Observe, Describe, Participate: A Rejection Story

I applied for funding to support a project. I have been working on the project for a while. I was just getting ready to dig back in and (insert deflate noise here) the rejection news came today. I have so many reactions in my toolbox. I wanted to try a new one this time. I learned it from an amazing therapist. Yes. I am a fan of therapy. Yes. I think we should all try it. The same way we say everyone should try learning to play an instrument or learning to speak another language? Yup…therapy. Just try it. The new approach I am using is to take a non-judgmental stance. The steps are observe, describe, participate. Rejection and disappointment hurt me deeply. So here goes…

I am observing sadness and embarrassment banging on my windows looking at me. My feet feel stuck. There is moisture in my eyes. I try to stop myself from breathing deeply because the air in my lungs turns the eye moisture into water. I yell at sadness and embarrassment. I want these emotions to go away. I hate these emotions. I want to hide from them and go back to bed. I am judging them. I am judging me.

Judging myself and my emotions is something I am very good at. Champion. level. good. I peeked out the window at sadness and embarrassment. I started in on them and me. “What’s wrong with you?! They probably selected people who were better than you. You are not as good at this as you think you are. People who like your work are just gassing you up. The grant makers are who really matter. Stop doing this and go focus on a real job.” Then I went further “Pull yourself together. You’re being irrational. You’re being hysterical. These people already gave you money in the past. What makes you think you deserve more? You’re being greedy. You don’t deserve more.” A therapist taught me about this. She said that our feelings can have feelings. Watch out when sadness gets its feelings hurt and now you have anger. Truer words…

Now I’m observing anger, shame and guilt. They are all out there asking me to let them in. Too many emotions at the door and now I feel overwhelmed.

My nose stings on the inside. Way up there where they do the COVID test something hurts. I let one of those breaths reach down to my diaphragm. The water builds in my eyes and makes its way down to my chin. I embrace crying. I let the feelings in and I ask why they are here. They get to work like a cleaning crew. They pull back curtains I had drawn. They open doors I had shut. They slide partitions and check the cupboards. And as they do, other emotions come out of places where they were stuck. Sadness reintroduces me to hope. Hope tells sadness it’s ok to leave now. “I’ve got it from here.” In my living room shame and embarrassment lift a sofa and there under the furniture is courage. They help her up. She says “whew thank you. I knew I wouldn’t be stuck under there forever!” Anger hears a knock at the door. She turns down the pot she had on boil and covers it. She turns to me “well that’s my ride, will you let me out now?” I nod and when she opens the door love waves at me. Love asks me if I’m ready for anger to leave. Love says “if you aren’t ready yet, I can wait out here but if you are, I’ll run anger downtown and come right back to check on you.” I thank them both. I let love do what she knows is right. I observe gratitude.

I observe a few more emotions have gathered for me. Trust and relief put on a pot of tea. Sadness and embarrassment say they are gonna head out. Shame and guilt start putting their coats on and say “yeah we don’t want to overstay our welcome either.” Love comes back after dropping anger off. Love, trust, gratitude, courage and relief sit with me. I reach for my journal and read this entry to them. My body is light. My jaw relaxes. My eyes are clear. I feel whole.

I’m going to put this project aside for a few weeks. I am not abandoning it. I think distance will help me for the moment. I will keep teaching, reading and going to therapy. I will do some painting. I might go rollerskating pandemic permitting. I might be really bad at it even though I used to be a queen on that rink. I might be really bad at it. And that would be ok. I will start working on this project when I am in a space of joy. I deserve that. This project may not have a ton of funding behind it. It will have a ton of joy behind it. And that is the true story. Joy.

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