Thursday, July 7, 2011
That self pity twists our thinking
This has turned out to be a longer reflection than my usual ones, but please bear with me. It's been a wonderful revelation to me and I hope it may be to you too.
I'd honestly decided I was going to quit writing books but didn't tell anybody. I kept it to myself knowing that nobody else wants to accept the invitation to the sort of party I was having, that is, the self-pity party. I'd tried wearing my heart on my sleeve in the past and discovered it never really works and I don't enjoy doing it.
The catalysts were varied. There were two events I'd planned for April and May, poured a lot of heart into, and not many people showed up. One was a book launch for "Best Forgotten" and another was an evening which affected four other South Australian authors as well as me. Then a sort of sad ripple effect happened in my spirit. I thought of all the "Light the Dark" parties which have been canceled because nobody committed themselves to turning up and the luke-warm responses I've been having from our Christian bookstores such as Koorong and Word. I hate the heavy, dragging-down feeling I get when I find a stream of Face Book messages along the theme of, "I'm sorry I won't be able to make it to your lovely event but I wish you all the best." I'd had enough "best wishes" over the years I'd been writing to fill an ocean liner but best wishes never put food on the table or help us pay our bills. I was going to stop writing. I really meant it.
I didn't tell anybody else but I made this sort of statement to myself.
"I'm obviously inept so what's the use?"
"Nobody can accuse me of not giving this a good go. I have seven novels and over fifteen years of effort to show."
"I'll still try to sell those seven, but I'm fed up with pouring so much mental and emotional energy into something that yields such paltry returns."
"Nobody's really interested! That's all!"
The first feeling after this decision was a tired sort of relief. I felt as if I'd thrown off the shackles of a self-made chain, a bit like Jacob Marley's ghost in "A Christmas Carol." This was quickly followed by a weird sort of empty feeling I wasn't sure I liked. I think I can understand how retirees might feel. I was now a lady-of-leisure as far as those spare moments I used to fill with writing were concerned. I started looking for cross-stitches to do instead. Might as well have some pretty bookmarks or wall hangings. Somehow, it wasn't quite the same. Ideas for brand new plots would begin to fill my head, but I'd have to shake them out and remind myself, "I'm not doing that anymore."
The ideas were persistent. Finally, I had to cave in and admit to myself that I simply love to write. It's far more to me than just a career choice or way of impressing people. It turned out the chain I'd forged wasn't heavy and clanky like Jacob Marley's after all. It was more like a shining, unique necklace full of precious gems that I loved.
So I've left the self-pity party. What's the point of cutting of my own life blood? Quitting something you love just because of other people's reactions or adverse circumstances is just crazy, like wanting to shoot your enemy by pulling the trigger on your own head. How mad is that. I'm still going to keep writing, thank you, and now I can face each project with new freedom because I know that I'm doing it because I want to do it, not for any external glory I may get from it.
Somebody else went through a moment similar to mine.* It was the prophet Elijah, who sat by scrubby broom tree in the wilderness, and told God, "I've had enough!" He'd just completed a stunning task, showing the prophets of Baal up as the charlatans they were. Perhaps he'd expected a bit of personal glory, but instead, he got a death threat from Queen Jezebel, a woman used to getting her own way. When the Lord asked him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" get his reply.
Elijah said, "I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of God have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altar and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left and now they are trying to kill me too."This was a massive exaggeration, because there were several prophets and true followers of God still left in Israel. Self-pity makes you exaggerate. I know, for example, that I've had plenty of support and encouraging feedback for my writing over the years.
God's reply to Elijah is interesting. Perhaps he would have appreciated a pat on the shoulder and some, "There, there, you did a fine job and you're a wonderful, faithful fellow," sort of feedback, but he got nothing like this. This is what God told him. "Go back the same way you came... when you get there anoint Hazael to be king of Aram. Then anoint Jehu to be king of Israel and Elisha to replace you as my prophet."
Huh??? My initial reaction is, "What does all this have to do with what Elijah just said?" I believe God doesn't want to waste time coddling people out of self-pity. He knows the ultimate cure for this self-focused, twisted thinking. What is it? Simply getting them to replace it with something more worthwhile, or in other words, get to work on something good.
So I'm believing his response to my pity-party is, "I'm giving you some brand new ideas. Get to work and make reflections and stories out of them."
*1 Kings 19