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About my recent book-proposal rejection

A month or so ago I got a rejection letter from the publishing company to whom I sent my book proposal. To be fair, “rejection” is too harsh. It was more of a “suggestion” letter: recommended next steps, etc. But to say I was not disappointed would be too “light” and dismissive.

In the throes of all my emotions, I remembered a year-plus ago when I was still in my corporate position. I taught a program on confrontation. As part of the in-classroom experience, participants wrote out a statement using a particular framework and then read it (in simulation) to the person they were confronting. One part of that “script” was naming their feelings about the situation, the offense, the issue at hand. For example, “When you lied to me, I felt angry (or betrayed or sad or frustrated, etc.)” As I walked around the room and listened in, I’d inevitably hear someone say, “When you ______, I felt disappointed.” That was my cue to interrupt the process for a few minutes, head back to the front of the room, and offer the following:

“I forgot to mention: ‘disappointed’ is not an emotion. It’s your (unmet) expectations; not what you’re actually feeling. When we tell someone we are disappointed in them it evokes their shame, which isn’t going to get us any closer to resolution. What do you really feel?”

And that memory? Right. Got it.

Disappointment is real, but it’s not a feeling — not like grief, joy, anger, or fear. It’s a circumstance or state-of-things. It only shows up when my expectations are not met — which feels important to name. And it is only ever present because of me: my thoughts, my hopes, my beliefs (even if misguided).

So what do I really feel? Sad. A tiny bit angry. Frustrated. And clear…there is more work to be done.

Yes, of course: I am disappointed, too. It would have been lovely to receive an enthusiastic “yes.” But underneath that, further up and further in, when I was willing to look closely, I was able to return to some things that feel more important and more true:

  • When disappointment arrives (which, of course it does and will again), we would be well served to ask how its presence might serve us. How it might remind and reinforce exactly what we care about, why we’re doing what we’re doing, that it matters? For me, the rejection, though a sting, actually compels me to be even more committed to what I’m writing, to stay the course, to remember why it matters and just how much.
  • Look closely at what is actually happening, actually being said, actually true. This took me a hot minute, believe me. I had to read through the email a couple more times before I could find the suggestion instead of the rejection; the affirmation of the overall concept, my writing, and its importance; the encouragement to finish the manuscript and circle back. Right, that.
  • Acknowledge that disappointment has to do with our own unmet expectations, no one else, nothing else. Maybe those need to be looked at more closely and recalibrated. And maybe, just maybe, that means I need to look most closely at me not “them.” I still have agency and choice, even (and maybe especially) when it feels like it’s been taken away.

Even in writing this piece, in openly admitting that I didn’t get an effusive and immediate “yes,” I can feel the disappointment resurface. Natural. Normal. And not where I want to stay…

There’s more writing to be done!

3 ways to be fear-defying in writing and life

When I look back over 17 years of blogging, here’s what stands out to me:

My voice has fluctuated, depending on the level of fear I’ve felt at any given time.

I’ll admit: “fear” sounds too strong, somehow, but when I boil it down, that IS what’s left.

What I wrote about when I was still married and still part of the church, is far different than what I said once outside both those structures (and strictures). I can see and remember how afraid I was to express my doubts, my questions, my grief, and the many places in which I was feeling more anger than hope. I was afraid I’d be misunderstood, that I’d go too far, that I’d be too much.

What I wrote about in my 40’s and 50’s was different than what I write today — now in my 60’s. And though I could go into all of the details and themes inherent here, suffice it to say, I was afraid I’d be misunderstood, that I’d go too far, that I’d be too much.

This looking back has “forced” me to track the circumstances and seasons in which I held back, hid even, because of fear — all of which was expressed (or not) in my writing. And as I’m inventorying every bit of this, I’m not only getting clearer about fear’s presence, but angrier. Not at myself, but at fear itself.

As women on this planet, we have been conditioned to be afraid, to be far more concerned with how others perceive and experience us, than to hold fast to (even fight on behalf of) who we know-that-we-know-that-we-know ourselves to be.

That needs to change.

In If Women Rose Rooted, Sharon Blackie says:

To become [one] who can express her wrath rather than her rage, and warn of the dire consequences of ignoring it, is to have stepped fully into your own power as a woman.

And in Untamed, Glennon Doyle says that women need to be “full of themselves.”

What we need right now is more women who have detoxed themselves so completely from the world’s expectations that they are full of nothing but themselves. What we need are women who are full of themselves.

A few chapters later she says this:

What the world needs is masses of women who are entirely out of control.

We must, you and me both, consider who we’d be and how we’d be, if fear weren’t present. Yes, in writing. In relationships. In our choices. In our work.

We must, you and me both, be crystal clear on (and done with) everything that has perpetuated its presence.

We must, you and me both, begin and continue to name our wrath over our rage.

We must, you and me both, step fully into our power as women. No more holding back. No more hiding. No more fear. Done.

*****

Here are three provocative questions to consider that serve as a helpful start and then some in this fear-defying, world-changing work:

  1. Who would you be right now (and what would you write) if you expressed your rage (at fear and all that perpetuates) it instead of ignoring it?
  2. Who would you be right now (and what would you write) if you didn’t pay any attention at all to anyone’s expectations of you?
  3. Who would you be right now (and what would you write) if you were entirely out of control (at least as far as the world is concerned)?

I won’t speak for you (though I’m guessing you feel the same): The answers to these three questions define how and what I want to write; more, how I want to live and who I want to be: unbound by fear, unmoved by others’ expectations, and completely unrestrained (even out of control).

May it be so.

On hope (via Emily Dickinson)

I have always loved these stanzas by Emily Dickinson:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops-at all

I’ve repeated them multiple times to myself. They speak to me. They make sense. They somehow “explain” the unexplainable nature of hope itself.

I’ve been asked, more than once, why I remain a hopeful person — often despite circumstances that would be more logically explained by desolation or despair. I never have a very good answer.

There was a time, decades ago, when I would have attributed it to my religious tradition — a fruit or quality or characteristic that was inherently mine to hold on to, to grip, to cling to no matter what. But that is not what I’d say today.

I’ve left religion, but hope has not left me.

Hope is a given, a truth, a “thing” that just is. Not a choice or some kind of mood that I fall into, hope is gritty and raw and fierce. Ever present. Mine to claim, stand in, and trust.

It is highly possible that you don’t see or experience hope this way at all, that it is far more often fleeting and distant than stable and felt. It is also highly possible that you have lived through (or do still) circumstances that have caused any hope you might have once known to dissipate and disappear — at least to wane. Believe me, I understand.

If either/both of these are the case, I’d invite you to consider the possibility that maybe hope is nothing you have to hold on to, or try to find again; maybe it was never lost in the first place. I’d love for you, like Emily Dickinson, to at least entertain the idea, even if just for a moment, that your hope has never stopped — at all — ever.

There are two more stanza’s to Dickinson’s poem…that I often forget about:

And sweetest — in the Gale — is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet — never — in Extremity,
It asked a crumb — of me.

Sometimes, a moment, a glimpse, a crumb, is all we need to return to hope — as our steadiest and most enduring companion along the way.

May it be so.

Does it feel costly to be yourself?

Let’s be honest: it does feel costly to be ourselves. Maybe not all of the time, but certainly in some relationships, some conversations, some contexts?

Believe me: I completely get it! Here’s a peek inside the (sometimes) craziness of my brain:

  • I know I need to _______.
  • But if I do, then _______ is going to get mad (or hurt or offended or silent) which will then lead to an argument which will then lead to them shutting down (or blowing up or walking away or being passive aggressive) which will then lead to me having to mend fences or else deal with the fallout.
  • The fallout will be awful. _______ will happen and then _______ will happen and if that’s not enough, then _______ will most definitely happen!
  • Once those things occur, that will mean that I have to _______ which will then impact _______ and ________, and _______!
  • It’s too much. It’s too risky. I can’t handle all of this!
  • Better to NOT be fully myself.
  • Whew! ‘Glad I thought that through!

My brain aside, I’m guessing yours processes somewhat similarly, especially when you are on the verge of stepping more fully into who you are, telling your truth, choosing alignment and authenticity; defying compromise or compliance or playing small or holding back or hiding or putting others’ emotions above your own or, or, or…

Here’s what is true: 

More times than not, the choices we make to be fully ourselves come with a whole freight train of risk, cost, and consequence.

It’s no wonder we are a bit tentative!

So, what is a wise, brilliant, amazing, and strong woman (you!!!) to do?

I wish I had an easy answer. There isn’t one. (Parenthetically, let me say that you should be highly suspect of anyone who does!) But here are 4 uneasy answers that are worth considering:

  1. Don’t ignore or downplay the risks, the costs, and the consequences. And please don’t try to *just* have the “right” mindset and overcome (or repress) them.
  2. Give yourself permission to name all that you’re afraid of. Listen to the inner chatter, the imposter, Resistance itself. Unedited. Unrestrained.
  3. Listen to the wisdom within, to your wisdom. Even the fears themselves offer profound insight that is deep and true and trustworthy. You are wise.
  4. Let the wisdom that is yours — including the awareness of risks, the inner chatter, and the stunningly powerful insights — help you remember just how strong and amazing you are.

It feels costly to be fully yourself because it is!

Naming this is what reveals just how valuable and important you-being-you actually is.

(And, in case you were wondering, you’re worth any cost and every price!)

May it be so.

See yourself as a miracle

When I was 8 or 9, my newborn sister went into the hospital. I don’t remember the details. I don’t remember ever visiting her there. I don’t even remember what was diagnosed. What I do remember is seeing my mother cry for the first time. She and my father stood in a corner of the living room — her shoulders hunched over as she shed close-to silent tears; his arms around her — trying to console. And I vaguely remember one of them telling me that Lorri was sick.

I can imagine they would have done anything remotely possible to have her back. I can imagine that their desperation would have driven them to cling to the smallest of options. And I am certain that they prayed — asking for her healing, longing for a miracle.

There’s an ancient story told of a father and his daughter. She was only 12 years old and dying. Desperate, the father went in search of a healer he’d heard rumor of, then begged him to come back to his home and heal his girl. As they set out together, messengers arrived saying, “Don’t bother the teacher any longer; she has already died.” The healer paid no attention, saying, “Don’t be afraid, only believe.”

When they arrived at the man’s home, there was nothing but confusion and wailing. Again the healer spoke: “The child is not dead — she is only sleeping.” When people started making fun of him, jeering at what he’d said, he sent them all away and went into her room — along with three of his disciples and her mother and father. He took her by the hand and said, ““Little girl, get up!” She got up at once and started walking around.

I imagine her skipping out of her room and into the crowd of people, all smiles, oblivious to both their shock and overwhelming joy. She probably asked for a snack and then wanted to go play with her friends. Just like that — all was as it should be.

She was a living, breathing miracle. From the age of 12 and for the rest of her life, this would have been her identity — the way in which she was known by others, the way in which her parents would have seen her, what would have been whispered about her as she walked down the street, grew, lived her life. In some ways, we might guess this was a burden to bear: others expect too much of you; an average life will not suffice.

What if she had a different perspective? What if being a miracle was what opened her up to a life of possibility and joy and expanse? And what if that’s exactly what she offers you today?

*****

Yes, you.

Imagine it. Dream big. Dig deep. Ask yourself: If I believed I was a miracle, I would…

Every answer that shows up is your wisdom speaking; your desire, your heart, your longing, your truth. And you can trust it. Because you are a miracle. Now…to believeing it and being it!

May it be so.

A 3-Step Plan Worth Following

I lived a very long season of my life (decades, really) in which I was endlessly on the hunt to find a plan that would make sense of everything, give me the happily-ever-after I wanted, ease my every stress and struggle.

What I learned, usually the hard way, is that those plans don’t exist. Which explains why I’m skeptical of them.

Still, there is a plan that feels far wiser than anything I’ve dared to try, have seen on a bookshelf, or have ever had recommended. It’s inspired by one of the ancient, sacred stories I tell — about a woman who had little-to-no power, hardly any choice, and realities that endlessly conspired against her. In spite of all this, here was the 3-step plan she somehow managed to live:

1. Trust your heart.
2. Take crazy risks.
3. Let go of the outcome.

I could tell you her story — both how it’s been told throughout time and my reimagined and redeemed version. I could fill you in on just how passionately committed she was to a life that was not only non-traditional, but completely counter-cultural, without any compromise or compliance. And I could certainly speak to all that she (still) has to offer you and me both, when it comes to working through resistance, getting past gatekeepers, and living in a world that often rarely sees or honors women’s voices, bodies, wisdom, or very selves. Without all the details, here’s the bottom line: to choose and embody any of these three steps (let alone all three) is MIRACULOUS.

Which is why she’s worth following, why we would be wise to trust her heart on our behalf and risk that she knows of what she speaks and somehow believe that the outcomes, no matter what they are, will be worthy and worthwhile.

And just to reinforce her relevance, this:

Though centuries have passed between her story and mine, I continue to work through resistance (internal and external). I endlessly strive to not only name, but get past gatekeepers (again, internal and external). And I still live in a world that rarely sees or honors me as a woman. I’m guessing I’m not the only one.

I’m also guessing that your actual three step plan looks a lot like mine (whether we admit we have one, or not):

1. Determine the outcome I want.
2. Mitigate every risk.
3. Find ways to get determined outcomes without the involvement of my heart at all; definitely no reliance on trust..

Not. Miraculous. At all.

So, back to where I started: Yes, I’m highly suspect of 3-step plans (or 7 or 12). But this one? It feels daring enough to invite the life I long for, risky enough to bring about results I’d barely dream of, and courageous enough to actually invite freedom, expansiveness, hope, and joy.

1. Trust your heart.
2. Take crazy risks.
3. Let go of the outcome.

May it be so.

*****

I write a letter every week. It’s filled with my stories, my thoughts, my doubts, my beliefs, my challenges, my hopes. And after I write it, I email it to you – every Monday morning. I’d love for you to have it. SUBSCRIBE.