A couple of weeks ago I got a rejection, or shall I say, yet another rejection. In a way, I feel like I’ve been living in a series of rejections, when the words and thoughts and ideas I put out into the universe seemingly come back as void.
When stay-at-home orders first began ten months ago, the mandate hit me smack in the face. Our boys went to school on a Friday, only to learn that they wouldn’t return for another three weeks, three months, nine months later; soon I entered the role of mother and teacher, of reading intervention specialist and technology coordinator for our humble abode.
As much as I dreamed of creating the next best masterpiece,* I couldn’t, I didn’t. Instead, my mind felt blank, the liminal space of the not knowing and of trudging through everyday unknowns more than I could handle.
By the time the boys finished school a couple of months later, coronavirus numbers seemed to have calmed a little bit as well. We opened up our tiny bubble to a few more friends and to seeing a handful of extended family members when it felt safe, when it didn’t feel like we’d be doing more harm than good. But it was also summer, and when summer rolls around, I become absorbed in summertime mode: I want to pick berries and go camping. I want to take road trips to the ocean and dip my toes in the cool waters of the Pacific. I want to garden in the backyard, and read books on blankets in the grass, and sit in front of the fire pit until 9 or 10, because I can, because it’s summer.
Although it had been months since I’d put pen to paper, I still talked a good talk, even though I wasn’t pitching or dreaming of ideas like I could have been doing.
Was I just not ready to write, or was I perhaps drinking of the lazy waters of summer a bit too much?
Of course, it was nothing of the sort. Perhaps like you, I was exhausted. I’d lived through the first wave of a global pandemic. I’d seen firsthand the effects of a deadly disease on my husband and my sons, on my neighbors and on the world around me. As much as I would have loved to have produced a bounty of world-changing words, again, I couldn’t, I didn’t.
I knew better, or at least I clung to such inklings of mercy.
I knew enough to give myself grace and to drink of the grace offered me. I knew enough to let myself rest and to partake of the rest freely given me. Whether or not I could put that into words, there was a deep knowing within me, a deep knowing that somehow knew it wasn’t yet time.
So, when the school year began in August, our boys also began to spend a couple hours a day away from us. It wasn’t perfect, but they would get time with a handful of their friends, learning and being together, combatting loneliness and the abnormality of this new normal together. Finally, that allowed me time and space to begin stringing my words together again.
Like a wooden beads on a piece of yarn, as I began to string my words together, I began to experiment with different forms. I began to explore new possibilities. And I began to shoot my words out into the ethos of the internet with every hope that this story just might be picked up.
As a freelance writer, I pitched weekly – because if that one pitch got picked up, well, then I needed to be free to write the whole piece.
But those weekly pitches didn’t get picked up.
So then I started pitching bi-weekly, because maybe it was the industry, or maybe editors were inundated with Really Good Ideas, or maybe I was just a day late and a dollar short.
Whatever the reason, sometimes I received nicely worded “thanks but no thanks” emails in reply, but most of the time I just heard silence on the other end of the line.
Silence, in this case, was the strongest and perhaps the politest form of saying no.
But then, my friend Gail’s words from her grandmother: “Rejection means you’re being heard.”
And then, my friend Tony’s reminder that “rejection is part of the story that builds our resilience to find our confidence in ourselves in God, in doing our work for the joy/satisfaction of it – and not in the reception or rejection of who we are and what we do.”
And finally, an old Franciscan prayer pasted into the notes section of my phone – a prayer, nonetheless that reminds me how small my rejections are in comparison with bigger rejections of reality of personhood and circumstance:
May god bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.
Now, a handful of months into rhythms of putting my words and thoughts and ideas out into the internet and not always hearing the reply I want to hear in return, I think about the words my friends offered and I chew on the prayer one pastor gave to a handful of hungry misfits.
It isn’t always the response that I want, but it is the response that I am seen and I am loved, that I am not the totality of what another person or publication thinks of me.
Well, there you go, my friends. I’d love to hear your thoughts on rejection and the like. Also, this isn’t isn’t the first time I’ve written about rejection. Read this old post for more.
*Just in case you wonder whether a brilliant masterpiece can be created in the midst of a global pandemic, look no further than Zadie Smith’s Intimations (and yes, that link is a Bookshop affiliate link. Buy the book and support my work!)