Rejection, Faith, and the Law of Attraction
Today when I collected my mail, the latest issue of a particular literary journal that will remain nameless had arrived. I gathered the assortment of mail, glancing at the cover of this journal, and said aloud with verve and finality: “I’m still mad at you,” albeit in a sulky tone. As if this journal could hear me. As if even if it could, the editors listed inside would care. As if I was a jilted lover holding a long-held grudge. My grudge, however, is not long-standing, only nineteen days to be exact.
Okay, before you start rolling your eyes and thinking “quit complaining and get over it,” let me explain.
First of all, I’m not holding a grudge. (Well, maybe an itty-bitty one. But I will indeed get over it.) It’s more hurt than grudge really. Yes, I know, to be a writer one has to be willing to be kicked more than a few times (like hundreds) and not take it personally, right? That’s the thing though. It is personal because the work is personal. And this essay I submitted that got rejected, well, it was way personal. Probably my most personal. And that’s saying something if you know me or my writing.
Now you might be thinking “serves you right god-damned navel-gazer.” And maybe to a certain degree that would be correct. I mean, if I dare to be confessional in my writing, exposing myself to the deepest core, well, then I’m taking a risk. I’m opening myself up to criticism and rejection, as well as praise and acceptance. That’s just the nature of the world. We don’t all have the same preferences. Thank goodness for that. And this journal that rejected me? They got more than eight hundred submissions. The odds were most definitely not in my favor.
I received this rejection while at AWP, and one of my friends there said “They get a lot of submissions. What were you expecting?” And in one sense, I suppose she is right. With that kind of competition, how could I have the audacity to feel like a jilted lover? Now, that is what I really want to discuss. But it takes some openness to what might be perceived as “airy fairy” notions or “new age-y” ideals. And if that’s an area that you find to be mamby-pamby-shit-talk, then you can just stop right here and hit that big ol’ X in the top right corner.
So that question my friend asked at AWP, what was I expecting? Here’s the truth. I was expecting my essay to be chosen. It fit all the criteria. It incorporated a strong narrative, research, and reflection. It reached beyond the personal into the universal. It was honest, intimate, and true. And to top it all off, it perfectly fit the advertised theme. But once again, there is that question of how could I dare to think, no, believe that my essay would be chosen amongst all those submissions?
Have you ever heard of the film or book—heck, I think it’s probably become a whole entire movement—The Secret by Rhonda Byrne? It’s based on a concept known as “the law of attraction,” a concept also made famous by the teachings of Abraham, an entity “channeled” by Esther Hicks. The short version is this: like attracts like; our thoughts have the power to create whatever we want. If we focus our energy on that thing we want, if we remain positive, not by mere positivity, but by pure belief of imagination, then like attracts like, and that thing will manifest based on that flow of energy. See, I warned you this could be considered some mamby-pamby shit.
Okay, so here is my dilemma. While I awaited the results of my submission, I maintained a positive attitude. But it was more than that. I visualized it. I felt it. I believed it. There was no doubt, not even an inkling. I think what I felt came the closest to what I imagine people who believe in God feel—not that I’m trying to equate my acceptance or rejection to an almighty that millions of people believe in, but more the notion of a belief so strong that you feel secure in that belief.
So here’s the problem. I don’t want to lose my capacity for positive thinking. That feeling I had when I visualized so strongly my positive outcome, it felt good. It felt great actually. But the reality turned out to be different. My essay wasn’t chosen. It didn’t even make the final round. And maybe using this experience as an example for a foray into faith and positive thinking is a silly one, but right now, in this moment, that’s what I’ve got. There are others who are dealing with much worse results than this. A dear friend of mine currently is battling cancer. She’s one of the bravest, most inspiring people I know. She’s had to face challenge after challenge, and with every step she summons strength and grace. It’s not always easy for her, but she does it. And this idea of the law of attraction, if I replace her scenario with my own, it becomes a ludicrous notion. She did not attract cancer due to a lack of positivity. In her own words just today, she wrote,
We want to believe that if we live right, we won’t get cancer. If we fight hard, we can beat cancer. If we stay positive then we live longer. I can tell you right now that’s not always the case. Being healthy, fighting hard, and staying positive are admirable and desirable traits, but they can’t guarantee life.
I’m not facing cancer. Well, I am if you count watching my friend’s trajectory, but it is not my personal daily experience. I have it easy.
This is the conundrum I find myself: Between a belief in the power of positive thinking and reality. I don’t want to lose faith. But I also don’t want to lose sight of what’s tangible, or even probable. Not being chosen out of more than eight hundred submissions—that’s probable. But still, I want to believe.
Reblogged this on kolak jengkol.
We’ll, I struggled for decades trying to understand what my Indian comic book that I read as a child meant. It said that the Buddha said: attachment is the source of sorrow–of unhappiness. It wasn’t until much later on in life, while going through a divorce & facing the fairy tales that I grew up with that I realized there was a strong word missing. It wasn’t attachment. It’s attachment to outcome. I think that’s what’s giving you the blues, & why the view of the Secret has a wee something missing.
But I think you’re a rock star, and I’m attached to the outcome of your success, too. So I’m blue for you, but glad you are writing a blog and putting yourself out there.
A quote from one of the most prolific writers out there, Unknown (aka Anonymous): “A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what a ship is built for.”
Stay strong, sistah!
Ah, yes, attachment to outcome. That most definitely can create unhappiness. And certainly it has played its role in this scenario as well as others. I’m not feeling blue, though, so you don’t need to feel blue for me. But thanks for the encouragement and thinking I’m a rock star and that quote from the most prolific Anonymous! And thanks for reading too.
I hear you Laurie. I so much believe in the power of positive thinking, believing things into being, that I am flabbergasted when it doesn’t work. Love reading your blog! Keep on writing!
Thanks for reading, Madrone. And thanks for letting me know I’m not the only one out there who experiences this. Good to know I’m not alone. But I wish for you less flabbergasts and more manifestations!
Oooh, such good food for thought, and not ‘namby pamby shit’ at all! I agree with Alex S-W in the Buddhist tradition of non-attachment. I firmly believe in one’s ability to bring things to fruition—from our intentions to our reality—but not in ‘The Secret’ sense. I believe it’s called Manifesting, and it’s got a lot more ins and outs than one could expect.
As an artist who has to (has to??Do I really??) apply for all kinds of grants, shows, residencies, etc., I, too know the minefield of hope/rejection. It’s such a crushing blow to be denied that outcome that you were so SURE of. I’ve shed some tears, definitely. I actually console myself with the thought that any judging body of critics can be incredibly mercurial, and that this one group does not represent all groups—the next, or the next, or the next, and their makeup and criteria really have nothing to do with me, personally. They just hold the fucking reins to the horse I want to ride over the misty blue mountains, you know? Yeah, it’s aggravating.
I feel for you. I’m right there with you.
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I guess as creatives it is imperative to practice the tradition of non-attachment, and it is definitely useful for not falling prey to discomfort and unhappiness. But I must admit, non-attachment feels a bit contradictory to being human. I mean to be human means that you’re attached to all sorts of things, right? Breath, body, earth. If there really weren’t any attachment, what would hold us here? Gravity? Ah, but maybe that’s too much philosophy. Thank you for reading, and thank you for commenting. I love a good discussion! And, yes to what you say about the makeup of the judging group and criteria not really having anything to do with us personally. So very true.
I totally get what you’re going through! I wrote a blog post about it if you wouldn’t mind checking it out 🙂
When I discovered the secret I was so inspired, and when I applied to my dream school, only to receive a rejection letter it crushed me, only because it had become so real in my mind. It was like waking up from an awesome dream and realizing it was just a dream. I’m also battling with trying to remain positive and not let that spiral me back into negativity.
Thanks for reading and commenting, Chantal. I did check out your post and left you a comment. I’m sorry you received a disappointing rejection. That can be really rough. I wish you the best in this never-ending process of positive/negative experience. Rest assured, there will be more positivity coming your way. The one sure thing in life is that everything is temporary. Hang in there!