On April 1st, I was fortunate enough to interview with Gianna Volpe, host of Heart of the East End on WLIW. If you follow the link, you can hear my awful radio voice and an otherwise fulfilling interview where I was able to talk about my favorite thing, my grandpa, as well as the Letters to Loretta series.
I’ve chosen to challenge myself to a Sober September. I am not an addict, nor do I feel myself heading down a path of dependency on substance. I do, however, feel like I need to clear my mind, body, and soul. And one of the easiest ways to do that is to eliminate things such as alcohol. Admittedly I have been experience a bit of anxiety and stress that leads me to look forward to my days off – more for the socialization than anything, but IPA is almost always involved. In my head, I don’t want to condition myself to start subconsciously associating days off-with-friends-with-booze. I should also make a note that I don’t get drunk every weekend, but I have a deep-seated insecurity that forming a habit involving a substance will turn me into my mother. September 26th will be eight years without her already, and I’d like to bring an awareness to the importance of healthy, conscious decisions.
It all comes down to simply clearing my soul. It feels cloudy right now when I close my eyes and try to look at myself. I’m not a fan of that – not going to lie. I feel like I’ve been trying so hard to do everything at once that I’ve forgotten what to be grateful for. I kicked up so much dust and then complained that I couldn’t breathe, that I couldn’t see. When I went through my break-up this winter, and all the funerals, I went into serious overdrive by applying myself to whatever my desperate little tentacles could grab. 197 job applications (no joke. Wish I was joking. Not joking.), constant travel, minimal downtime; an injured animal wildly throwing its body around at whatever unseen force it senses in a last-ditch attempt to scare the being away. The being in my situation was (is) life. I got sloppy. I never stopped once this summer to think that maybe the thing in front of me was just my life, and my healing. I kicked around whatever I could as if I could outrun myself. I just assumed that life wasn’t good to me for a while so I was going to make it worthwhile on my own terms, and as a result I forgot about all the good that’s already there. I have been “self care” button mashing for months and it’s gotten me nowhere except gifted me more anxiety attacks. Self care is a slippery slope, because sometimes the things that are best for us don’t feel so great. Sometimes you need to stop and acknowledge you are hurt, that you are scuffed up, and that you’re only going to hurt yourself more if you don’t let the wounds be for a while.
For September, I wrote down what I’m grateful for:
- I have a roof over my head that I’ve sustained on my own for over three years.
- I have a wonderfully goofy, giant, loving puppy who challenges my patience and also forces me to socialize and exercise.
- I have a job that pays me money regardless of how little each month I get to toss into savings.
- I have passions like writing, painting, and collecting old books.
- I have been able to be a good friend, and I have good friends.
- This year alone I’ve traveled to three states, gone out of the country, and have a trip booked for my birthday week at the end of October – something not everyone is able to do.
- I did not become my mother, and used her tragic loss and my experience with addiction to share my story and help others.
- I’ve been in love, even if that love hurt me.
- I’m a damn good cook.
I am equal parts cynicism and hope.
A good beer
and a sticky August night
are all I need
to pay homage to my
I am the daughter
of Patricia –
Of dragon woman, blue eyeliner
with limp and easy cigarette hands
and mascara wand swords.
Mother to children –
All hers –
But only two were really hers.
Her alter is the dashboard
of an ‘03 Mustang
with offerings of classic rock,
a Bic lighter or three, one probably empty,
and coke bottle eyeglasses
to see how she made most days
I can still hear her say it.
Do no harm,
take no shit.
Thank you again to Edge of Humanity Magazine for the publication! Please check them out!
I never got the urge
when looking at someone
I loved unless
they were moments
I never felt such overwhelming
until that September afternoon –
Those eyes like mine
made me feel
I almost wept.
I could not contain
just how much
I loved you.
French press mornings
that gifted us our futures in the bottom
of our cups –
I cannot read our future.
Why did you fall in love with me?
You smiled and said nothing.
I asked again –
I took your hand –
You’re easy to love, I said.
You smiled and said,
because you’re kind.
Kind to heart and kind in patience
rose-colored and divine –
Too rosy to see your eyes that hid
what you couldn’t tell me until
many months past.
To leave me devoured and spit out
spit up resentments where love once was
our cups empty
My cup empty.
You touched her –
and her –
and probably her as well.
Black coffee grind hand on my heart
too divine to stay elevated
at your feet.
And I wept and wept
to look at your face
to see the death of us –
dead to me.
I have been feeling hopelessly uninspired lately and also over-aware of other people’s actions, which is an obvious sign that I need to put on blinders and focus on my own shit. After my mom died I spent a solid three years deliberately judging people around me because bad things were clearly only happening to me and I had self-loathing tunnel vision. I questioned, why does everything bad happen to me? Honestly I don’t blame my past self for thinking like that. I still sometimes find myself, after a string of bad events, think why me for a moment. The difference now, though, is I learned to check myself.
As a former judge-y person myself, I know the primary reason I was so observant of other people and their actions was because I was absolutely terrified of taking a gander into my own life. At the time, I felt wildly out of control and didn’t even know where to begin to make things better in my bubble. Judging what other people do runs parallel to the saying, the grass is greener on the other side. It’s easier to judge your neighbor for how they trim back their rose bushes than to risk pricking yourself with thorns planting your own. My garden of life was an absolute disaster for so many years that I became accustomed to witnessing how other people landscaped their own lives. I preferred to live vicariously through my neighbors’ decisions and fantasized to myself how my life would feel if I did and lived the way other people did, without actually putting any effort into living.
When I used to put blinders on it would be to wallow in my own misery. It would be to emotional eat and blame the universe for everything bad happening as if I was special enough to be singled out by the creators of time, space, and existence, and be personally tortured for living. The long and short of it all is that none of us are that special – and with the magnitude of the cosmos in comparison to the size of a human life – we should be thankful that we don’t garner that much attention from whatever powers exist beyond our line of sight. But there I was, thinking how unfortunate my life was for turning out how it did by the time I was in my early 20’s, wondering when I was going to get mine, wondering when I was going to be handed a torch of happiness. Here’s another fun fact, the universe doesn’t give a shit what you think you deserve. We all have free will and that includes the free will to give up on caring about what other people are doing – especially when it doesn’t affect you, and focus on your own damn joy.
When I was feeling hopelessly uninspired in the past I would sit on Tumblr, or Instagram – or eat myself sick – as if any of those things would help. Social media presents itself to us like a hunk of deli meat that is incredibly convenient and also undeniably devoid of nutrition. It’s all fillers and flavor and everyone has indulged in it at one point or another. It doesn’t nourish us and it’s advertised to make us think we want it when in reality it’s just a bunch of weird odds and ends put together to come off appealing but is entirely unappetizing when separated and placed out individually. Now, when I’m feeling hopelessly uninspired, I read. Right now, I have Homo Deus out and ready to be devoured like a fat-ass Thanksgiving turkey my grandpa spent all day roasting. I have to set the table, carve it, serve it out, and enjoy it. I can’t judge other people when I’m learning. I can’t worry about what everyone else is doing when I’m expanding my lexicon. I can’t care about all the empty calories of society when I’m devouring something that will nourish and inspire me.
So to anyone a little (or a lot) in the dark – just pick up a damn book.
The more I’ve stepped away from people not vibing with my life the better I’ve felt. I’m a textbook empath and I had a conversation last night with a friend about how, if I’m in a social setting with too much going on, I feel absolutely drained and exhausted and want to just go home and take a nap. I’ve written once before somewhere that I feel like people’s energies siphon off of me and I can’t make it not happen but I don’t know why. It’s frustrating to be self aware but not understand how to protect my energy from other people.
The easiest remedy has been to walk away from certain people. The biggest obstacle is my weird-ass form of guilt. The, “But what if something happens to them?” That reaction. It’s super unfortunate that it took for me to be cheated on, for my grandfather’s name to be marred, for some ultimate betrayal by one person I loved so much for me to realize, “Oh wait, they don’t really care how any of their decisions affect you.” The decision then comes to just nut up and move along. Honestly? Feels great. I have been on this wild uptick for four months. Even with the unwavering denials from literary agent after literary agent, I’ve felt the most alive since winter. Some people with literally suck the life force out of us and it’s kind of scary because I’ve realized that we, as humans, are almost too advanced in the sense that we rely so heavily on logic we tend to forget energy exists. There are things we cannot see that exist that have control and influence in our lives. I don’t mean Law of Attraction stuff. Not if I believe it and call to it then I’ll get it. Law of Attraction is great when you choose to also apply yourself to the thing you want. You can’t declare you want a thousand dollars and then spend all your money every week. The good things come, but to those who try. To those who ditch the bullshit people who want a piece of whatever will benefit them. Drop those people. They aren’t people. They’re leeches.
I’ve become so accustomed to rejection over the years that now when I see an email reply from a literary agency, I brush it off and dismiss it for lack of getting my hopes up in regards to my writing career. I have been submitting (and getting rejected) to agents for the better part of seven years with my memoirs and essays when all I have been focused on other than making a living is becoming a published author. I want a book deal, I want a book out, I want something published. Since 2012, I’ve been published in magazines and e-books from literary contests and other outlets, but nothing substantial like seeing my name on a shelf at a Barnes and Noble and hearing that someone read about my life story – my life – and felt moved by it in some positive way.
Fast forward to this week. Then rewind to January when my grandfather passed away. He was the oldest surviving prisoner of war in New York and served in Germany in World War 2. He was the most bad-ass, sweetest, understanding human I’ve ever come into contact with and his death has been something I’ve had difficulty coping with since the beginning of this year. Not to mention a particularly nasty break-up in February that derailed me from a proper grief, I’ve felt as if I was shot out of a sling shot this year and lost my footing for a bit.
After Pop died, I revisited a box of old letters exchanged between him and my grandmother during the war – most of them from 1943. There are also miscellaneous letters from my grandfather’s twin brother who died tragically in Japan in November of 1942. That always kills me to know that Pop had to live 75 years without his literal other half; When Arthur died, people said he was lucky for being blown up instead of captured and placed into Japanese prison camps. Pop was already a POW at the time of his brother’s death, and wasn’t informed of it until after he returned from the war in the Fall of 1945 to try and keep his stress levels to a minimum.
Anyway, I digress. With the death, the break-up, an earlier death of my dog of 15 years, and work stress I had what I’d like to call a creative snap where I sat down and pumped out 15,000 words in less than three days based off the letters and stories from Pop. It was a necessary catharsis; it was therapeutic, and in many ways helped more than the therapist I began speaking to in February. I continued on with this story – with his story – and after a couple of months, a trip to Savannah for war research at the Mighty 8th Air Force Museum, some exchanges with the descendants of the 388th Airborne in England, and a lot of tears (and a lot of editing), I produced a book just shy of 300 pages that encapsulated my grandfather’s experiences in life, love, and loss during the war.
Like I said earlier, I’m so adjusted to rejection that I sometimes find myself blindly submitting my work to agent after agent after agent in an attempt to see what sticks like spaghetti on the cabinet that is the saturated literary market. Just this past week I received three (or four?) rejections with reasons ranging from, “Thank you for your query, but I can’t market you,” to, “Thank you for your query, but I’m actually not taking on any projects right now,” to, “Thank you for your query. Your writing is really good but I can’t take on the project.” The last one was kind of a punch to the gut honestly. That one lingered a little, mostly because I so desperately wanted someone to take a chance on my own story for so long and I wholeheartedly believe that my grandfather’s story takes precedence over everything in my immediate world. Especially with the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Pop and his letters belong to a group of forgotten heroes; good men who went through unspeakable horrors and came back home and still got shit done. I was present for his nightmares – I was there for his recounts of terror. His story deserves to be told and now that he isn’t here anymore, I want nothing more than to be a voice to the voiceless.
Yesterday afternoon started with me waking up from an overnight shift to another rejection letter that was emailed to me earlier that morning. “…it’s a subjective market, keep sending out your work.” I respect that. I get it. The literary market it a spiderweb of just finding the right match. Never in the 100 or so agents who rejected me over the years did I take one personally. I just kept thinking to myself that I had to keep writing. Then, a few hours later in the midst of loading my dishwasher I received another email that started like the rest. “Thank you for your query…” My hopes deflated until I see, “The project sounds very interesting, and we’d be pleased to have a look at 50 pages. Please feel free to send it along at your convenience as either a PDF or Word document. We look forward to hearing from you.”
OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD.
I read the same lines over about 46 times. Cue ugly crying. Cue calling my dad in an incoherent, Ron Burgundy in a glass case of emotion sob. Cue my dog not knowing how to deal so he just kept sitting on my foot every time I moved. Cue crying in my kitchen like a Desperate Housewife minus the glass of Pinot. Not even to put all my eggs in one basket because NOTHING is set in stone, but just the mere opportunity to share my work with an agency (who I am yet to name because nothing is set in stone) made my insides melt. After seven years – seven years of no’s, of “thank you, but,” someone is maybe taking a chance on me. All I’ve been doing for seven years is try. And if this opportunity takes off, if I’m able to share the story about my grandfather that he deserves – if I can give justice to men like him – I could seriously die happy.
This is about failure.
This is about the inevitability of failure, the understanding and acceptance that sometimes your work may just not fit into the criteria of what an agent is looking forward. Does it mean your work isn’t good? No. Does it mean you have more work to do? Always. Failure is not infinite and improvement should never be finite. This rejection email – my nth one – doesn’t make me cry in the dark, wondering why I’m not good enough to have my book published. It doesn’t make me want to give up writing; it makes me want to write more. Failure and rejection makes me realize just how much this means to me, and how much being an author and a writer means to me.
In a technological world, my phone has become the hub of games, social media, various apps, texting, email – whatever I could imagine. There is no escaping social media if you want to be a known writer in 2019 and I am noticing more and more how I have to mold my image on the internet to become acquainted with other writers and readers of the world in order to share my stories. I’m not a huge fan of social media, but what I have noticed is, the more serious I’ve become about writing, the less serious I’ve become about maintaining a social media image. My output has gone from posting a photo (or more) a day on Instagram to writing something everyday – whether it is a poem, an essay, a thought, or a handwritten entry in my journal. My energy has shifted from image through immediate visual stimulation to providing a story that allows someone to create an image for themselves. And honestly? I love it. I feel like the “me” I write about rather than the “me” I post about is the more genuine form of who I truly am. I feel like I am living a better and more sincere life by letting my words define me than my carefully taken photos of moments in my life I’d rather hold onto than moments I need to express in order to be a healthier version of myself. So yeah, in a sense, in this email, I failed to meet whatever this agency was looking for. And that’s OK, because whoever comes across me and selects me will select the genuine me, the real me, and the business aspect will be a much more enjoyable one. I’m grateful to each agency who read my words and whether or not they want to take on my projects is relative to whatever impact my words may have. I can take the failure because it isn’t really failure. And any failure is a forward failure as I stumble towards the future I want to create for myself.
I have been turned down by – if I’m keeping a vague count – probably 50 or so literary agencies all over the country. I’ve been writing – or if I’m being honest – trying to write books for the past seven or so years. I’ve grown accustomed to rejection letters and passive “we’re so busy here or else we’d give you better feedback” emails that I feel like recently I submit my work just to pass time. I have filled out countless applications, wrote query after query, prayed, hoped, cried, and sometimes practically begged for a chance. I want an agent to take a chance on me and be pleasantly surprised in the same way I took a chance on myself in my early 20’s. I want someone to see me and say, “Hey, she probably works well under pressure, ” or, “Hey, she probably takes criticism well,” and I want to shake that person’s hand and look them in the face and say that I won’t let them down.
In the end, I’m doing what I’ve been doing for the sake of getting out my story. I take years and years of suppressed memories and thoughts and regrets and throw them down line after line for no one other than myself, and I think realizing that what I’m doing is for me is what encourages me to continue filling out query after query and expecting a hearty “No thank you.” The market is over-saturated and the world is over-populated and for some reason I hold onto a shred of hope that something I say will help someone else somewhere even if I’m never published because I’ve seen it happen on more than one occasion just by verbal interaction. I’ve been writing since I could write and I’ve been talking non stop since I could form a sentence. Some people are simply born to be certain things and I think I was born to be a writer.
I’m not sure if my mother’s addiction, my abusive household, her death, my father’s mental illness, or my own personal turmoil was destined to happen because I was somehow destined to share my stories, but I am sharing my stories and my life regardless of my platform. My soap box has not yet caved in. My heart is still beating. I am not finished. I have learned in this process and cycle of application and rejection that I own my past and my truth and I am no longer ashamed of where I come from because I see exactly who the fuck I am and honestly? If that’s as far as I’m meant to go, so be it. Just let me know if I helped someone.