I hadn’t realized how soul-starved I was for some positive feedback. The encouragement I receive from family and friends is priceless to me, and I treasure it (literally–I keep it in a gmail folder labeled “Encouragement”). But when you’re actively pursuing a professional opinion on your work, a string of rejections coupled with positive words from those who know you can leave you feeling a bit like the girl on prom night who gets a corsage from her parents because she doesn’t have a date. Yes, the flowers are lovely, but I still feel like a loser, thanks.
So this week, when I heard from two professionals who read people’s words for a living and their answer was something other than “thanks, but no thanks,” I was riding high. Gratitude, at times like these, comes a little too easily–I don’t have to look for it. And I basked in the meaning of it all, the signs that I might just be onto something here. That I might not be chasing a whim. I followed up on the encouraging emails and went back to my latest project, and the words flowed like water. It was a good day.
Then, yesterday, the cable and internet went out. And just like that, it all went to shit.
I don’t speak the language of technology–instruction manuals make my skin crawl, and I shut down recently when my email was hacked, forcing The Husband to step in and redeem the situation. But when technology fails me–well, then it is ON. I shout, I cry, I pound the air with my fist, I feel wronged in a way no one has been wronged before. It is an ugly, ugly scene. My first-world problems never fail to get the best of me.
So yesterday, when I was forced out of the house and down the street to Barnes & Noble, it felt like I was admitting defeat. But I figured that if I transferred to a public location, I would (a) not be allowed to pout like a little brat; and (b) maybe even be productive. The drive there, though, was a reckoning.
The trash poured into my head: What’s wrong with you? Why do you always do this? Why are you so ridiculous? Why don’t you ever make any progress? And that’s when I held my finger up, the “Oh, hell no” stance of the white girl, and said, “No more.” I recognized that I was under attack, and whether you want get all spiritual and call it warfare (I do) or psychological and call it low esteem, it was real. And I decided I was not having it. One of my favorite authors calls it “making agreements” when we listen to this garbage, and in my life, I’ve been way too agreeable. I knew what was going on: there are all too many voices in this world who will do whatever it takes to steal our joy, to leave us robbed and empty, to thwart our progress. Wherever they come from, they speak misery because they are miserable. They preach barrenness because they are barren. They speak hate because hatred is their currency. And only too often, we let them speak loudest. So I told them to shut the hell up. There is way too much unhappiness in this world–I refuse to be recruited to its side.
I didn’t immediately feel lighter than air, or even joyful for that matter. But I knew that I was now dealing in truth, and there’s a quiet certainty in that knowledge, and sometimes the only way forward is one small step. One “yes” to the truth and “no” to the lie. I walked into B&N and sat down and started to write. Each word was a step forward, an act of faith. Later, I walked around the block and had to stop and admire the way the light fell on a green field, the way that what had been sewer covers the day before now looked like stepping stones on a path toward the sun.