Thursday, January 13, 2005

Coping with rejection, Mommy-style

Saturday night I received a third rejection for my one short story currently in the pipeline. It was late, and I was tired. I read the email, felt disappointed, and decided it was time to go to bed. Sleeping on it would put everything in perspective, and I'd be ready to send it right back out again when I sat down to work.

Sunday morning, the rejection was my first memory of the day before. And I still felt disappointed. Even though I make it a practice to bring writing on drives, I didn't bring it on the drive to church. Why bother? I was already thinking. I recognized the slide I was in, and it troubled me. I'd already accepted the rejection. Did feeling bad about it anyway mean something, like some inner knowledge that I should pursue journalism and not fiction?

At the same time, I debated whether to tell my husband. I didn't want the rejection to become a bigger deal than it needed to be; it was, after all, part of business, and if business meant halting my pursuit of a fiction writing career, then so be it. However, if I didn't tell my husband, I knew I'd end up suffering in silence, and I might need him to bounce ideas off for the future. So I told him, and he sympathized.

After church we drove home, and our son slept. He always sleeps on the 25-minute drive home from church. He gets about 15 minutes in, and then, because he only takes one nap these days, there's no more napping for the rest of the day. I've learned not to expect to work much on Sundays as a result.

This Sunday, though, was different. I wanted to work. I wanted to send the story out again. I booted up the computer, started researching markets, started cutting words when I saw many markets wouldn't accept any stories over 5000 words.

My son must have seen the obsessive frown on my face, because he immediately toddled over and made it plain that he wanted to sit on my lap and bang on the keyboard. I haven't gotten around to installing the software that lets them bang while keeping your data safe, so I palmed him off on his father. That lasted for all of about two seconds; my husband obediently complied with the boy's squirming, and put him down. He ran right back up to the computer and proceeded to set up his Noah's Ark animals, one by one, on my desk. His favorite spot was the mousepad.

I had to cut it short to go food shopping, and afterward, cook dinner. I like these activities. Shopping gets me out of the house. Cooking is mindless. Sunday, they both allowed for "thinking" (i.e. brooding) about my situation. Cooking, especially, would allow for much brooding without having to interact with others. It was perfect.

My son was overjoyed when I arrived home. He immediately stationed himself in the kitchen with more animals as well as his broom. He insisted on showing me each animal as I sliced chicken. He also insisted on climbing all over the baker's rack/monkey bars, getting his foot stuck in my shoe, and losing one of the animals under the refrigerator.

And yet something held me back from hollering for my husband to gate the boy into the living room with him. It wasn't the fact that our son would stand at the gate howling to be let back in by me. And it definitely wasn't a surge of gratitude that although editors may reject my work, my son adored me no matter what. Gratitude was not in my capacity that day.

No, it was a combination of two factors. One of them was all that advice I'd gotten about enjoying my child before he grows up; although my id preferred to wallow in self-pity, my superego reminded me that work and rejections would always be there, but toy zebras hidden in the toes of my boots would not be.

Yeah, that's a cliche. Maybe more importantly, I realized that I wasn't as annoyed by my son's antics as I thought I should be. As distracting as they were, it was good distraction. My son's presence prevented me from wallowing. He had no idea of the hit my self-esteem had taken, and he wasn't trying to make me feel better, at least not consciously. His world was still revolving, even though I wanted mine to stop for just a little while. And he didn't want his world to stop. (Especially not while his foot was stuck.) He just wanted to do whatever he was going to do, no outside influences in his way. He reminded me, in a small and roundabout way, that I like journalism, but my heart is in fiction.

When I make my first sale, I may just have to dedicate it to him.


Blogger Holly said...

You made the right choice on that one. Sometimes, no matter how many words are waiting, the words aren't the important issue.

Which is, in a pinch, damned hard to remember.

13/1/05 6:46 PM  

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