The best rejection

If there is such a thing as rejection phobia, I have it.

spend a good deal of time avoiding anything that I’m not good at in order to make sure I’m never bad enough to be rejected. There are the bigger things like applying only to my safety schools during my senior year in high school, and the small ones. You should see me attempt Big Fat Noto casually play mini-golf. I barely crack a smile.

Recognition is the first step to change I tell my clients, and sometimes I actually take my own advice.

I decided to give rejection a whirl. Dip a toe in, you might say.

In the last six months, I applied for two book awards, and submitted an excerpt from my forthcoming book to five magazines. Each time I hit send the ol’ gem, This will be a good experience, whispered in my ear, and I made peace that no response could be my only answer.

Weeks and weeks and weeks later, the submissions were so far out of my mind that when emails appeared in my inbox, I assumed they must be newsletters I’d forgotten about, or spam.

Nope. They were rejections, and little did I expect a good experience to be true.

In addition to “no, thank you,” they offered:

  • We wanted to let you know we think you’re on to something here. You have a great voice and an ear for framing…We hope that you will submit work to us again in the future.”
  • “Oftentimes life’s big events – a divorce, the death of a loved one, a life-threatening illness – provide the impetus for a book. I’M SCARED & DOING IT ANYWAY falls into that category…the story makes perfect sense and immediately engages the reader…its power is in the execution and in the writer’s voice. Because every word is deeply felt and considered, the reader is…genuinely moved.”

I’ve received praise from people I admire and respect before, but from these strangers means something different.

They make being a writer more real.

Who would have thought that rejection could be so encouraging?

 

 

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Sifting through the truth

I’m in the middle of writing two books right now, both about stories.

In one I showcase the successes of a few of my favorite clients through the years, what brought them to coaching with me and where they landed as a result. The other divulges personal, sometimes brutally personal, secrets from my dating life, what tripped me up and what I learned about myself.

I’m not sure if I’m telling the truth in either.

Or really, what is the truth?

I think I am honest about my feelings. I think I have a decent memory of the past, but that doesn’t mean that my recollection is true from another person’s perspective.

Does everyone have to agree with my memory?

Do I need a disclaimer like what people put on their Twitter profiles? “Opinions are my own, and not a reflection of my company or anyone else.”

It’s kind of important to know the answers before I can move forward. Safely saved on my Mac right now, these book drafts are basically journal entries. I’d hate for them to stay that way.

If you read my first book, I’m scared & doing it anyway, you probably noticed how I tippy-toed. Many readers wanted to hear more about my ex-husband, AJ. I seemed to take care of him, some said. I did. I felt I had to.

That right there is probably what’s underneath all of this: my desire to keep everyone happy.

Hopefully my clients will be happy about their stories, because hopefully they are happy about their careers and lives after our work together. I can check with them, of course, to make sure.

With the other book though, I have no plans to seek permission from former boyfriends. I will share my experiences, in which they played a starring role for a period of time. If the book is a hit, if they read it, if they recognize themselves…they may disagree with what’s said and at least in a few cases will not be happy with how they are represented.

Is that my problem?

The better question is why am I making it my problem?

Oh, pick me! [my hand stretched high in the air] I know that answer!

There is a younger person inside of me who learned early on to work hard to be liked, at all costs, and who gets worried now that my adult world will come crashing down if people don’t like me.

I’m reminded of my friend Ernesto Gluecksmann who advised years ago that you have arrived once you get your first hater. (He also said Haters Gonna Hate, Huggers Gonna Hug, which made me very happy.) Having haters means you’re saying something that people are interested in enough to have strong opinions. You’re having a real conversation.

Maybe that’s what these books will be…using my perspective on the past to talk about what’s really happening in the present.  

I think I can live with that.

(I hope you like the stories, too.)
 

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Playing peek-a-boo

Sometimes I forget that I have a body.

As author Geneen Roth would say, most days I’m just a head with arms and legs attached.

In her book, Women, Food and God, she describes what’s underneath the fear/hatred many of us have of our bodies, and what to do about it.

These women, myself among them, are playing peek-a-boo the way young children do when they believe that if they can’t see you, you can’t see them. If I ignore my body, hopefully you will too, because if we all can see it we will all see what’s wrong with it…and nothing good can come from that.

If you’re thinking, “Why would you feel that way? You’re thin,” know that thin people have just as many body issues as everyone else. Often it feels like we aren’t allowed to, but somehow it’s okay for everyone else to have an opinion.

Case in point: a couple years ago at a networking event when I was lifted in the air by not one but two male friends as both loudly and jokingly guessed my weight.

At the same time in my personal life, the guy I was dating would make obnoxious pig snorting sounds whenever I went for seconds at dinner (after he had also portioned out my servings), or mentioned wanting to buy ice cream when we were in the supermarket.

This was not the first instance of overt and opposing viewpoints about my body, but it was probably the most glaring.

Maybe I learned to ignore my body, because I wished everyone else would. Maybe the real problem was how much I listened to them.

Two weeks ago, something changed.

My yoga teacher had decided that this was the day that our class would do headstands. I had last tried them years prior, and in addition to being intimidated, my neck couldn’t handle it. I gave up soon after.

Without hesitating, she explained how to position our forearms and head on a folded mat against the wall. Then we were told simply to throw a leg up, and have the other meet it.

Before I could protest, reminding her about my weak neck muscles, she was holding both of my feet in the air.

Ready or not, I was standing on my head.

I panicked that she would let go, and that my neck would snap. It wasn’t until I realized that she wasn’t going anywhere, that I started to pay attention to her directions to the rest of the class.

For a split second between the terror of falling and the desperate search for the strength to keep my legs in the air, I could feel my whole body, perhaps for the first time, and it suddenly made sense why I would want to take care of it.

As soon as my legs returned to the floor, a wave of emotion hit me. I wanted to run out of the room and cry my eyes out.

I stayed though, and as the class ended and I nonchalantly raced for the door, the instructor rested her hand on my arm.

“You did well today,” she said and took my hand in both of hers. “I could sense you were freaking out.”

Tears welling, I faked a half smile and hurried past her.

The next twenty minutes were spent in the solitude of my car in order to feel all of the emotion I was trying (not well, apparently) to keep hidden.

How terrifying it was to know that I didn’t have the strength yet and to be dependent on a relative stranger in order to keep me safe. How much work it must have been for her, that I was basically dead weight, and how I wasn’t progressing as fast as the others and I might never get there.

This wasn’t a thing I could figure out — the way heads attached to arms and legs go through life — and that made the thought of doing another headstand even more daunting.

Then I remembered what else she said: “Every time we do this, I’ll be right there with you. I’ll hold your legs as long as it takes for you to feel comfortable doing it yourself.”

I am not alone. What’s more, she can see all of me, and she’s still not going anywhere.

How wonderfully scary is that?
 

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When good news feels like bad news

Buried in here is a silver lining if I could just hold onto it.

In January, my mom had an appointment to find out if her cancer was in remission.

Her doctor, who I both like and respect, was measuredly optimistic. The chemo was working, and most of the enlarged lymph nodes from previous scans were gone. There were two remaining grey areas in her chest and one of her adrenal glands. It wasn’t clear if they had ever been cancerous, or if they were now, but the doctor suggested doing two more rounds of chemo just to be sure.

Mom arrived the next morning for treatment and was told by a different doctor that with a scan as good as her’s she was done! Go home!

She did a happy dance in the oncology office.

Three hours later, she was called by yet another person, and told that her doctor wanted more chemo (duh, we knew that), could she come back next week. Three days after that, it was put off again so Mom could have more tests.

It felt like the scene in The Princess Bride where the Dread Pirate Roberts ends every day with, “Goodnight, Wesley. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”

For the fourth time in three weeks, Mom prepared herself for chemo.

And then…her doctor called the night before to say that she shouldn’t have it, for now. She explained that Mom was considered, “Pet Negative,” meaning her pet scan didn’t show any cancer.

I asked, “Does that mean she is in remission?”

“Some would say that,” the doctor said. “We can’t see any cancer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not there.”

This was good news, right?

Hidden within the back and forth, and back and forth, is that Mom doesn’t have to receive more treatment, perhaps forever. She’ll have another scan in two months, but for now her calendar, and life, is wide open.

That wasn’t how I heard it, though. I was pissed.

Six months ago we were told that Mom was a shoe-in for remission, and my A-student sights have been set on that gold star ever since. This was not the cancer-ending crescendo I was counting on.

In fact, it sounded frustratingly familiar.

Eleven years ago, my white blob of a brain tumor was nearly removed. The doctors couldn’t risk taking all of it, so they left a little blobby reminder that I visit on MRIs every year. While I should be fine, there remains a chance that I’m not.

Talking to my Mom’s doctor brought me right back to where I was then. Feeling like our goal post kept getting moved. That it was up to someone else to let us move on.

It took me a couple days to see the bigger picture.

How lucky we are. How special this time is, in both of our lives. And the big one — that no one is standing in the way of us celebrating Right Now.

I could throw myself a pity party (okay, I just did) over neither of us getting the moment I believe that we deserved…or I could give it to us.

We have a celebratory dinner planned this week. I found a box of old photos in a closet, and will bring them so that we can share memories, and laughs.

As for my celebration, I booked a float sandwich. Great name, right? Sixty-minutes of peaceful floatation in a pool of warm water and Epsom salts followed by a Swedish massage.

Someone pop the champagne. We did it!

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New cover, new cover, and sale!

I’m thrilled to show off the brand new cover of my book, I’m scared & doing it anyway: How a little white blob changed my life. [Thanks to Rebecca Nolen and Lisa Helfert for the beautiful design and photography.]

I hope you like it!

This is a chance to revisit a story that I love, and love sharing. I learned first hand that I have the power to change my life in immeasurable ways, even in the darkest moments. You have it, too.

Are you scared & doing it anyway?

Do you know someone who is?

In the readings and conversations I’ve had since my book was published in 2013, I’ve found that it most resonates with two groups: fear-facers like you and me, and concerned loved ones feeling at a loss for how to help someone else in crisis.

Inside these pages is a chance to come along on my journey, and to see the choices I made that turned my greatest fear into unabashed, arms-outstretched l-o-v-e.

It will help you find the courage within yourself to keep moving forward, and it will help you to be there for others in a new way.

You may wonder why I’ve chosen now to change the cover.

I was too afraid to use the one I should have from the beginning. The one with My Face on it.

I’m not the first writer to hide behind her words — nor the first speaker who still hides even though she has stood in front of hundreds of people, and hugged on television.

It’s different when it’s your book, your cover, your face…but then it isn’t. I love my story, and am as excited to share it today as I was when I started writing. I want you to gain meaning and inspiration from it, and then I want you to share it with the people you care about. (And, please hug them!)

If you like the new cover so much that you want a new copy, that’s great!

There is a sale on the paperback until the end of the month.

From now through Sunday, March 1, you can buy it for $6.50, half-off the original price ($12) , which just covers the publisher’s printing costs. Click here to purchase your copy.

If you’re in New York or Washington, DC, I will happily hug my way to you and sign it in person.

Please know that your support of this little-book-that-could has meant the world to me. I’m continuing to write, and share, because you are out there.

Thank you for that.

Much love.

 

Waiting for remission

This afternoon, my mom will find out if her cancer is in remission.

Right now, I have no doubt that she is in bed dreaming of a faraway, happy place. In fact, I assume that when I pick her up at 1:30pm she will have just woken up. She’s incredibly skilled at hiding when she doesn’t want to admit what’s really happening.

Maybe that’s a family gene. Ten minutes ago I rearranged the furniture in my office.

What’s troubling me is a feeling that she isn’t in remission yet. I realize the fact that ‘yet’ is even in that sentence is a blessing. The doctors have been talking about its eventuality since she was diagnosed in September. It’s a great goal post to have.

That doesn’t help today’s appointment though, or what it means in the short term. If cancer is still present, she’ll have her seventh round of chemo, and probably an eighth for good measure three weeks later.

And more chemo means more waiting. Another PET scan in a month to determine if it was successful. Another long sit in a doctor’s office to find out the news.

It feels like this waiting will never end.

There’s a reason for that — I’ve been waiting much longer than the eight months since a swollen lymph node first appeared on the bone behind her ear. A round, dense marble underneath her skin that she shrugged off at first until four more appeared on her neck over the course of a couple weeks. Some growing to nearly an inch in diameter. By the time she begrudgingly agreed to have a biopsy, she had lost count.

My mom doesn’t take care of herself very well. Eating poorly, smoking, avoiding the doctor…bad habits that tend to bite you in the butt at some point.

For what may be my entire adult life, I have been waiting for something to happen to her.

It’s terrible to say that, I realize. She is a good person. She raised me with lots of love; called me cutesy nicknames like Tinkerbell; practiced my spelling homework with me while making breakfast before she left for work; drove me to slumber parties, and sometimes picked me back up in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. To this day, she has never let me leave the house without a twenty dollar bill in my pocket.

Strange how I forget those things while waiting.

I also forget that this is a gift.

It wasn’t until I wrote about my brain tumor diagnosis eight years after it happened, that I realized the gift that I had been given back then. How I had an MRI in December 2004 after an ear infection wouldn’t go away, and when the doctor called me, days before Christmas, he said nothing about the results except that we could discuss them in person in January. I assumed everything was fine.

I have no idea what I did that holiday, but I can tell you what I wasn’t doing: waiting. I was blissfully unaware of what was about to happen, and I’ll be forever thankful to the doctor for granting me that stretch of time.

My experience back then isn’t all that different from where my mom and I find ourselves today.

If it’s true, which it is, that something will eventually happen to all of us and the people we love, the minutes, days, and years of waiting between now and then are a big deal. They’re our whole lives.

I feel sad that my mom is sick. Writing this makes me more sad, actually, because I’m reminded how much I love her. How immensely sad it will be when she’s no longer here for me to worry about.

Today likely isn’t that day, though, no matter what her doctor tells us.

It kind of opens it up then, doesn’t it? No matter what happens, we have this afternoon together. We are buying groceries, driving to the appointment, and then having dinner.

That’s a pretty good day. One I will treasure in the future when I think back about all the time we had to wait, together.

Which means I might as well start treasuring it now.

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May you surprise yourself

This quote by Neil Gaiman has been making the social media rounds lately, and I love it a little bit more every time I see it.

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First, it starts with Magic, one of my favorites. A word which conjures an image of it silently following me around like a friendly, surreptitious shadow. I kind of want to randomly wave hello at the wind and walls in case magic is hiding nearby contemplating when might be a good time to appear.

Even better, the quote ends with surprise. It’s empowering that I can surprise myself. I’m not waiting. Any moment I get to choose when to push myself out of my comfort zone, dance on my edge, leap into the unknown believing that I will glide to a soft, perfect landing. (If you haven’t noticed, I often play mix and match with metaphors. Go with it.)

While impressively articulate, Mr Gaiman hasn’t exactly cornered the market in new year wishes. Now it’s my turn.

May 2015 be filled with…

  • Silly words, belly laughs, and delightful happenstance.
  • Generous deeds done by us, and on our behalf.
  • Balance — work and play, lightness and sincerity, long walks and afternoon naps in the sun.

May 2015 find you, me, us…

  • Holding onto the good things, so when not-so-good things happen we are comforted, and know that more good is around the corner.
  • Surrounded by people who unabashedly love us, and who we love back.
  • Seizing perfectly-timed opportunities with gusto.
  • With more answers than questions, and at ease with both.

As I type, I can feel other wishes bubbling to the surface, eager to be included, but I think it’s time give others a chance.

What is your wish for 2015?