As of last week, my agent is trying to sell a new book I wrote. My first instinct is to hide under the covers all day, every day until...well, until what? Until all the rejections are in, my negative voice says. The voice that thinks it's just realistic to keep expectations low, because you won't get hurt if you aren't expecting anything, right? The thing is, who doesn't expect things? Hope for things? As hard as I might try not to expect, and think I've succeeded, when the disappointment comes, I feel the full brunt of all those supposedly non-existent crushed hopes.
I got out of bed after all this morning and went to the coffee shop, as usual. Where my agent found me, on a hunch that I'd be there; such are the perils of living in the same neighborhood as your agent. She wanted to ask me if I was okay with her posting something on social media about going out with my new book to editors. Oh ho. The thing is...that negative voice also says don't tell anyone that you've put yourself out there, because then you'll be embarrassed if things don't work out. I said, yes, sure, go ahead and post something on that massive gossip juggernaut about my impending humiliation.
The volume just went way up on the siren song of that Mina-sized rock calling out to me, come, yes you, the one with the red curly hair, come hide under me. I've put in earplugs against the hide-under-me-rock's siren call, since I don't really feel like being lashed to a mast (even if that would be very Odysseus meets Anastasia). I don't want to succumb to the very great temptation to hide under the me-sized rock.
I have some support too, from the other voices in my head. There's the pull-up-your-socks-even-if-you-aren't-wearing-them-inside-your-fuzzy-winter-boots-and-by-the-way-will-winter-never-end voice, that tells me to keep busy with other things. And then, finally, there's the brazen voice, not a loud voice, but when I screw up the nerve to let her speak, she says, go for it, surprise yourself!
You're getting the picture, I think, of the cacophony of voices in my head. Yours may not be exactly the same, but I'm pretty sure you have your own symphonic assortment. Last week I went to do a salt water float in complete darkness, yes, a bit like that William Hurt film, Altered States, from the 80's. You float in a tub of water so densely salty that you can relax completely, with no fear of submerging. For me, it's a meditation session on steroids. Weightlessness. Darkness. Quiet. Well, quiet outside my head. Inside my head the voices were ceaseless yesterday, not just about the book, but spinning around in the future and dredging up the past.
Sometimes the voices in my head get a boost from the voices outside my head--i.e. the supposedly real voices of real people. My partner and I and some friends recently went to a burlesque/cabaret/aerial/magic show out in Brooklyn called Below the Bridges. The show was great. Well, mostly great. The MC of the evening called himself Bastard Keith, an apt name, as I quickly discovered when he referred to my hair as a Jewfro (not in a nice way) and then followed that insult with a bit about the strangeness of my clothing, deriding my style as some combination of Goth and Wizard of Oz, or, as he then called me, OzGoth.
I was pretty crushed. In the moment, of course, I did that gamely-girl thing of smiling and laughing, as if I didn't care that he'd just told me he thought I looked all-around weird. And, to be fair, he was as or more mean to many of the other audience members. I wasn't singled out. He was using mean as an easy performance default. But still, it hurt. I had been feeling pretty good about myself the moment before. I'd had a great cross-country ski that morning. I was wearing a new outfit that made me feel a bit groovy (black trouser-fit leather shorts; opaque black tights; long sleeve sheer black t-shirt; black mesh short-sleeve sweater; sparkly black ankle boots) . My curls were more curl than frizz. I was with my partner and close friends. Pop went my balloon of well-being. Even the next day I felt bad about what the MC had said to me. I was pulling the covers over my head and looking for that rock to hide under.
But here's the thing. After a few days I started to see things differently. First, I reminded myself that I'd always been very envious of Afros. How could I be unhappy then if I'd achieved what I wanted? Second, I started to think--what is OzGoth, really?--A combination of the black rebellion of Goth with the sparkly optimism of The Wizard of Oz; which makes me an optimistic rebel. Sold! Thanks for the insult; I'll take it as a compliment.
Which brings me back to the cacophony in my head. Because it turns out that sometimes when the voices really have it out, the brazen voice carries the day. It just feels better to feel better about myself. Not safer, oh no, it always feels a bit dangerous to feel good about myself. As if at any moment some Bastard Keith out there is going to take me down. But the danger is energizing, it spurs me to try other dangerous things. Dangerous for me, that is. You are probably much braver all the time and never worry what other people think of you and have no fear of public failure.
Which brings me back-back to my book, my agent and the editors who have my manuscript and hold my literary future in their hands. Or do they? I don't know what will happen. But maybe, just maybe, whatever the news is, it will manifest over time as an OzGoth moment.
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