Disclaimer: I’ve spent the last two days babysitting the Grandpea and I’m exhausted. Hurricane Baby just blew through our house, and don’t get me wrong, it was fun, but it’s work. Chasing that beautiful two-year-old is nature’s way of reminding me that I’m freaking old. Yeah, yeah, she’s wonderful, she brings joy and bubbles and all that happy crap, but right now, I’m pooped.
I almost feel guilty for writing that. She’s hilarious and sweet and adorable and oh my gosh, we had a blast. But sometimes, just sometimes Mimi just has to gripe a little. Especially when someone removes the dinosaur head from her drinking cup and pours juice all over the carpet.
But on to happier things. Amadeus and I went CAMPING last weekend—our first trip of the season– and it was heaven. We had so much fun, casting our lines while standing on big boulders, mooning over the endless lake while trying to catch fishies. Amadeus had a lot more success than I. I ended up with one tiny, mocking perch, and have reached the conclusion that fish hate me. My husband reeled in several, and while happy for him, I’m beginning to take it all as a personal, gilled affront. I consoled myself by burning hot dogs at sunset. We built a blazing orange fire on the lake bank (thanks, Pres-to-Logs!), and passed a bottle of whiskey (thanks, Jack Daniels!) and quietly lost ourselves in tranquility. Snuggled in our tent, we jabbered until we fell asleep and in the morning we made coffee and fished some more. I took photos, and snapped some shots of Canada geese for Annie (Calliope’s Tablet), who recently wrote a post about birds.
The trip was a much-needed replenisher for both of us. I’m no mu-mu wearing, bonbon eating, middle class housewife who hobby writes to stave off boredom (but God, I wish I was). I work hard at being an uncompensated scribe. I write until my buns are numb and my shoulders ache, and then I write some more. I research markets and send query letters; I try to learn more about technology and constantly rack my brain for ways to help subsidize our impoverished little household via the Written Word. My eyelids are permanently puffy. My eyeballs, once so sparkly and clear, are now two fried brussels sprouts attached to some optic nerves. I thank Buddha and Oprah for my husband, who occasionally places a trail of M&Ms from the doorstep to the car in order to lure me from the house. I’ve barricaded myself indoors lately, and if he didn’t occasionally nudge me outside, my skin would turn pasty and sunlight would burn out my retinas.
Last night, Amadeus heard me say, “Haaaaaahhhhhhhh,” which is the way I sound when I’m sucking a lot of breath into my chest all at once, the sound that lets him know that I’ve gotten an e-mail from an editor or from someone offering work. In this case, it was the sound of discovering that the finalists for a memoir contest I’d entered had just been announced. It wasn’t a big contest, or a big deal, but in a way, everything regarding writing is a Damned Big Deal.
The contest was a call for entries about overcoming loss and grief. In my mind, there would be about twenty-five finalists, and I was fairly certain I’d be one of them. I don’t often feel such confidence, but memoir writing is my passion; grief and loss are as familiar to me as my knuckles. Lately though, I’ve been semi-depressed and dejected about freelancing. No one knows this more than my husband, who sweetly asked, “Do you want me to look at the list of finalists for you?” I nodded and stepped out onto the patio and smoked a Spirit (no, I haven’t quit yet). After ten minutes, I knew I’d been rejected. If I’d won, Amadeus would have been out there, hugging and happy dancing with me. I went back inside and the expression on his face was my confirmation. For some reason, tears welled up in my eyes. It’s been a rough few months.
I got my hug anyway. “You’re just a grittier writer,” Amadeus said. “More blunt. They picked more flowery, gentle stories.” Not only that, but there were only five finalists.
Later, while I was moping around, pity partying, Amadeus called out, “Moonbeam McQueen—you’ve got mail!” It was my beloved copy of The Portable Dorothy Parker, which I’d won in another recent contest. It’s sitting on the buffet, and I’m not cracking the spine until I’m through basking in its glow. Dorothy’s looking at me, saying, “Put on your big girl panties and get back to work.”
I felt a little better, but not much. As I sat next to Amadeus on the sofa, sighing every four minutes, he finally turned and said, “You’re a good writer. You’re not going to win them all.” In fact, he’s told me that I’m the best writer he’s ever known, and although I’m not sure that he’s ever known another, it counts for a lot. His belief in me often keeps me writing when all I want to do is hide under my blankie.
“You can’t let every little rejection get you down.” I could tell he was sort of laughing at my sadness. This really was not a Big Deal. But the Grandpea had just left the building and I was exhausted. My normal, “Something wonderful’s waiting around the corner” attitude has been waning lately.
“Listen,” Amadeus said, still trying to shake me out of my gloom, “you got three blog awards last week. Three. Apparently, someone likes your stuff.”
Oh wow. It’s true. I did. They do. My pity party ended right then and there. I put away the Triscuits and dried my eyes.
It’s crazy—blogging is the most rewarding, joyful writing that I do. If left to my own devices, I’d die of starvation with a laptop on my desk, WordPress on my screen and a smile on my lips. Every rejection slip is tempered by e-mails and comments from fellow writers and blog readers who enthuse and encourage and let me know that they appreciate what I do. It’s enormously meaningful to me. It makes a difference in my world. In a way, it keeps me steadfast and helps me believe in myself almost as much as others do. And for that, I truly thank you.