It was 8:10 am on Thursday morning, and I was literally on my way out the door taking the kids to school, when I got a text from my beloved editor, letting me know that our first choice publisher had declined on taking on my debut book, “Holy Messy Love.”
I stopped in my tracks, taking in this discouraging news, while my kids stood nearby, saying, “What is it, Mama? Who texted you?” My initial reaction was to burst into tears, feeling the letdown, the vulnerable crumbling of specific expectations. Through my tears I could see and feel my children’s deeply empathic concern. They both sighed sadly, “Oh, Mama…” aligned in my disappointment.
More than anyone else perhaps, my kids have watched me pour my heart and soul into the writing and editing of this book, and have been fully aware of the high hopes I’d held of being possibly embraced with gracious ease by this publisher.
Our four minute car ride to school was uncharacteristically quiet. My sadness was real and present, moving through me with breath and tears. At one point I glanced at Ezra (10) in my rear view mirror, and could tell by his expression that he was feeling worried for me. Arayla (13) sat beside me, immersed in her own internal churning. Before I dropped them off, I managed to wipe the tears from my face, clear my throat, and say: “My loves, don’t worry. It just wasn’t meant to be, I guess… It’s OK… Something else will reveal itself…. I love you! Have a beautiful day at school.” They got out of the car gently, tossing me tender, loving glances.
After I got home I let myself fully feel all that I needed to feel. Disappointment exposed a sense of immense defeat which then revealed layers of self-doubt, and I wept, letting my heart totally break about it. This went on for about 20 minutes.
Then I stopped. In the space that had been cleared by feeling these feelings, I opened my eyes and my mind wider to what IS, and I could feel my heart beckoning a deeper trust and surrender.
Suddenly there was an interesting sense of relief that came with this first publishers “decline”; an authentic feeling of—well of course they needed to say “No.” I recalled Elizabeth Gilbert writing in “Big Magic” about how many rejections she received on her way to becoming an internationally celebrated author. How perhaps it’s just an unavoidable part of this vulnerable initiation of putting our work out there.
I could feel it then, the sacred necessity of this “No”, working me in a uniquely beautiful way. I could feel how it was honing my right relationship with writing; fanning the fire of my humility; strengthening my resolve to write regardless of anyone ever seeing it or wanting it or liking it or buying it.
I splashed cold water on my face, burned some sweetgrass and cedar, and set to work on Plan B—sending off my book proposal to specific literary agents who specialize in presenting “prescriptive non-fiction” to larger publishers. This first publisher who had declined was a relatively small, spiritual, niche publisher. I breathed in deeply, considering: Perhaps “Holy Messy Love” actually craves a wider wingspan with which to soar into the world?
It was 10:20 when I heard my phone ding with a new text. This one was from my daughter.
The text read: “You are brave, strong and an amazing mama. There is a publisher out there who will love your book and want to publish it. Your book is a special gift from your heart to our world and nothing can get in the way of that. Trust. Believe in yourself like I believe in you. If this wasn’t the right one, there must be an even better one coming. I love you. Xo Arayla”
For the second time that morning, tears flooded my eyes after receiving a text. But this time my tears were made of astonished joy and pride. I reveled in the beauty of my 13 year old girl choosing to (illegally ;-)) text her mama from school with words of generous encouragement, loving praise, and grounded faith! What immensely good news this text was for my heart, and for our world. What a WIN!
I bowed again, as I bow again now towards the wild, mysterious, uncontrollable design of it all.
Who knows how it’s all meant to unfold? I surely don’t. But however it unfolds, one thing is for certain: LOVE WINS—in all its humbling, holy, and messy glory—again and again and again.
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