It’s Not Me, It’s You

Rejection.

There is little in this world that hurts more than rejection in all its forms.

The break-up, I’m not even going to touch upon. Why bother when so much has already been written on the subject. No, I’m thinking on all the little rejections we face from the time we are born. The times as a tiny infant we cried and no one came. The times we weren’t picked for a game. The teachers who favored others first. The jobs we didn’t get. All the times we were looked past and yes, the boys or girls we didn’t get.

I think I’ve always felt I placed near the top of the pack in many things. Near, but never at the top. Doing well, but not the stand-out. Like in the Great British Baking Show in the early weeks when several hover in the middle. Not Star-Baker, but not going home either. Mentioned in the tent during Paul and Mary’s musings as having done something well enough to stay but not in the limelight.

Near the top isn’t a bad place to be. In fact, most of the time it’s a preferred spot. Safe. Respected. Less pressure.

It isn’t a bad place to be unless you want the spotlight.

I’m a writer. I’ve written three novels, three collections of short stories and a self-help book. I want these works in the spotlight. Somewhere in the pack in this industry means available for purchase but rarely seen by the public. It means I write books that nobody reads.

Somewhere in the pack isn’t good enough.

Eleven weeks ago I submitted a novel. Diligently, I followed the publisher on Twitter, both before and after the submission. Followed not in some creepy, stalkish way but to educate myself. I learned the submission process was taking up to twelve weeks and the longer it took, the better the chances it was being considered. As the weeks ticked by, I searched my inbox several times a day, relieved to not get the dreaded rejection.

Then, last night, at eleven weeks and one day, I got the e-mail. The form letter, thanks but no thanks. Heartbreak. If you’ve never put yourself out there in the same or a similar way, you don’t know the pain of being told you’re not good enough. But then, maybe it’s the same pain as every time we’re told we’re not good enough.

Rejection. Is it any wonder I probably tried to protect my children too much from rejection. It’s a tricky business knowing the balance between enough to learn healthy coping skills and the tipping point that overwhelms and leads to dysfunction.  I know, as my mother often told me, I’m too sensitive. Rejection creates a burning hole in my heart that in my older adult life is tamped down by tears, yelling, swearing and vowing to make good. Tamps down the fire, but has as of yet, never extinguished it.

So, today, I re-evaluate. What I submitted was written to their specifications. I don’t do that well. I have to tell my stories in my own way. Not that I reject the submitted story. But, if I hadn’t been fettered by their vision, there were things I would have written differently.

Rejection creates internal narratives. For some it’s the spark that drives them on. For others it’s the reason they can’t get out of bed. For me, it’s both.

My internal narrative tells me my tagline is – I write books that nobody reads. Another tells me, I write books that nobody reads – yet.

Is This How You Spell Existential Crises?

Just looking at that word – crises – I’m in a panic. Not because of any event, but because it looks so very wrong.

Words. Spelling of words. Appearances. All things I’m no ducky about.  All things I need a macintosh for because they aren’t sliding off my back on their own.

To shed some light into my insight into brain gymnastics, it should be shared that I’m a trained mental health counselor. Education, experience and personal insight. Too well, I understand the acrobatics the mind can perform.

So how does this lead to my routine existential crises? (I’m going to keep writing that word until it becomes more normalized. Doesn’t it just look weird?) It goes back to the shoulds of yesterday.

What should I be doing?

I’m not saying this is the case for all introverts, only this one. Creativity, introversion, ability, guilt, insecurity and shoulds roil around in a tiny internal cauldron sending out paralyzing fumes. Fumes that twist and twine around the parts of the brain that define the self and the parts that instigate action.

There is a reason people set out with enthusiasm and hope and end up in bed under the covers. The existential crises. The inability to function in the world laid out before them.

So, the next logical step is to create their own world, one where they define their existence. Seems like a plan, doesn’t it? But existential crises constantly question – why am I here – what am I supposed to be doing – how am I supposed to do it  – and on and on.

It’s like being asked to design your own personal Eden. Seems like a dream, right? Not so much.

We all need boundaries. My object lesson in this happened when I was a teacher for an outdoor education center in my twenties. I watched the director set clear expectations for the children and saw the most rebellious child relax into the frame. Like lanes in a bowling alley, boundaries set the path. Like a warm hug from a parent, boundaries make us feel safe.

Life is better with boundaries.

That’s why jobs and school are soothing to an anxious mind. (They really are, more than it seems when you’re in it) We all need direction and boundaries.

Freedom from anyone’s control seems the pinnacle, but if you achieve it, then what? Now, you are the master of your fate, you must set the course or flounder about in a sea of overwhelming opportunities.

Which leads back to the existential questions – why am I here – what am I supposed to be doing – how am I supposed to do it…

The answers fluctuate with time of life, state of mind, availability of courage, belief in the self, level of external expectations. I’ve come to terms with knowing I will probably never be free of these crises.

After all, even Snoopy asked the questions.

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