What May Sarton Said
Late night thoughts, exhausted and fighting the flu.
I am so tired of and exhausted by daily terror. Here is how the terror happens every day:
I have written a book (called Share My Insanity). I calligraphed its words in my own blood. My earnest hopes were recorded by bruising my hands against the computer keyboard. My beliefs – – which are not from my brain but from my cells – – I wrenched these beliefs from those cells, wrenched them out through my pores as if I were extracting my own entrails, tiny bit by tiny bit, minuscule bits small enough to get through pores. Yes, I am trying to say it hurt and it was hard. And that what I wrote was myself, I put myself in that book. Not a self that is some heroic image, but the me that for nine years wrote the book. Bit by tiny bit of self.
What happens next, after the book comes out, is always the same. Somebody attacks. I become terrified, wait for it to happen. They think that, if I could’ve pulled off a book, then I couldn’t possibly be as sensitive as them! I could not be as nervous and vulnerable and terrified as them, or I would never have been able to write down everything I wanted to write and manage to get it published, right? So they think it’s okay to attack.
But I am just me.
You’re not supposed to make complaints about it, if you’re lucky enough to publish. It sounds like whining, lack of gratitude. Take this blog in context, please. I know that being a writer is a blessing. I’ll be lucky to break even on the book, mind you, but that’s not what’s important. What is important is that I was given the gift of putting into words ideas that help people transform their lives. What is important is that I was given the gift —the ability—to create tools for change that make miracles in peoples lives. So take everything I say here within a context of my immense gratitude and the sense of personal connection I feel with my reader. And the context of me knowing I am blessed b/c I actually get to do what I was put on this earth for.
And where there is great light, there will be great dark. To create great things means to face great challenges. And tonight, my dear friend, I am tired of the challenges. And it is time to finally take off my mask, reveal my terror, not only for my sake, but also for other terrified people. The mask we wear because it is supposedly not okay for us to speak about the terror some humans sometimes live in daily.
We are not supposed to speak of it, so that we can be easy targets for haters, who make assumptions that we must be terrible people based on the simple fact that we have voices at all, let alone convictions. Insisting we must be privileged in ways they are not or we could not have written a book or otherwise spoken up. Though we may live in poverty, do without medical care, or be otherwise oppressed, they must pretend to themselves that we are not like them, that we are “other,” something they can project onto. I am tired, so tired, of being dehumanized.
Some of my terror happens from promoting the book. I don’t mean “promotion” as a fancy word and indecipherable concept. By “promotion,” I simply mean letting potential readers know my book exists. Tweeting about it, mentioning it on Facebook, that sort of thing. I have no publicist or money to promote.
The Great American novelist May Sarton said something along the lines of, “I made friends with the wrong people. I befriended my readers, not the book reviewers.” That is like me! The focus of my work is actually my work: teaching, counseling, writing useful books. I was once invited to be on a spiritual leaders’ list—a networking list. I thought, “I don’t have time to be on a spiritual leader list. I’m too busy being a spiritual leader.” (Mind you, I prefer the term “servant” to “leader.”)
When the time comes to promote, I’m not set up like some queen with her fellow kings and queens and rulers who will promote the book for me. I am a servant, a counselor, a writer. But I am viewed by people who do not know me as “one of them,” someone who supposedly has all sorts of hidden connections that create promotion, connections they themselves could never have. Ha! Tired of being dehumanized and projected onto.
Share My Insanity has a message of life and fullness, light and healing. To try to get word out about it is like being blocked by an edifice of darkness that reaches all the way to the sky. I am staring up at it, looking up hopelessly—I do mean hopelessly—saying, “How do I get around this edifice to the other side where I can tell people the book exists, so that it can be of service?”
The edifice is big business, the edifice is our class system, the edifice is sexism, the edifice is our human avoidance of messages that challenge us to grow. The edifice is Forces of Evil. Yes, I believe Big Evil exists, even though it is not chic, hip, or psychologically kosher to do so.
Luckily, I believe the Divine is bigger than the Dark Construction of my metaphor, that Divinity will work in ways I cannot even imagine. I must rely on Divinity.
And you are the Divine, too: If you feel one of my books has helped you, I need your help letting others know that my new book exists. I’m not asking for anything fancy or incomprehensible. Just mention Share My Insanity on Face book. Or at your church. Or to one friend. One person connecting with another person is what I am about, not mass media or massive numbers. Readers not reviewers.
I joked earlier today, “Having a book out is terrifying and paradoxical: it’s like taking off all your clothes in public, then hoping nobody looks at you.” I choose this public life. I also choose to be a semi-recluse. “Taking my clothes off” is a choice—an insane choice, but I am driven. And I know I’m doing the right thing, hard as it is. And I have great joy as an author and healer. I have real fun promoting.
But in middle of all the terror, the attacks, the feeling of banging my fist uselessly against “the machine,” it is hard to trust the Divine. I find it next to impossible to bring this flawed terrified self into God’s care. Instead, I beat myself up with the idea that I should have some sort of perfect surrender, perfect trust, and an ability to be beyond these painful human feelings.
I do not give up on trying to be in God. Not permanently. I keep trying: I keep feeling my light and the light that is a Beneficent Cosmos. I notice light, it is not an idea to me but a reality that I experience. I moved between it and the terror—and along the spectrum between the two—for a long time as I worked toward the book release a week ago. I have continued this spectrum since then.
A lesson from all this is to bring my battered imperfect self into God’s care. I am no saint. I’m just a poet. A healer. A mystic. A teacher. A clown devoted to creating antics in God’s service. I have known great ecstasy and jubilation in my lifetime. I believe I was put on this earth for pleasure. I believe I was also put here to learn. Sometimes I can learn through joy and jokes. Sometimes I must suffer through the pain that is a doorway into growth.