Friday, November 6, 2009

when good things happen to good people

Jack brought home note on Wednesday, an invitation to participate in a 10 week literacy enrichment program at school. It took a little while to figure out exactly what that meant. Jack's been "invited" to participate in a bunch of programs over the years, but they've been more about helping him get to where he should be. Since 3.5 he's been getting extra support for speech, and I'm convinced those challenges were impeding his reading. For the longest time it just wasn't clicking. He went through reading recovery, extra support in the mornings, we were on the verge of further testing to see if something else was going on. And then, last spring, more than halfway through 2nd grade, the pieces fell into place. And, apparently he's come so far he's at the other end of the spectrum. My heart's still exploding—I'm so thrilled for him.

But, back to my point. I was on the phone with my mom yesterday and told her about this amazing new twist. "That's great!" she said and started to talk about something else. I steered the conversation back to Jack and how proud I was, but I couldn't sustain it. Her impending eye surgery (I have no idea what it's for but apparently we'd discussed it and I'd blocked it out so I couldn't ask) was too hard to get away from.

Which leads me to this: why is it so hard to dwell on the positive?

When something great happens, we acknowledge it, maybe even revel in it a bit, and then let it float away. Or maybe that's just me and other people can sit bask in the glow for longer. But I don't think so. People seem to spend far more time worrying, dredging up, rehashing the dark side. And when the good thing is someone else's good thing? That brings up a whole bunch of other stuff.

Disclaimer: this is where I start talking about FLOW, so if you don't want to hear anymore about it, don't read any further.

FLOW's officially on sale in 4 days. It's now 3 years to the month from when I first met Victoria, my agent for this project. It's been one long-ass hard road to this point. And still, there's anxiety about what-ifs. But, right now, in this moment, I'm excited. People are starting to pay attention. The press and feedback we've gotten has almost all been fantastic. And when it's not, people have jumped on the controversy bandwagon. This great launch party is coming up. The president of St. Martin's will be there. The book's designer, who's work blows me away, is coming in from out of town. People I haven't seen since childhood and my closest friends are making the trek. Daily Beast (I LOVE that site) is doing a piece. A FLOW slide show is debuting at DoubleX the day the book goes on sale. This is dream-come-true stuff.

But not everyone is on the FLOW bandwagon. I know, for me anyway, that sometimes someone else's success can highlight that I'm not where I want to be. Enthusiasm for them is tinged with personal frustration. Jealousy maybe. I've felt that too. I had dinner last week with someone I "met" on twitter who's published over 30 witty, smart books. I remember seeing one of them, years ago, and feeling pissed at myself that I hadn't thought of it. In fact, that happened with FLOW's very first incarnation. I made a mock up of a weekly journal called "Hormone Hell"—full of menstrual facts and stickers to help women chart their cycles. Shortly after, Vinnie's Rollercoaster Period Chart came out and I was devastated. Kudos to him for putting it out in the world, but man. It should have been me, or so I thought at the time.

And then, there's the mom competition aspect of things. One challenge of motherhood is figuring out where you fit in the work/home hierarchy. Some women work full time. Some choose to parent full time. I straddle the fence, working at home, always having book or design projects, plugging away in the living room while Iz and Jack are at school. Or when they're here. At this point, work work happens any hour of the day or night.

And, sadly, mothers can be remarkably critical of the choices others make. Maybe there's some regret about the paths we've chosen, or were chosen for us. Maybe watching someone else succeed shines a spotlight on things we wish we were doing ourselves, but haven't. I've been there. I remember sitting at a table with a great friend who was staging a play and feeling like I had nothing to contribute. My cupcake dilemma for a class birthday party paled in comparison with what off-Broadway theater would work best for this particular show. And that wasn't all that long ago. So, right now, maybe I'm the one who's making other people uncomfortable. Apparently my "shameless FLOW promotion" can be too much. I've been trying so hard to be respectful and not over-do. It's more fence straddling and sometimes I fall off.

Day 36 is trying to be circumspect while the excitement is mounting.


Dan said...

"Which leads me to this: why is it so hard to dwell on the positive?"

Amen and amen. Best example of this universal - the nightly news.

Jeremy said...

Most people definitely seem to focus on the negative. I'm not sure why that seems to be human nature, but it does. And people seem to get annoyed if you tell them too many positive things, or at least not have too much to say about it. Jealousy, of course, would play a role in that. ("Look at all the good stuff happening to this person. They don't need to brag about it, do they?")

Sometimes, of course, it *is* bragging, for the sake of bragging. But you know what? Bragging is ok. You're proud of something? Great. It's fine to let people know. Those people who really care about you as a person and not simply as a way of seeing something about themselves will be happy for you.

Lauren said...

Hooray for little boys reading! I know you don't know me, but I have little boys too so I know what that's like! (Me: Please read! It's wonderful! - Them: No! We don't get it so we're never gonna try! - Me: But if you try it you'll get it! - Them: Neverrrrrr!)

I think shameless self promotion is good, you've done a wonderful thing. People need to understand that being unbelievably happy for someone adds to our enjoyment of our own lives. We don't lose anything if we give some happy away!

My period Freaked. Me. Out. when I was little and I wish the book had been around then!

Mary Shomon said...

I don't know who it was that snarked at you, but betcha when Flow becomes a bestseller, that same person'll be asking you for advice/help/agent contacts, etc. You are selling Flow and mentioning it, but that's because it's what you're about right now. AND...people don't realize how little support authors get. Every little bit we can put out there to spread the word helps.

As for you, Flow, and what you're doing on Twitter -- those of us who get it, and get you, are supporting you 100%! Those who don't get it, or don't want to get it, should just unfollow you and be gone.

Snark and potshots are signs that someone is jealous, threatened, etc.

Rebecca Elia said...

I have to agree with my Assyrmenian sister Mary.

One other point. One consequence of women having "real" (ie-what used to be male jobs/roles in the past) is the whole competition thing. I see it every day. Women are unable to let go of that competitive aspect, not just at work and with men, but with other women or at home, as well. The worst, though, is when we are constantly in competition with ourselves.

You've worked really hard, for really long. Your book is important. Time to let go of those critical voices and concentrate on you--for a change--because, in doing so, you bring us your precious gift.