Steve and I met for lunch at the Fishbowl in Olympia – our favorite mid-week rendezvous. After morning coffee, “Steve in Shipping & Receiving” fills his backpack with orders for art and music from our world of folky merchandise, along with a water bottle and plastic bags for treasures he might find on his walk. He sculpts musical instruments from found objects and something special inevitably crosses his path.
The post office is a few miles away and it’s become his practice to traverse town on foot, across the bridge overlooking the otters, seals, salmon runs and water birds around Capitol Lake, up the switchbacks to the capitol building and across the ridge to drop off orders at the post office and pick up our mail.
Sometimes after a morning of writing or booking jobs, I’ll meet him on his way back. We’ve become regulars and the waitress, Cheryl, always seems glad to see us and barely needs to take our order, she knows what we want.
During our recent lunch break rendezvous, while I was in the ladies room to wash my hands, a “padunk!” sounded from my blackberry to announce the arrival of an email on my phone. I dried my hands and pressed the pearl to see what it was and gasped.
It was a response to a letter I had sent at the end of March to a famous musician, writer and editor. I knew her in a roundabout way from my days behind the counter at Artichoke Music and wrote to introduce her to our project, Kathleen~Cathleen, and to ask her advice about finding an agent. It was long shot but I felt brave that day and sent the query letter.
There on my text screen were the words “I got your letter about the Kathleen-Cathleen project. Wow. What a fascinating story and idea. I’ve already told my agent about it. Would you care to have an email introduction and/or send her your material?”
I yipped and held the phone with both hands and read it again, mouthing the words aloud before they disappeared – I must be dreaming. Is it possible? Wow. After three times it was clear I was awake and I walked back to our table, hands shaking with the news.
I texted back, “Yes! Thank you for making my day.”
Ten minutes later a text came in from her agent in New York who introduced herself, expressed interest and invited us to send the book proposal to her office.
I forwarded the update to Cathy. I’d been trying to get a callback from her for days with no luck but less than five minutes later, “padunk!” on the phone and my eyes landed on “Holy sh#t!” from Cathy.
When we finally talked on the phone I chuckled, “So I had to go this far to get you to call me back!?!” We had a good laugh and dove into next steps.
The next couple of days was a flurry of activity to put finished revisions on the proposal and send out the latest paper version, to be followed by the electronic version the next week.
The excitement between Cathy and me was exquisite. This was a high-end agency in New York with the best agents. The potential had all the ingredients of a turnstile moment that could change our lives forever. Our confidantes buzzed with “This is it, I’m sure it will be a great success!” “The work you two have done all these years is about to bear fruit” and “Sometimes you get one chance and this could be it so don’t blow it.”
I held my breath. My head was swimming with affirmation. It was a gift to bring Cathy validation from this famous person who felt compelled to introduce us to her own agent with her full endorsement. I couldn’t have asked for more.
I thought, my daughter will get to experience the value of her work and its meaning as she soaks in this in. It was a lightning bolt of light, love and action and hit a deep mark in my belief that our story, exactly as it happened, was meant to be shared.
We did everything we needed to do, the proposal was on a desk in New York. Then we waited.
By the time the electronic version was sent out, Cathy and I had researched “the agent” and began let our imaginations scan the possibilities. We had recovered our balance from the pleasant shock of support from our new superstar ally and went through the motions of our day-to-day with feelings of expectancy and delight. Anything could happen.
It was a lovely few days.
Scenarios peeled in layers of what-if’s – as though all we needed was to finish, come to term and deliver; as natural as a newborn baby, born alive and perfect with all ten toes and fingers.
Rejection is most potent when you least expect it.
The words, “Thanks for giving me a look and I’m sorry this didn’t work out. But I was glad to hear about this ultimately happy story” slapped my eyes and my heart began to sink in the sting of tears.
There’s always more to the backstory than anyone needs to know. Disappointment cut my confidence to shreds and I struggled for perspective. This was humbling. I didn’t want Cathy to feel discouraged. I didn’t want to feel discouraged either.
“We can’t call ourselves writers if we don’t get rejected at least once, right?”
“Finish the book, nothing else matters until we finish” murmurred in my head as my heart volleyed between insecurity and despair. We were so close.
Then I heard Cathy’s voice and my heart came back around as I remembered the feel of laptops touching to tell the untold story. Love rushed me back.
My heart pounded the words in with “Don’t be afraid, don’t lose hope, don’t falter. Keep going, finish telling the story. All the pieces will fall in place.”
I flashed back to the beginning to Dr. Phil’s request for us to come on his show eight years ago. I knew then and know better now that it was premature and dangerous for Cathy and I to share our story then.
I’m grateful for time after time at the table with my firstborn girl, sneaking peeks at her beautiful face as it goes through its myriad of expressions as she scribbles unreadable upside-down notes with her left hand on scratch paper. Like a baby unaware of its mother’s watching eye, she stretches to focus and grow into her next inch. I wonder if she knows how little I care how painful anything she writes might be for me in the end. The fact of this covenant we’ve made, what we intend and execute together, is a gift more than gold for her mother-by-birth.
Perhaps this is another rendition of our first time together decades ago as she became a baby ready to be born and I became a mother-non-gratis whose lives split from one into two. Years later we converged in the middle of a bridge we built step by step as we followed signs and clues drawn from a blueprint designed from our truth. It’s a strong bridge.
Rejection is nothing compared to this. We write on. It was exciting to be considered. We’re close. Acceptance is right here. I’m not afraid. This will unfold on its own legs in its own time.
Meanwhile, we do this solitary work together as the story streams out, with all its ingredients of sorrow and bliss, into another way to love.
To read my daughter’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes.
Blessings and bumps. Beauty and blisters. Your book now has its own life.
Yes, Relinquish. Thanks for unfolding the nuance of the truly human field of rejection. We love you!
Everytime that Cathy is on the other end of the phone or opening your e-mail, or with a smile, before you … that is the validation that the heart knows.