I’ve had a few communications with folks lately about rejection. Anytime you take a risk and put yourself out there and pin hopes on someone else’s reaction, you are subjecting yourself to the possibility of rejection. I’ve got two specific instances to share with new insights.
In this not-so-new-anymore world of electronic communications, a person can sit at their computer and submit poem after poem to dozens of different places. I can’t claim to hit this kind of volume, but I have spent a fair bit of my free-time lately doing research, tailoring my bio, writing cover letters, and selecting and editing appropriate pieces.
Most people I’ve talked to about this process say things like “keep going and you’ll be able to paper your walls with those rejections”. However, that’s just not how it is anymore. There’s no paper.
No. Instead those rejections pop into your electronic in-box and end up interrupting your day at very unexpected times. We no longer walk to the mailbox with a measure of anticipation and hope. Nope. We send our babies out into the world and when they cone back, rejected it could be mid-morning in the middle of a work meeting you’ve lost interest in. You toggle over to your personal email and open that electronic rejection.
There’s nothing to do then. No physical evidence of the rejection (I suppose unless you printed it out). If I’m in a rotten mood already, it’s like I just shrug, and say “thanks universe, go ahead and punch a girl whose already down”. Whatever. I didn’t need to win that AWP contest or have my words appear in “32Poems” anyway. (Two very recent rejections).
If I’m having a good day or my dauber is up, it’s kinda like “so what, universe, my life is good and I don’t really like cake anyway, so the jokes on you.”
The lesson I’m working out here for myself, is that I’m doing pretty good not letting it get to me. I’m not hanging my hat on any acceptance or rejection. I’m not judging my self worth based on someone else’s opinions of the fruits of my creative labors. I’m writing these poems for me. Kinda like this blog. It’s just for me and though it feels good to know people are reading it and sometimes click the button to like it, it’s that’s not what gives me satisfaction. It’s the act of writing, documenting, thinking, and those moments where the light bulb goes off and I actually sort out an issue or find some conclusion to a troubling issue. Those moments are priceless!!
The second instance of rejection that’s relevant today, and not as easily dismissed has to do with Father’s Day. I’m certainly not alone in my plight with the “holiday”. It’s a Hallmark holiday that tends to remind me of the rejection I’ve experienced with regard to my relationship with my dad for many years now.
He’s got his family. His wife and her kids, grand kids, and great grandkids and they have the relationship I’ve longed for my whole adult life. They hang out. He babysits his great grandkids. He’s spent countless hours with them and almost none with me or my kids. When we try to participate in family events, we’re made to feel like outcasts. We’re literally the red-headed step children nobody seems to notice. Huddling near each other with nothing to contribute to the conversation. Our lives are so disconnected.
It’s rejection at a deep level. Something I can’t shrug off like a poem some random stranger didn’t care for. These are my real children not having a relationship with their grandfather. Now when I ask if they want to go visit, my kids just say “naw”. I don’t force them.
As their mother, I want to protect them. I’d rather they not feel the rejection I feel. I’d rather have them put their energy into relationships that are positive and supporting.
On my wedding day four months ago, when we were taking pictures during the reception, I requested one with just my siblings. As they came around me, the moment became emotional for me. With an 18 year spread among us, it’s rare to have a moment in life together. I began to cry. I had to regain my composure for the picture.
After that moment, my dad asked me why I was crying. I told him the truth. That it’s not often we get these opportunities to be together as a family. That it’s important to me. It’s part of the reason I wanted to have a wedding instead of just running to city hall or eloping to some exotic destination. I wanted to see my loved ones and come together in celebration.
I honestly don’t think he gets it. Or maybe he gets it but is unwilling to change the situation. Change is tough and it takes effort to maintain positive relationships. You sometimes have to risk rejection.
I did that last Christmas. I tried. I subjected my love to it too. We attended Christmas dinner at my step-nieces house. It was disastrously awful for Jim and I. I’ve never felt so out of place and unwanted in my whole life. On the way home from that event, I cried and promised Jim I would never do that to us again.
But now here I am. The day before Father’s Day, preparing a gift for him and his wife. I’m contemplating setting up a visit to deliver the gift (home made strawberry pie using his moms recipe) I’m considering making my kids go with me. I’m hanging my hat on a positive reception. I’m rejecting the idea of being rejected again. I’m hoping it’s not too late to re-establish some connection. It’s probably foolish.
Why do I feel the need to do this? Where does this need for his approval come from. Has it just been long enough that I need another reminder of how it is, or how it probably will never change? I can bake strawberry pies year after year expecting a different result. It’s not just foolish, it’s also really pathetic and sad.
If anyone ever asked me about my relationship with my father (which people don’t). I would say “it’s kind of a cats in the cradle thing”. I can’t help but think about that song when I think about my dad.
Anyway, that’s enough lamenting about rejection for one Saturday. Time to go cut strawberries and crush graham crackers. Whatever.
Peace and Love,