Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Thank you for your concern. I so appreciate your empathy. But your comments made me wonder if I needed to make a few clarifications about the journey I'm sharing. Perhaps I wasn't as clear as I would have liked and now I need to offer an explanation.
In February, I received an email. It was a personal rejection to my full manuscript from one of the biggest agents in the business. Here is an excerpt for your reading pleasure.
I think I am going to pass on your [Y.A. novel]. You are very good, no question. But I am thinking about what editors would say. The story takes too long to get going . . . It's a cool idea But I am not sure it is fresh enough. The stuff in this book has been covered before in other books and [television] shows . . . But I would read something by you. You can write and create characters. That's the hardest part. Now you need to move your stories along and have a clearer, unique concept. Thanks for letting me see. It's borderline but I need to feel blown away these days.”
Here was my dilemma. When I received this email, I didn't have the reaction I was expecting. I was expecting immediate despair. But instead, I was completely awash with relief and it surprised me.
All my life I wanted to be Josephine March in Little Women. I had no doubt that one day I would write a book and my life would be wonderful, perhaps even perfect. But the truth is I don't really like writing novels. I don't like the hours, I don't like the singleminded attention it requires. I don't like the way that it pulls me away from everything I do love and believe me I love a whole lot. I have a VERY rich full life. But at 35 years old, I realized I didn't have a plan B.
I had the tremendous opportunity to almost get what I thought I wanted and I got to see, really see, that what I really wanted all along was sitting right in front of me. When this letter arrived, A peace washed over me and I knew that I had been released. I was free to live whatever life I wanted, not the life I'd always planned that never went well for me, but my real life, the life God had planned for me.
It was a stunner. It was wonderful and spiritual but also tremendously painful because at that moment I had to ask myself one of life's biggest questions. What next?
If what I thought I always wanted wasn't want I wanted at all, then what did I really want? And how much crow would I have to eat to get it?
The answer? I don't know. That's where I am now and I thought it might be fun to share a year of it with you and my other readers. I thought it might be a great learning experience.
Because the truth is Mary, that for two years I used my novel as a way to escape reality. Because sometimes the doldrums of life get to me: the never ending laundry, persnickety neighbors, doctors appointments, the recession and countless stories of violence and wars can get pretty depressing. So like most American's I have plugged into the Feed. Whether it is a book, or blog, social network, movie, or a hot fudge brownie momentarily all those feelings disappear.
But in the long run, I hate the feeling. I hate avoiding pain.
Because I know that pain is an essential part of life, heck it's an essential part of our growth and existence. Isn't that why we are here? Because our Heavenly Father knew in our premortal existence that we had developed as much as we could and the only way we could continue to grow was in mortality. And what is a one of most significant pieces of mortality? Pain. Pain and Sorrow and Pleasure and Joy. All of our experiences lead to growth. Without sorrow we can never experience joy! Without pain we can't know pleasure. They are inseparable. And essential in pairs to our growth and existence.
I find it remarkable that most of life's greatest temptations are anchored in sorrow and pain avoidance: addictions, adultery, pornography, eating disorders (starving and binge eating), the list can go on for days.
Please don't misunderstand me. I am not an advocate for self flagellation. I like to avoid painful experiences as much as the next person. But I saw quite clearly that I was using the fantasy of novel writing the same way I used the fantasy of having the perfect body, or the same way I used EL Fudge cookies earlier in my life. I realized that if I needed any sort of pain avoidance to deal with reality then it was high time I fixed my reality.
So what needed to be fixed exactly?
Nothing. Not really. I just needed to learn how to deal with it. And here is what I have spent the past twenty plus years learning. If there is a weed in your yard that you don't like, ignoring it won't make it go away. Yes, I'm all for enjoying the beautiful flowers behind it, but really isn't life so much easier if we just get up off our duffs and pull it?
Everything worth having, really having, in this life requires work (a.k.a. pain), like running for example. Running along a wild flower swept hill at sunrise is about as close to God and Joy as it gets but the actual act of getting there requires a certain level of physical pain.
You know, before I started running all those years ago, I used to believe that there would come a time when running wouldn't be hard (painful). That one day it would be a breeze, no heavy breathing, or feet dragging, or exhaustion. But you know what? It still feels the same as it did the first time I stepped out the door, I just learned how to deal with the pain and that is where I've found the joy. The two go hand in hand.
Now onto your comment about wallowing in the past. I can see how from your limited perspective of my life in blog it can seem that I am hyper-focused on past sorrows. But that is not what I am doing at all. I never dealt with some big, painful events in my life. I just tucked them away and decided to ignore them. Instead I went searching for happy things to make me feel better (pain avoidance). But if you leave dirty dishes in the sink eventually they are going to make the kitchen stink. Oh sure, starting on those dishes might make a bigger mess at first, but in the long run isn't clearing out the stench so much better? Basically, I am doing some emotional deep house cleaning.
So why have I chosen to focus on food and my body image? I spend a lot of time working with youth, young women in particular. It turns out, I have something to offer them and what I love most, besides being a mom, is teaching and I've recently been doing a series of workshops for young women about body image and I have been astounded at how many of women don't like themselves.
Actually, I have a pretty healthy self image (I'm still working on the emotional stuff). I take care of my body and I nourish it with healthy food, rest and exercise. I think I am very pretty. But some of the girls from these youth groups have contacted me recently and wanted to know how they can feel better about themselves. And some of those girls don't believe me when I tell them that even grown women have doubts about themselves.
So I thought why don't I combine my experiences over the past year with the current obsession over body and food and share some real challenges that every women experiences. Because maybe if I had the guts to admit that sometimes I reconsider going to a party on a fat day, and want to delve into a quart of Breyers Grasshopper Pie Ice Cream when I hear on the news that a child is beaten to death by his parents, then maybe other women will come forward and admit that life isn't always easy for them either and instead of trying to tear each other down, or compete, or compare, we can to see that as women we are in this together. And that Satan wants to keep us so focused on pain and sorrow avoidance that we paralyze our ability to do some serious good. Heck, maybe even change the world.
Yes, Mary, this has been a difficult year for me but also one of the very best. I feel closer to the Savior than I have in years. I have deeply feasted on the words of Christ and I am now seeing, really seeing who I am and who you are. And it is wonderful, and joyful and full of a promising future.
I love you. And I am so grateful I've had the experience to watch you grow. I hope you stick around on my journey maybe we can learn a little about life together.
(Dear Readers, Thank you for sticking through this incredibly long post. I feel I owe you a treat, like a melon berry salad or an enormous hug. Thank you for sticking with me. Mwah! With my deepest love. Kristi)