When I opened my e-mail this morning I scanned for a certain name, and didn't see it. Equal parts disappointed and relieved – today was notification day for the status of submissions to a local literary journal – I moved to the top of the page and began working my way through the blue dots. I'm not sure how I missed it the first time, but halfway through the list of messages, there was the name I was looking for. My heart flipped, my lips twitched up, and I wondered which of the two stories I submitted they liked best.
I've become a veteran of these messages in the last year. With two exceptions, they've all been some form of "no." And one of the exceptions became a "no" after it was a maybe. My reactions have been fairly consistent. Disappointment. Fear. Sadness. Then a determination to move on, buoyed by a certainty that I was doing exactly what I was meant to do, and this was just part of being a writer.
When I opened the latest message this morning I was confident this was going to be the one to turn the tide. I'd selected the publication carefully and submitted the best work I have to offer. I did everything right, everything I knew to do, everything that was expected and more.
"Unfortunately, we did not select your work for publication."
It was kind, as rejections go. Hundreds of submissions for tens of places in the journal. Feedback to follow. Encouragement to keep trying.
Today, none of that mattered. I don't know if it was my expectation and hope, or if it's because today is the last day of the school year, or if it was just one too many and it came on another cold, wet day. Today I couldn't find a way to make that rejection okay.
A year ago I was celebrating my flight into this new world of writing. I'd been gathering strength in the nest for years, and fledged into the wide open sky last June, wings strong. Like the fledglings I've been watching all spring, my flight wasn't always smooth, and I flapped from branch to branch as I grew accustomed to this new way of being.
Today it feels like that message knocked me to the ground, much like the late spring storms we continue to endure unsettle nests and disrupt the less confident fledgling flights of this year's babies.
As I struggled with my feelings this morning, I was aware of the opportunity this presented for me to stay in the present moment and to practice acceptance. I've been grounded before, and in much stormier circumstances than these, so it's not altogether unfamiliar territory. My pattern has always been to launch myself back into the sky in complete refusal to be on the ground at all, flapping my wings with every ounce of my energy, eyes strained upward and outward in a determined search for the biggest patch of blue I might claim for my own.
I'm staying on the ground this time. For a while at least. The ferns are soft, the flowers fragrant, and from time to time the sun reaches down to warm my head. I'm resting. I'll let my feathers dry, see if I can find some nourishment down here, and wait for the sky to beckon.