November Revisited

  • So far, the beat goes on. I interviewed for a supervisor position that would've been a promotion. The HR woman sent me an e-mail with the subject line "Thank you," so I knew it was a rejection letter. I had built up my hope, and it hurt at first, though people tell me, "There will be other opportunities."

     

    One interesting thing: one of the interviewers said, "Tell us about an obstacle you overcame and how it made you who you are today." That was left-handed, and not fair. I couldn't be honest, and floundered through a response. What if someone didn't have a trial, and was asked that question? It wouldn't be fair to him, either.

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    My father told me my Uncle Joe said, "She should consider it an accomplishment that she was chosen for the interview." That is true enough. I'm a member of a union, too, so I can't be fired unless I do something negligent or way out of line. The library is a collegial atmosphere, not like a corporation, and I recommend this field to people living with schizophrenia. So, promotion or not, I plan on staying here until I retire at 55 and do my writing and peer advocacy full-time.

     

    "When one door closes, another one opens." I've been prodigiously working on my memoir. The computer tower is back from the shop and I'm revising and editing scenes. On Friday I have off from work, so I will head to the Humanities library to research the DSM III-R section on schizophrenia. I'm at the point in the book where the main character questions her diagnosis, and that was the version of the manual in effect at the time.

     

    My goal right now is to complete the second draft of the manuscript by June-a long enough time frame so that if I finish it earlier, I'm well on my way. Another goal, with the deadline of January 2009-in just one year-is to move out of my apartment and into a co-op in Queens.

     

    Ending November, I realize there's one constant in life: rejection. When I left the supported residence, my counselor told me, "You will be doing the rejection, too"-in response to my fear that others would reject me out in the real world. As I begin to query literary agents, I'm sure I'll be rejected by most, and favorably received by only a few.

     

    I'll make a leap about recovery and art. My writing instructor sent me a copy of Martha Graham's words to Agnes DeMille. The preeminent modern dancer told the younger ballerina:

     

    "There is a vitality, a life force; a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly-to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

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    In recovery as in art, I take her words to heart: "You do not even have to believe in yourself." Truly, we just need to keep marching.

     

    So, too, we can't compare our progress with anyone else's. I learned from Martha not to worry how my writing compares to any other expression. And I believe Graham's quote applies to everyone, artist or not. We just have to be who we are. We really are more alive than others who don't have the illness. A lot of us have a sensitivity and empathy that's hard for other people to develop if they haven't been in our shoes.

     

    In retrospect, I realize I couldn't have given a better performance on the job interview. In time, I can slowly perfect my interviewing skills. With enough care and attention and sunlight, and love and devotion, I will grow a memoir that can be published.

     

    As the year ends, I'll wind down my commitments so I can clear my schedule to work on the memoir full-time in the winter. I hope I've given you some food for thought in this blog entry. Keep marching!

     

    Until Tuesday,

    Chris

Published On: November 29, 2007