Catalogue of Disappointments

There was a time, maybe two years back, when I was feeling overly sorry for myself, realizing how many things I’ve tried for as a writer, and how many times I’ve been shot down, and I thought to make myself feel better (do not ask me why I thought this could possibly make me feel better) I would list them out and count them up. I thought back, with great attention over my lifetime, and tried to recall every single worthy rejection, anything at all that had made what I would consider a real impact on my writing career and had held me back. When I reached item number 100, I stopped counting. I did not expect to have so many. What a stupid, demoralizing idea that was.

Last night I thought back on the list (I wonder where I’d be on it now, 115? 125? But no, I am not going to keep counting). I remembered the feeling of disappointment, seeing as I was feeling sorry for myself for yesterday’s rejection, but then I remembered something else. Before the disappointment, probably related to the disappointment, probably what makes the disappointment feel that much worse, there is the feeling of hopefulness that always comes first. And the hopefulness feels so good. Maybe it’s not so much the rejections I want to remember but the mere minutes before the rejections, when the fantasies are alive and well in my head. The pumping heart! The pretty colors! I could put together a scrapbook, memories of events that never ended up happening. It would be illustrated, of course. I’m thinking painted, jewel tones, perhaps some collage?

Many, very vivid moments would be included.

When I thought this one agent was going to say yes to my novel, when she’d already emailed me twice to say she was loving it, I imagined what she looked like, I imagined meeting her over lunch, what we’d eat, what I’d wear, what she’d say, when I’d sign.

When I thought an editor at my company was going to want to publish my novel I imagined her arriving at my office unannounced, looking for me. (As if she’d leave her floor in the other building to come talk to me; how laughable now.) Still, I imagined how she’d tell me the news. I imagined my surprise. I hoped I wouldn’t be dressed too schlubby the day she arrived. I hoped I wouldn’t start crying.

My imagination just won’t die when it comes to these things. You think it would have learned its lesson. But no.

For instance, I really wanted to go to Bread Loaf this year, but I didn’t get a scholarship (and I said on the application not to consider me for regular paying admission without a scholarship). So I can’t go. Fact is, I am not going. This cannot be disputed. But maybe in my head I am going. Maybe I am there right now. The picture would be bright, soothing green, a thrilling blur of motion cascading over the page. In my head, before I got the news, it was quite an intense experience. When I was waitlisted for the waitership some years ago I had those same bright green images (though slinging plates in the cafeteria marred it somewhat), and I held onto them for the longest time, even after no one canceled and there was no space for me to go.

Then it occurred to me this morning, while checking blogs (yes, yes, I know I shouldn’t do that) before getting in the shower… I am only disappointed about that conference because I wanted something to look forward to this summer. I did get in to another conference: my top choice in fact. Though I didn’t get a scholarship there, at least they told me I was a finalist. And there is an open invitation to still go, if I could pay for it myself.

So you know what? In my fantasies, I am going there (IF I could somehow miraculously afford it, IF I could somehow miraculously get a week off from my new job just after starting)… All humongous IFs, but I’ll spend a little time pretending for the moment. It feels good.

It turns out my catalogue is coming together nicely. The title, the use of the word “disappointments,” might lead you to expect a certain thing, but it is the moment just before the disappointment that I want to remember. This one is bright blue, like the sky I picture on the West Coast. There are typed pages in my hands. There I am under that big blue sky, smiling.

I told you I was delusional.


p.s. I hope some of you reading are going to Bread Loaf this summer. Might you tell me if my fantasy is true?

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