When I was 35, I developed a fibroid the size of a golf ball. I thought this was ironic since, as a woman in business, it always had irked me that men went off on any sunny day to play golf and called it work. I read a book called "Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom" by Christiane Northrup, which said that fibroids were the physical manifestation of unborn creativity stuck inside us. She hit a nerve.
My job title at the time was creative director, but there was absolutely nothing creative about it. Most of my time was spent on budgets and personality conflicts. I managed a department of 70 people who were accountable to persnickety, often small-minded "clients" who always wanted completely safe but "out-of-the-box" thinking. Of course, there's no such thing. Plus, I oversaw our direct marketing business. There is something depressing about creating a mailing piece that 97 percent of people who receive it throw in the trash (if you are successful).
At one of our management retreats, a guest speaker urged us to write our own obituaries in order to get in touch with our true desires. That night in bed, while the Guys were at the bar getting drunk, I wrote mine. It became totally clear to me that I was on the wrong path in life.
I wanted to be a writer. When I died, I wanted to have "author of..." behind my name. But all I had written to date were memos, direct mail copy, and dozens of journal entries filled with bad poetry.
So I quit. I had been married a few years before and was thinking about having more kids. I also was the parent of a 15-year-old girl who I had had "out of wedlock" when I was 20. (More on that later.) By the time I made my decision to leave my job and set my last day of work, I actually was two and one-half months pregnant.
I will never forget the horrible moment right before I was to speak to a room full of 70 people waiting to hear my farewell speech. I had run to the bathroom, saw blood, and knew I was miscarrying the baby. With toilet paper stuck between my legs, I went back into the room and gave my speech.
The first month of my "leave of absence," as my mother called it, was spent recovering from a D&C to remove the dead fetus. I bled for the whole month.
Then I tried to get in touch with my inner fibroid to figure out what it wanted to be. I decided to write a book on organic gardening, something I am very passionate about.
My grandfather, J. I. Rodale, invented organic gardening in 1942. His ideas were an integral part of my upbringing. As part of my research I decided to read what he and my father, Robert Rodale, had written. My grandfather's books were eccentric, funny, crazy, and brilliant. He got into trouble for the stuff he said, but I was shocked at how much of it was finally proven to be true. Among his insights: smoking causes cancer (he was the first one to publicly claim this at a time when doctors were featured in cigarette ads); and exercise and nutrition prevent disease (again, he was one of the first to make the claim back in the 1940s).