Tag Archives: rejection

ACTIVATE

18th March 2017

As many of you know…and are perhaps fed up hearing about…I’ve had a bit of an issue with rejection for most of my life. I know I’m not alone in this and certainly for those of us given up for adoption it can be almost a raison d’être, especially if, like myself, you didn’t get the luck of the draw with your adoptive mother.

All of us, to some degree or another, have issues impressed upon us in childhood that we may, or may not, struggle to resolve during the course of our lives. But as my dear friend Vivian, a brilliant therapist, said the other day, “The holes from childhood can never be filled.” So, what to do? And how do we figure out the difference between persevering to overcome these issues, as opposed to the unconscious ways in which we invite these issues to keep recurring in our lives?

I’ve sat at my desk writing for many decades now. The first decade or so I was writing only for myself, and so while rejection may have been a recurring theme in those journals, the writing itself did not invite it. That said, I can be extremely creative when it comes to being self-destructive and if self-destruction isn’t the ultimate rejection, I don’t know what is. Hence the role, in my life, of alcohol, drug addiction, sex, serial marriages etc., etc.

When it comes to 27 years of rejection as a professional writer I’m not sure of the percentages: to what degree did I continue to write and submit work because I thought that commitment, discipline and perseverance would eventually pay off? Or to what degree did I continue because on some deeper level I needed to keep rejection in my life because it had become part of my identity?

I’ve spent the last few years trying figure this out and finally I decided last year that the percentages don’t matter. What really matters is I’d finally had enough of inviting rejection into my life. Period. So I self-published my novel and continued writing for this blog which gives me enormous pleasure because I know that many of you look forward to receiving the latest installment.

But life is tricky isn’t it? Last November, unbidden and unexpected, I was approached by a successful film producer who had been given a copy of my novel by a mutual friend. She told me that she had been waiting for a project that really moved her and that when she read my novel she knew that was it and she asked if she could have the movie rights.

What joy. All those years of struggle were finally paying off. Over a couple of dinners we discussed how to move forward. She was on her way back to her homeland and in a few weeks, once settled, she would ask me to send all required materials. Weeks went by. Finally, I emailed 2 weeks ago to ask if she was ready for the package. The reply was swift and succinct: No longer interested.

The rejection I felt was so enormous it was as though every rejection was rolled into one huge hairball stuck in my throat. In fact, the expression: “something stuck in my craw,” was more than apt as I immediately began to suffer from acid reflux. Our bodies tell us everything.

Now here comes the good part.

Yesterday, our dear friend Rupert, healer supreme, came to give us massages. I told him I had rejection stuck in my craw. And here, paraphrased, was his response. “You have the wrong receptor activated.” Basically, he continued, the receptors which are activated, take all the feelings and experiences and memories deep into our cells and because they are deep in us those feelings, experiences and memories can be activated every time a similar situation occurs. As soon as he said this I felt an extraordinary lightness of being. I suddenly realized that only my rejection receptor had been activated (since birth). As a result, the receptor for success had stayed closed and therefore whatever successes I had achieved in life I’d barely acknowledge, never mind felt.

As he continue with the massage it was as though my life came flooding back to me, much like we are told happens on our death bed. Except now I am very much alive. One after another, the string of my successes lit up and I felt them deep in me: leaving home at 16 and finding my way; overcoming a stillbirth and giving birth to an exuberant daughter; joining a dance company; opening and running a successful hair salon for many years until I broke my neck; ditto painting and selling hundreds of works during that same period. Creating and hosting a current affairs radio program; buying my own house as a single 43 year-old woman. Writing and performing a play Off Broadway; Earning a Master’s Degree at 49; Founding the Tuscany Workshops which Joel and I taught for many years; Overseeing the renovation of an 18 unit apartment building in Greenwich Village; Training for and opening a rewarding therapy practice; developing and maintaining deep friendships; growing a beautiful marriage with Joel; Creating 3 gardens; Helping my daughter through a near-death experience; Moving to a new country and speaking a new language. And yes, writing a shitload of novels, stories, poems and essays.

I’m aware that this list may read like a boast, but it’s not. Not that I haven’t boasted of these things in the past. But therein lies the difference: the boast is the thing we do when we don’t actually ‘feel’ our own success. America currently has a president who is a disturbing example of this; definitely has the wrong receptors activated there!

So, no, I’m not boasting now. I’m sharing with you the joy of this particular enlightenment for the same reason I share other personal growths and triumphs: because I want to say, “Hey, there’s hope for us all!” and because I want to say thank you to Rupert and the many angels in this world who give us their insight and wisdom, sometimes almost at the last minute, when we have just about given up hope.

May we all be each other’s angels, ready to impart our wisdom, lighting up the dark sky with a millions stars of hope and possibility.

With love.

NB.  I am thrilled to announce that my friend Julie Burstein (absolutely Google her) and I have started recording a series of short Podcasts (under 5 minutes). Here are the links to the first 2.  We would be most appreciative of feedback.

TIME TO BE

 

5th June 2016

bliss

I replace the empty cartridge in my fountain pen and wonder how long it will be before I do that again. In the 5+ years that I have been writing for this blog I have also revised one novel and written another. During this time I have refilled the pen perhaps a thousand times; each time with a sort of elation as if the empty cartridge was proof of achievement and the new one full of ink and promise of the continuing journey of discovery that writing has held for me for 50 years.

emptyink

Since I last wrote here, we have had friends with us for a week, then a few days of solitude before the arrival of the first round of family. Once again I am reminded of my limited capacity to spread myself between time with those whom I love, time to garden, and time to write. The latter is always the thing I let go of; sometimes willingly and sometimes with resentment.

joelanton

maggieanton

It is letting go that I now wish to embrace, for one can only let go willingly: letting go with resentment is a contradiction in terms. I have broached this subject before, both here and in conversations with Joel. Yet as I approach my 70th birthday (August 8th) I find myself face to face with my continuing refusal to:

let go of achievement

let go of the idea of success

let go of the pain of rejection

let go of choosing the path of rejection

let go of the resentment at not gaining outside recognition

let go of regret

And for sure I feel regret for having sat alone at my desk for 25 years plugging away at something that been a constant source of failure in terms of achieving a publisher. For the past year I have been alternating between letting go of all of this, while continuing to experience a stone of bitterness wedged in my core. So, obviously I wasn’t truly letting go. Why? Because letting go always requires one to feel the pain of attachment. It requires one to head into terra incognito. It also requires one to take responsibility for having chosen to cling to a path of resistance.

I was talking with my daughter-in-law this morning and in so doing we discovered that our shared fear of rejection does not diminish with age. But, as we agreed, what can change is the choice to invite it. All of us have our childhood wounds, raw beneath the scar. The stories differ, but the impressions of misconception are the same. The interpretation that we come up with as children more often than not has us deciding – way back then – that the fault is ours. Because what child can bear to believe that adults could act so cruelly without good reason? And so these beliefs about ourselves form our identities: e.g., I am worthless therefore I will always be rejected.

But as adults we really do know better. We just have to be willing to re-educate ourselves each time we slip into default mode. For me the deeper question now is why do I have to perpetuate unhappiness when my life is filled with such bounty? Is it some ancient superstition that happiness equals death? On the other hand, who gives a fuck? Why not cut to the chase and cut out the behavior already?

Ten years ago I found myself in a similar situation and then one day I had the vision that I had created my own tightrope; a thin wire that stretched from my core way into the distance where a landing platform atop a ladder was barely visible. I realized that this thin wire which I had been treading had narrowed my perception of reality, whereupon I reeled myself in, sat on the landing with feet dangling and surveyed the enormous, thrilling landscape of my life.

The next day I booked a flight to London, took the train to the foot of Cornwall and checked in to a small, family run hotel on the edge of the cliffs. I took no paints or pen with me. On the first evening I was ushered to a table-for-one by a window looking out to a garden and the sea beyond. The innkeepers had placed my chair facing into the dining room, probably thinking that by so doing I would be able see and communicate with the other diners.

With the innate wisdom that we all possess, I knew that was the last thing I wanted. I had no interest in communicating with others nor did I want to tell my story one more time. I simply wanted to be. So I took the chair and switched it to face out to sea, my back turned to everyone. For 3 weeks I said, Good Morning, Good Evening, Goodnight, please and thank you. Already 17 years sober I was always the first to finish dinner, which allowed me to enjoy a half hour of solitude by the fire, in the small adjoining sitting room, sipping a cup of chamomile tea before retiring to my room.

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Each morning, after breakfast, I would wander the cobblestone streets down in the village, buy a sandwich and with it and a thermos of tea would stride out across the cliff-tops. For 3 weeks I “did” nothing except be. I “did” what I truly wanted from moment to moment: sat on a rock here, a boulder there, climbed down a cliff face and sat on a rocky ledge being with the birds and the sea and the cliff. I interpreted nothing; attached no meaning to anything; had no desire to describe my experience of the world to others through writing or painting or conversation. They were the happiest 3 weeks of my life.

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On the penultimate day, I took a taxi to the village of Zennor and told the driver to return for me in 4 hours. I walked the ancient paths, sat on a boulder to eat my lunch, the sea my constant companion. At one point, further along the cliff, I came to a narrow wooden footbridge. I unwrapped a bar of chocolate, my childhood favorite, and experienced utter bliss nibbling on it while watching a small gorge tumble down from the moors, down over the moss covered rocks between fern adorned banks; watched it disappear under the bridge before emerging on the other side where it rushed in wild abandon to become one with the sea.

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The time has come for me to detach like that again. To put down my pen and just be. To feel the release of contained energy and let it take me where it may.

I had thought last week that I would like to take a break from the blog this summer and spend my time selecting and editing the best essays from the last 5 years, and who knows, maybe at some point I will do that. But today I am choosing to take a break from writing…period. I am choosing to let go of the attachment to achievement and merely be.

Writing the blog has been a gift to me, and from what I hear from some, a small gift to you. I have no idea who most of you are, but I have felt you out there and have welcomed your company. I’d like to think that this is just a summer hiatus but that, of course, would not really be let go. Still, I am merely human and therefore would ask you to wait a while before deleting me. I’d like to think I’d be welcome back if I so choose.

For now, I bid you adieu. The pen is empty, the fire unlit.

emptypen

fire unlit

THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT

14th June 2015

bench gerani

As a white, middle-class woman, well married to a successful man, living on a genuine farm in glorious Tuscany, I feel immediate guilt and a certain measure of shame when I hear myself complain about some sucky thing ruining my lucky life. How dare I suffer over such a triviality as failing to gain public recognition when women are being publicly stoned for being raped? But the painful truth is that when I am suffering I don’t give a fig about, or a though to those suffering pain beyond compare. No, I wail, ‘why me?’ Like a child I cry, ‘why can’t I have what I want?’ But what I’m really asking now is why the fuck can’t I get over myself? Why, in spite of saying I won’t take it anymore do I keep putting myself in the way of rejection?

I think the answer is multi-faceted, and I think it behooves us all to understand and have mercy for the fact that the places in which we were historically wounded are easily re-activated. But the real work is in accepting that such suffering can easily become one’s badge of honor, or worse, our sole identity. What I’m trying to drum into my childish thinking process is that because I was abandoned at birth doesn’t mean I was born to be rejected. Further, it is important to understand the difference between courage and stupidity.

It is not courageous to continually invite rejection, consider slitting one’s wrists and then rise up once again out of the ashes of a tired story. No, that is stupidity. Or, as the saying goes: To do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result is a form of insanity. I tasted the ash of my tired story this week and it sickened me. More than that, its bitterness frightened me. Is this how I want to grow old, insisting on rejection as proof of my ability to suffer humiliation?

So, there’s that. And then there is the reality that as an artist/writer, one creates not only for the never-ending, thrilling adventure of making something out of nothing, but also to have it go forth into the world. The creative journey, trite as it may be, is like creating a baby: from seed to egg to gestation to birth. And much like making a baby, creating a work of art, once it goes out into the world is much beyond our control.

What I came to realize last week is that I have a drawer full of stillborn babies; bodies of work that came to term but never made it out into the world. Why? Because I’ve continued to insist that they only have worth if accepted by the publishing world, which is a bit like saying your child only amounts to something if accepted by Harvard. What’s really appalling to me is that this insistence for ‘recognition’ goes entirely against the grain of my core values, which is why it causes me pain.

queen mug

One of the things I love about living in Italy is that there is less questing for fame here. The average person doesn’t entertain the idea of marketing or branding themself. When you walk through our village and talk with the butcher, the baker, hairdresser, pharmacist etc., you realize that they understand and are grateful for their place in the community; that being of service on a small, daily scale is of value beyond compare.

Yesterday was a prime example of how very fine this world is when people contribute what they are capable of to the good of others. We hosted, for lunch, the ex-head of Tate Modern (who gave some expert advice on my lemon tree), a Spanish art curator (who helped my shop for the lunch groceries), and a couple who, as well as being art collectors, have started a foundation for research into a rare disease. The foundation’s building will also house an art museum and a program for underprivileged children in their community.

miguel etc

At the same time, Andrea, my wonderful gardening assistant of three weeks, brought his friend Giuseppe here to tackle the assemblage of my greenhouse. Having erected the sides, they were about to attach it to the old stone wall when a major problem literally reared its head. The concrete housing to the electrical system, standing some 10 inches about ground, was totally in the way. Removing its cover, we also discovered a piece of angle iron acting as an electrical ground. What to do?

andrea serra

At that moment, Vincenzo, the farmer, pulled into the farmyard in his tractor. I ran to him, he ran to me and together we ran to the greenhouse. He looked at the problem and gave permission to bury the whole thing level with the ground. This meant that not only did Andrea and Giuseppe have to dig down 3 feet, removing rocks as they went, but that 4 inches of the metal would have to be removed. No, we do not have that kind of tool and neither did they.

But there are many areas of my life where I reject the possibility of failure. So I ran next door to Giovanni who has a garage full of serious tools. Not home. His daughter and her boyfriend were all dressed up about to leave the house for some event. But it would never occur to them not to be of help. Off to the garage she went, returned with the metal-cutting tool and waited patiently while Giuseppe did the dirty…without goggles I might add. Et, voila! One greenhouse!

La Serra

These ordinary, earthy experiences that we are accumulating here are deeply fulfilling. They are shared, direct, experiences of give and take, of ideas exchanged, problems solved, along with laughter, kindness and a generosity than can make you weep.

While the guys were finishing up, I folded, stacked and tied all the packaging materials that had housed the many parts of the greenhouse. The driver arrived to take the art-world people to Florence. And last, but never least, Silvia arrived with the bountiful produce of her labor.

zukes eggs

When I open my eyes and my heart I understand that I have the life I always wanted, a life that no amount of success and outside recognition could ever give me.

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