Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Frailty of Flesh

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. ~ Matthew 26:41

As I wrap up my galley edits on WHAT BURNS WITHIN, I have to turn my attention to new tasks.

Specifically, my editor is working on cover copy for THE FRAILTY OF FLESH. I need to pass over any blurbs, and cover ideas. Yes, I am officially going to go and cry now.

Let me back this up a bit. For years I dreamed of being an author. Not because of the mega millions I’d earn or the glamorous lifestyle. Just because I loved writing and the written word. I actually thought it would be great, working from home, not needing to worry about fussing over your appearance. Heck, half the time I work in my pajamas. I love it.

And then, as I started to work on that dream, and started to find my way within crime fiction, there were moments when I sometimes dared to add another dream.

The thought that maybe, some day, the authors I looked up to would say you done good, kid.

Approval. Damn, I feel like I’m seven just saying it. It’s almost programmed within us from the womb. We start off wanting our parent’s approval. Then it goes to teachers, classmates, friends.


Many people live their whole lives to please someone else. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Those who don’t care at all are the workaholics and alcoholics and people who die alone with their money, because they’re totally self-absorbed.

Which has never been my problem. If I swing to one extreme, it’s always craving that approval. A big part of it comes from feeling like I never had the approval of my parents as a kid. That was compounded by always being compared to my older sister in school.

Never measuring up.

And my years within the church were spent listening to constant criticism, lectures about listening to that kind of music, reading those books, my tone of voice wasn’t suitably compassionate.

If you’re at all inclined to be a people-pleaser it’ll be the death of you. You either come to grips with a small list of people you actually should concentrate on caring about, or you drive yourself mental. Me, I never believed I deserved better than shit because that seemed like all I ever heard from everyone else.

But no matter how many times you’ve been hurt, how much disappointment you’ve had to work through, you can’t stop yourself from wanting endorsement, acceptance.

I’ve blogged about it a lot, at various points… but never quite like this.

I mentioned that secret desire, for approval from the authors I respected, right? Yeah, I did. In the past year, things were set in motion that gave me the opportunity to work on something with two different authors I admired.

And who knew the shitstorm that would unleash? I mean, after all, why would anyone want to work with me? Unproven. Yes, definitely new. Christ, she’s a woman. Must be blowing him. Scratch that, must be fucking him senseless – I mean, clearly he’s not thinking.

I heard it all. So I pulled the pin on one of the projects, because I knew I didn’t have a friendship with the person that could survive all the grief.

And because it would kill me to go through it again.

Turned my attention to doing my own thing. Wound up flat on my face as my marriage fell apart. Listened to those biting words of criticism, the things people say when they’re getting divorced, so ugly and cruel.

Felt like I’d come to the end of myself. Felt worthless.

I’ve been blessed coming through on the other side. I’ve had plenty of time to think about what’s important to me – and who’s important to me – and make my choices about the future.

Months back I would have laughed at the thought of feeling happy again. And you’ve got to know that just when you reach that point, that always seems to be when people start trying to pull you down again.

Like, for the record, Ken Bruen is one of my best friends, but he is not my boyfriend. He’s never been more than a friend to me – albeit one of my very best friends, family, someone I look up to and respect and adore. And never mind the horrid things you’re implying about Ken that are completely contrary to his character and value system (as well as my own) - my relationships are exclusive. My boyfriend is a bit possessive. Not in an exclusive “I saw you talk to a guy and you’re in trouble” kind of way… Just in an “I’m not sharing” way, and I don’t mind that at all.

I’m the same.

Here’s what I know about the experience of writing with someone I totally admire – they sure aren’t doing it to carry me. Nothing pushed me more.

And there’s nothing, on a professional level, that says more about what a person believes of your ability than someone who wants to work with you.

Most of the authors I admire are never going to blurb my books. Some, because I don’t have the guts to ask them. Others, because I don’t belong to the right crowd, and don’t kiss appropriate ass. Others still because they’ve decided they aren’t doing that anymore.

Mostly, though, because I lack the guts.

All I know for me is, I put myself into my writing in a very personal way, and passing work on to someone you admire is nerve-wracking. You’re the child again, looking for the done good kid.

And it’s funny, because there’s an underlying thread in THE FRAILTY OF FLESH that’s all about that.

I’m always going to know that someone I look up to, worship even, thought I had it in me to be a great author. And all I ever wanted to carry out of the experience… that stamp of approval… is something I already have. I don’t need to see the book published to have that.

Whatever anyone else wants to think, I don’t give a fuck.

The people who spread the rumours are small, petty, vile. They aren’t people I want to have anything to do with. Hell, they aren’t even people I know, and all I can say is, thank God for that.

Like I need more shit in my life.

For the record, my ex chose to end our marriage, and there was no other man in the scenario.

I could tell you who my boyfriend is, but what difference would that make? Even when I was still married and living on an entirely different continent people spread the rumours.

Everyone’s going to believe what they’re going to believe. I can’t change it. I also can’t deny it hurts.

They just shouldn’t confuse beliefs with truth. Bit like religion. Just because you believe anything doesn’t make it reality.

Add to that the fact that according to some, I haven’t grieved over my marriage long enough to move on with someone else. Lessons can only be learned after you’ve spent the appropriate amount of time being depressed. Someone check the calendar and tell me what almost eight years of marriage is worth so I can start ticking off the days.

I mean, Do you really know what you’re doing, Sandra?

Yes. Profound disappointment has a way of bringing everything into focus. I’m not putting anyone else on a timetable for healing. I’m not telling anyone else how to live their life. If a person had valid concerns about the type of person I was involved with and reasons why they might not be a suitable partner, that’s a concern to at least hear. Not an “I don’t like him” but something about their values, or lack thereof.

And the people who know are over the moon happy because they adore my boyfriend as much as I do.

But when the only concern is you just haven’t had enough time? X months aren’t enough. ”And time makes lovers feel like they have something real.”* It’s just a human standard for judging the validity of something, when nothing changes how I feel now.

Funny thing about a steady dose of criticism is that the approval of some suddenly isn’t all that important anymore.

"Nothing softeneth the arrogance of our nature like a mixture of some frailties; it is by them we are best told that we must not strike too hard upon others, because we ourselves do so often deserve blows; they pull our rage by the sleeve and whisper gentleness to us in our censures, even when they are rightly applied."**

ADVICE TO A DAUGHTER by Sir George Savile

* From a song by Culture Club.
** With thanks to that special someone, who supplied the quote, but had no idea what I'd use it for.


Grant McKenzie said...

Dr. Seuss said it best, Sandra:
"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

Austin Carr said...

I like Grant's quote. Although it's sort of another way of saying, "Let'em drink, Drano."

Sandra Ruttan said...

Oh, I love that quote too.

In fact, I'm with you on both sentiments.

Sandra Ruttan said...

PS Really, the thing is, after more than a year of this shit, enough is enough. Anyone who thinks so little of Ken Bruen is kidding themselves when they claim him as a friend, because they know nothing of his integrity and character.

And they clearly have no comprehension of friendship. Slagging me is one thing, much as it hurts, but you fuck with my friends, I don't ever forget it.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

Congratulations on the boyfriend. I'm sorry you're dealing with asshats. Last I checked there wasn't anything in the manual stating how much time was proper before moving on to find happiness.

As to rumors, I find it's sometimes useful to embrace them. "Why yes, I do roast babies on spits... your kid's how old again?"

But when that's not appropriate you can always hunt down your detractors and eat their hearts. They're good grilled with a side salad and a nice merlot.

Just take a big hammer. That sternum's not gonna crack itself, ya know.

norby said...

Fuck 'em.

But you probably knew I'd say something like that.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Think about this: imagine you were feeling insecure about your chances for success and the future and twice your age. See, doesn't that make you feel better.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Norby. Fuck 'em. People like that have got too much time on their hands. Besides it seems that the more you succeed the more people want to tear you down. We have a saying for it in Australia. The Tall Poppy Syndrome. Probably not easy, but try to be flattered. It means you've made it if people spend so much time with the personal attacks.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Stephen, that explains about the no kids with you. I always wondered. ;)

Patti, really, that makes me feel so much better. Although I highly doubt you're twice my age. I mean, if so, can I look like you at 73?

Norby, succinct. I like.

Amra, yeah, I know it. Really, this just needed to be said, for the record, because as frustrating as it is when people have a go at me, I have no tolerance for them having a go at a good friend of mine and Ken doesn't deserve it.

Shame on all of them. And for crying out loud, do they really have nothing better to do?

Pepper Smith said...

Yikes, hon! It just blows my mind that people would act like that. I guess I haven't been in this business long enough yet, or something.

Sorry you've had to deal with all that.

RAC said...

I don't know the details, Sandra, but if someone is slandering you or the people you know, the law comes down on your side and the "asshats" (I love that term) can definitely be sued in court, and you'd definitely win, especially if the evidence is recorded right there on the Internet or in voice messages, etc. Man, some people are so dumb they'd risk getting sued just to play out their weird and creepy personal attacks rather than moving on with their own lives, like grownups, and minding their own business.

Whatever happens, it sounds like you have the more mature perspective and have taken the higher road.

Many blessings!

Christa M. Miller said...

Ken doesn't deserve it, and YOU don't deserve it. It's incredibly disturbing on so many levels that people can attack and try to destroy others who give so much to a community.

I'm happy that you're happy. That's all that matters.