Was a time during my early years when a disappointment came as a surprise, left you gasping for air, caused you to feel even more helpless and vulnerable than you were aware of being. For all the day-to-day things you could have been disappointed about, there were enough distractions and such magic as ladybugs, tadpoles, and the cooing of mourning doves in the large vacant lot nearby to provide a fabric of adventure and promise.
Sunday, March 13, 2016
By the time you were sliding into your twenties, you'd experienced enough disappointments to put them in the same perspective as mosquitoes or bad movies, or failures of recipes from unreliable cookbooks. The girls you were in love with were not in love with you, the girls you were not in love with were in love with you, there was no more room on your bedroom wall for rejection slips, books you'd looked forward to reading turned out to be duds.
Stories that seemed so promising during their early pages had begun to seem flat because the middle and ending pages were about disappointment, and even then, you knew you were not supposed to write about things you knew.
Your only comfort was the knowledge that while many of your friends were not only finding interesting jobs, they were advancing in them, and you were beginning to see how the idealism of your late teens and early twenties was beginning to behave like a puppy bent on running away.
The trick then would have been to have more out-of-work writers as friends, but the writers of your age whom you knew all seemed to have tangential jobs, where they spent much of the day writing reports or studies rather than stories and essays. Most, if not all, of them seemed to also be in various advanced stages of romantic relationships, where such topics as more commodious living space rentals, furniture, and savings accounts were as persistent as the individuals selling Watchtower.
In time, you, too, were getting a paycheck, by no means commodious but also not as disappointing as some of the past paychecks you'd received; these actually had the name of a publisher on them. True enough, you were in a situation where more commodious living space was an issue, and so were such things as furniture and savings accounts, and some how, if there was not a balance in the latter because of any of the former, you could come home, fire up a typewriter, and write a novel or some essay covering the history of the American West.
The biggest disappointment was not being able to take the risk of writing things where you did not know the outcome, meaning you'd have to return to the pre-paycheck days of writing to discover answers to questions about technique and content that were beyond you as a writer but which you were beginning to see and articulate in abundant measure as an editor.
You didn't need too much time to figure your way around this disappointment; all you had to do was make a list of priorities and put the risk of writing things where you did not know the outcomes at the top of the pyramid.
This is not to say that the discovery changed things for the better or precluded significant new disappointments. Instead, it brought you in direct contact with an enhanced level of disappointment, where you began to understand how certain emotional responses such as fear, disappointment, anxiety, and frustration have a working relationship with the species of which you are a member, a symbiosis, as it were.
In this symbiosis, you offer these feelings such comforts of home and security as you can, agreeing that you will not use any chemical repellents on them, which would interfere with their performing functions of an evolutionary nature on you. These presences allow you to adapt, adjust, and accommodate to disappointment, fear, anxiety, and frustration, each of which, if seen in proper perspective, enhance your ability to survive.
You would be most disappointed of all if you did not survive.
Posted by Shelly Lowenkopf at 10:31 PM