I tend toward oblivious. Sometimes in big ways. Like the guy I had a crush on…the one who drilled me for twenty minutes about what restaurant had the best steaks in town. I’m not a steak fan, I said, then went on to tell him what I’d heard about each steak house until he gave up and left. My boss described his look of rejection. He never came back. If he had just said, Would you like to go to dinner with me? Like I said. Oblivious.
This weekend, after several inches of snow coated our corner of the world, I braved the weather for a friend’s birthday celebration. In four-inch heels, thank you. Go big or go home, right? We made our way to my usual hangout, a karaoke bar that I’ve frequented for many years. Ordered my drink. Immersed myself in conversation. What song do you want to sing, my friend Kelly asked. I’ll put it in for you. I gave him my selection and kept on talking. Oblivious.
Time passed and there was a lull in the conversation, just long enough for me to take stock of my surroundings. That’s when I realized that my favorite karaoke bar, where songs like, “Well, I gotta get drunk and I sure do dread it,” and “Sometimes, it’s hard to be a woman…” used to play, had turned into a Death Metal bar. They still let you sing in between rounds of Death Metal. I scanned the crowd, hoping that I was wrong, but nope. Long hair, black tee shirts, headbanging. Death Metal.
I realized it about the time they called my name to sing. In my super-cute-off-the-shoulder-fushia-cashmere sweater and four-inch heels, I marched to the stage and sang a sultry version of Dusty Springfield‘s “Son of a Preacher Man“. I did it with my head held high. The whole room stopped talking to watch. I like to believe that it was as surreal for them as it was for me.
I was terrified. Stomach trembling inside kind of terrified. I’m not the type of person who lets it go at that. Inquiring minds want to know.
I believe that for every external emotion, there is an internal motivation that causes it. Once able to acknowledge that internal feeling, the external aggressor seems smaller. In this case, it was the fear of rejection, which I believe is the root of many emotions. Afraid to tell your best friend that she hurt you? She might stop talking to you. Mad at the love of your life for ignoring you when his buddies came around? He might walk away. Avoiding the American Idol audition circuit? Sure, the odds are better without Simon around, but they could still say no. Who would you be then? Alone? Talentless? Somehow less of a person? A sultry blues singer in a crowd of headbangers?
A lone fish swimming against the current.
Rejection has spent a lot of time in my thoughts recently for two reasons. To start with, it’s a theme in “Dolly“, emerging late as I close the story and try to figure out how to get Lisa through all the rejection I threw at her. What I’ve discovered is that she’s battling the worst kind of rejection. Self-rejection. Which, I find, is usually proportionate to the rejection of others. Lisa’s found solace in a box of expectations where she finds comfort and safety from rejection. It might hurt, you know. If you can live within these confines, it’s a cozy little box. Unfortunately, boxes of expectations are a little cramped and leave little room to stretch your wings. There’s certainly no room for growth.
I understand her. Advice not to take rejection personally is wise. It’s just that rejection is so…well, personal. When I find myself in times of rejection, I recite Mother Theresa.
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.
I said two reasons rejection has been on my mind. I’m almost done with “Dolly” and the next step is to seek an agent. Maybe I’m preparing myself for a round of rejections for the work I’ve worked on for over a year. Agents make it sound so bleak. I read once that only 1% of all authors are ever published. Those are my odds? I’m fighting for 1% of the pie?
There I go with self rejection. It’s a comfort zone and I’m going to try to break out. Time to sing a little Dusty Springfield at the Headbangers ball. Lisa’s going to find her way too.
And if the rejections come rolling in? I’m Queen Oblivious. Maybe I won’t even notice.