2 min read

The anniversary of normal

Reading Persuasion, Rejection and Manipulation

Originally published March 10, 2021

Good Wednesday morning at 8pst! Join me in the comments for a bit with your own ponderings—

The dots

  1. How do we unify after a separation?
  2. Now reading: Persuasion (my favorite Austen)
  3. Nicest rejection letter ever
  4. Noticing: Misunderstanding used as manipulation

How do they connect?

1 & 2: Reunification & Persuasion

It was March 11th or 12th last year that I was in a restaurant with my brother, and he got the call from his organization that spring training was about to be canceled; he should pick up his things. Soon after, we started sheltering at home. Although we’ve expanded our bubble to include a few family members who can also shelter at home, we have not gotten back to any semblance of normal. And I don’t know when we will.

Laura Lee wrote in Roxane Gay’s newsletter, The Audacity, “”As the pandemic subsides, will we forget everything we’ve learned, or will we have more serious and compassionate conversations about disability?”

What does unity mean? How do we reunite without being careless or ignoring the parts of normal that aren’t worth returning to? I am thinking about my friends with disabilities, children who learn better at home, adults who prefer working from home. People for whom “normal life” was inaccessible or somehow burdensome. This past year wasn’t a blip. It isn’t something to ignore.

The opening pages of Persuasion are hilarious. Jane Austen writes narcissists like no other: “He considered the blessing of beauty as inferior only to the blessing of a baronetcy; and the Sir Walter Elliot, who united these gifts, was the constant object of his warmest respect and devotion.” (You can read the full text of the book on Project Gutenberg for free!)

Sir Walter turned being handsome and having a baronetcy into virtues to think himself virtuous. I think we run a risk of turning reunification (at all costs) into a virtue so that we can consider ourselves virtuous. I want to reunite; I miss hugging my friends, I miss going places. I don’t want to rush it, nor am I entitled to it if running back to “normal” is harmful to some.

3 & 4: Rejection and misunderstanding

I got the nicest form rejection letter ever last week from Joyland Magazine. It ended with, “We encourage you to keep writing, keep sending work out, and to never stop because of rejections.” It made me smile and laugh a little. After years of writing, pitching, working with editors, I’m pretty toughened. But I love Joyland’s letter because the extra kindness and reminder to keep writing is sweet to receive.

It’s essential to be able to handle someone telling you no. Even a not-so-nice no. I remember watching the election and transition of power in the White House and thinking -- this might be the first time Tr*ump’s been told no. Let’s all pray that we learn to deal with no sooner than that. (Receiving a no and accepting a no are two different things. Both are important.)

Sometimes, to shimmy out of facing a no head-on, we have misunderstandings. It’s so much more palatable to “have a misunderstanding” than to tell a person, “No, I never wanted to ______.” Framing something as a misunderstanding softens it, which is OK sometimes but can easily slip into just being a lie.

I’m writing a scene where a mother (Sally) calls her daughter (Acacia) in crisis. Acacia rushes home, but by the time she arrives, Sally has calmed down and says there’s been a misunderstanding; the problem isn’t a problem. But the thing is, it’s not a misunderstanding. Sally is using the shield of misunderstanding to get back to a comfortable distance.

— Devin