch (it’s June 1st). But what is a book launch when the warehouse has been sending your book out for weeks and you can’t see your friends. I felt this way in the days leading up to my wedding, almost exactly five years ago. A date, all the things there were to get done. So many things I didn’t do.

Today, I talked to my mom about the book. She said You didn’t have to write about _______. I told her, before I gave her a copy of This Is One Way to Dance, that I preferred not to know if she didn’t like something in it, because I can’t do anything about it. It’s done. She didn’t tell me, but she did say something to my brother. I talked to him yesterday.

He said, Well you know Mom’s conservative. I know which essay. I know which moments. Burning Man. That’s the essay I hesitated on adding to the book, but I’m glad I did. For a moment I wished my book was back in its hybrid state, when essays and stories were together and I didn’t label which were which and some of my stories were wilder, because I wasn’t thinking about how I would be seen, it was about a story, not attached to me.

I’ve been sad that a book launch I waited for a long time disappeared, but also relieved. By the time I was a couple of months away from my wedding, I wished it would just disappear or we could just get through it. It was a beautiful event, but it was a lot.

In one month and two days, I’ll have been married five years. I used to think my book launch would be a wedding do-over. I understand now there are no do-overs. My book launch is not a wedding do-over. It’s its own thing.

Once upon a time, that would have been an in-person event in New York, a hometown book launch in Rochester, a writers’ festival in Iowa in September, then to Seattle in October. and Massachusetts in November. That time is over.

Now, we are all home. We are in Pandemic time. All time is no time.

Last week, I danced around in my office and posted it on Instagram. This was not planned. I took a Kuchipudi dance class with my dance teacher from when I was 17, Rathna Auntie, over Zoom. Then I played some music from my computer, because I was still working and couldn’t sleep and “Left of Center” came on from the Pretty in Pink soundtrack. And so I danced and in moving, in accepting this moment, I felt a moment of peace.

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