Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tripping On The Red Carpet

Today is the Library of Congress screening for the documentary Love Between The Covers.  I won't be there. I'm in my sunny house in New Mexico, hanging my framed book covers on my office wall and working at my desk by the sliding glass doors. I decided I couldn't do it -- I couldn't sit there and watch myself on the a huge movie screen and then mingle with industry people and fellow writers afterward. I'm not ready. So instead of being in Washington, D.C. at 6:30 PM today, I will be drinking green tea in the sunshine, throwing a toy for my dog.  It's all I'm strong enough to do right now. 

I have been known to be my worst enemy. I set impossible standards for my personal and professional achievements, and when I actually make them happen, I hardly pause to notice. I think, "Well, of course I did that. It's how I roll." And when people comment on how good I am at something or how strong I am for pushing through some obstacle or other, I shrug off the compliment. I think, "Well, yeah. No biggie." But when I don't meet those goals? Shhhhheeeeeiiiiiit. It becomes a Susan vs. Susan smack down, and there's a lot of hair pulling, name calling, and general self-torture.  It's a battle that takes place in private, in my own head, usually at night when I'm trying to sleep. Rarely do I allow my loved ones to watch the action. 

I've always focused on what I've failed to do instead of what I've done. It's the way I'm wired.

My health crisis and recovery has forced me to stop doing battle with myself as much as I used to. So if there's a blessing in all the darkness and loss, that might be it. My illness has taught me to be gentler to myself, and have more compassion for the fact that I'm just another slob on the bus . . . I stumble and fall.  A lot. And now that I have one leg instead of two, I do a shitload of stumbling and falling. Honestly, if I beat myself up every time I didn't meet my own expectations, that's all I'd ever do with the rest of my life -- self flagellation.  I wouldn't even have time to drink tea and play with my dog. 

By moving to New Mexico, I've given myself a clean start. It feels good to be here, living alone in a peaceful and beautiful setting. I am giving myself the space to heal and write, which is the opposite of beating myself up. I'm being kind to myself. And that's why I decided I can't go to the documentary screening. I'm not going to pretend to be in a different space than I really am. I am not all smiley and happy and resilient right now. I'm exhausted. I'm still peeling away layer after layer of trauma-related anxiety. I'm still  trying to understand my place in the world.  I'm not ready for prime time, and that's that.

Old habits die hard, of course, so you bet your ass I'm sitting in a desert 2,300 miles from Washington freaking out about the screening. What will people think? There I am, Susan Donovan, strutting my stuff in a documentary about the romance fiction industry while I'm late on one book and haven't finished two novels that were under contract when I got sick three years ago. It's embarrassing. I feel like an impostor. A failure. 

But I won't go twelve rounds with myself today over it.  I will stop the fight before it starts. I'll go sit in the sunshine, play with my dog, and remind myself that I'm making progress on all the books, that everything will eventually get finished. I will tell myself that I'm not an impostor or a failure, just a stumbler.


Tiffany C. Hoyt said...
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Tiffany C. Hoyt said...
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Sarah S. G. Frantz said...

You were missed. I wish I'd been able to meet you. It's an amazing film, your story line is wonderful, and the conference was just...so affirming and wonderful. *hugs* if you'll take them from someone you've never met. I hope NM is everything you dream of. I'm hoping to make an offer on a house tomorrow to start my own journey by myself. :) I think of you a lot.

Monique M. Mellon said...

Bravo! Missed you, but sometimes we just need to turtle for a while. So glad to hear about the Whoop ass. (for light musical entertainment, may I suggest "Goodbye Earl" by the Dixie Chicks, or "I'll Pray For You" by Jaron and The Long Road to Love. Should brighten your day immensely. Also makes "the idiot" nervous when you hum it. Been reading a lot of your books as we are up to our ass in snow here in New Brunswick, (240 cm with 60 more on Sunday) but we will all wait while you bask in the sun and write when you're ready. After all, sweetie, don't forget....True genius takes time!

Sally MacKenzie said...

I missed the Library of Congress thing, too, but I'm so glad you've started up your blog again.

Kathryn Anderson said...

Hi Susan,
I attended the LOC event, including the screening. It was a great event. I wish you could have been there for the screening because it was wonderful. The film does a better job than I could have imagined at conveying the depth and breadth of the romance genre and the community of writers creating all those books. I really enjoyed watching the segments of you, and your writing work with Celeste. The rest of us had fun seeing ourselves in some of the crowd scenes.