Monday, May 12, 2014

Practicing What You Preach

Over the last week or so, I've been waiting to hear back from a publishing house that's expressed some interest in my manuscript.  After some stalwart work by my agent, I had a really very pleasant conversation with their executive editor, who was quite complimentary.  Given that this is a house that has an excellent reputation and great taste in fiction, that in and of itself was heartening.

But the manuscript needs to run through a committee review, and so it is, at its own pace.

Having managed a highly selective proposal review process years ago in my secular work life, I will admit that this does not reduce my anxiety levels.  I know how things can work, how wildly unpredictable those processes can be.  Collective decision-making takes a while.  It often skews and shifts in organic and non-linear ways that can't quite be grasped, as the inputs of multiple lives flow through the process.

As a Presbyterian, this reality has been burned into my consciousness over several decades.  Lord, has it ever.

I would like to say that I am feeling calm and centered, that I magnanimously await whatever Providence brings.  I would like to say that I am serenely detached from things, at one with the multiverse, resting in a meditative state of enlightened detachment.

Apatheia, the Stoics called it, and it was the highest of their virtues.  The Stoic ideal was to remain unaffected, unmoved by the vagaries of existence, measured and unflappable. You were as cool as a cucumber, be it your wedding day or in the moments leading up to your execution.

Que sera, sera, as the great Stoic philosopher Doris Day once put it.

I am not feeling particularly Stoic lately.

It's the challenge when you're genuinely vested in a particular outcome, one that has seemed so remote as to be wholly in the realm of fantasy and now seems tantalizingly possible.  I do not know, of course, what dynamics are at play in the decision.  I cannot know the zeitgeist of a small collective of people whom I have never met, or how the tone and structure of a novel will resonate, or how it relates to other manuscripts under consideration.

And so in the past days I've been pacing about, and flit from task to task, and endeavor to center myself, with intermittent success.

Breathe in, breathe out, I remind myself.  Remember all those things you tell people about counting their blessings, and reducing anxiety in the face of the unknown.  Keep active, and don't let a thing over which you can exert no material influence consume you.

I do these things, and they help.