Rejection and the Art of Gut Lightness

I really suck at rejection. I haven’t met anyone who is really good at it, and I don’t have a scientific measurement to justify my assertion of ‘suck’, but I still deem myself in the lower fifty percent for rejection reaction. I imagine that those who are good at rejection have one of two reactions:

  1.  Oh, a rejection. I guess my [fill in the blank: poem, story, work, face, ass, love] are not properly appreciated by [fill in the blank: editor, employer, random face or ass judger, potential mate]. I shall take my [see first fill in the blank] to someone who will acknowledge my awesomeness.
  2. Oh, a rejection. I shall now endeavor to improve my [fill in the blank: poem, story, work, face, ass, love] until it is properly appreciated.

Now, I am not saying that I fall into a pit of despair, but I cannot avoid the instant feeling of lead in the pit of my gut at a rejection email for a writing submission. It can last up to a half a day for me.

The odd thing about this, the part that eats at me more than the rejection itself, is that this reaction does not synch with the rest of my personality. I am not the kind of person who spends time wondering whether people approve of me. After an awkward social interaction, I’m not one to replay the event in my head or rewrite my lines. I tend to chalk it up to the fact that people, including me, can be odd and awkward creatures. After all, communication is far from an exact process.

Before I found my wonderful husband, I tried the online dating world. Sometimes, I would read a great profile, respond, and receive nothing back. It didn’t eat at me. If there hadn’t been a helpful sidebar to let me know that I had contacted Dude X five days ago, I probably would have forgotten I sent something. I had created an accurate profile, and the idea that I am not everyone’s cup o’ tea was not in the least bit disturbing to me. Once, I went on a date where I thought there might be some chemistry, only to receive a text thanking me for a lovely date, but politely stating that they did not feel enough to go for a second date. I did not get lead in the pit of my stomach. I thought, “Oh, well. It was a nice time,” and moved right on.

So, why does the rejection of me as a person not disturb me, but the rejection of a poem feel horrible? After some consideration this afternoon, I think it is because poetry is so personal; poetry is more me than I am. Confused? Thinking, “no wonder her work was rejected, she speaks in riddle”? Well, I’ll give some clarification. The me that someone would have seen on a dating site is a few pictures and a witty summary. The me that someone would meet for coffee or a first date is like an overview. However, when I write, when most of us write, we are revealing something deeper than anything a date or a profile can reveal. Writers extract a piece of the soul, polish it up and present it, often to total strangers. Sometimes these strangers take a glance and think, “meh,” and toss it to the waste bin.

On a logical level I know that this is no different than receiving a rejection from a potential date, no different than a conversation that fizzles out when people don’t find a common interest point, no different than not receiving a desired position at work. Yet, being a polished piece of my soul, my reaction does not come from a logical level of my brain. It comes from an emotional level.
Having written all of this, I am finding that the lead in my gut is already dissipating and I am putting the rejection in its proper place, somewhere between one and two for those who are good at rejection.

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