04 Mar Alas, I Have Good News
“Alas, I have good news.”
In late May 2010, I got this cheerful voicemail message from Renee Sedliar, the affable and talented Executive Editor at Da Capo.
I stood in the Baltimore airport, between flights, slightly confused.
She quickly corrected, “I mean, at last, I have good news.”
Da Capo, an imprint of Perseus, had picked up my first book, Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life. Good news indeed.
By, “at last,” Renee was kindly referring to the length of time it took for the publishing house to come to its conclusion. It is no coincidence that there has never been a phrase coined, “As speedy as the publishing process.”
But I love Renee’s verbal stumble (“Alas…). I so appreciate its inherent balance. The flip side of, “Congratulations, you’re fired.”
I am not Lutheran but still, I have hardwired in my matrix a quiet, reflexive sense that I might be punished for every joy and rewarded for every sorrow.
I find my first response to what would traditionally be labeled “good,” “joyful” or “happy” news, is slight panic, sadness, or suspicion. Things that appear good at first pass, tend to crumble or deliver some kind of pain later. (A kind of, “when-God-wants-to-punish-us-He-answers-our-prayers” sort of thing.)
Consider, our associations with, happiness and joy. Take “happy hour,” for example. If we were to be really honest, we might call it, “May-cause-you-great-suffering-and-dilapidation-in-the-long-run-and-look-pathetic-on-you-in-the-meantime-hour”.
In western culture, “joy” seems to have a frat party feel.
And I tend to get depressed at anything resembling a cocktail party. It’s an inverse proportion. The more Keg-Party-Exciting something gets, the more black my mood…
Having practiced preventative medicine for a spell, it is impossible for me not to follow the trajectory of what we often consider joy to its probable outcome: misery.
But we all know that joy really shouldn’t suck. There is that brand of pure joy whose trajectory can only end in the means…in joy itself. I don’t think I need to pontificate on that. Y’all know that joy to which I refer. If not, it would take some thoughtful and considerable time to arrange words that weren’t either pontificate-y, preachy or rife with terms and phrases that are meaningless by now or, worse, have heavy, boring associations.
I’ve also noticed that, “bad” stuff often yields, “good” stuff. Cliché as it is, I’ve found that a job loss or other events that, at first glance appear to thwart our well being, often serve to be life changing in ways that later prove beneficial.
I had been reminding myself of these perspectives as I awaited the publisher’s decision, so to be better prepared to digest rejection or acceptance equally, if possible. Also remembering the advice someone gave me long ago. I paraphrase, “in the good times, always remember there will be difficult times ahead and, in the hard times, always remember there will be joy ahead.”
I also read something that helped provide a framework within which to place the success of this book. It was part of a blog entry of a friend, Beth Gineris:
The I Ching describes an ebb and flow in the cycle of life. That deepest yin becomes yang and visa versa. Balance is the goal, so ever-growing height or depth is not feasible. There is a hexagram that seems to allow for expansion without loss but that has to do with the idea of bringing others in on the growth – so as to make the space bigger in a quantum-like way, like an upleveling of consciousness, a paradigmatic shift.
I liked this. Made me feel solid about the success of that book, were it to be picked up by the publisher. It wouldn’t be just me climbing some ladder into a precarious, unsustainable, unreal, stupid position of supposed success, but part of a dynamic whereby all of us are shifting together into places and spaces that are closer to where we really want to be. Living lives that more closely reflect our priorities. Being more committed to living the lives we, in our heart of hearts, want to be living.
With all this in mind, when Renee delivered (albeit accidentally) the “good” news with a Shakespearian doom-and-gloom word choice, she softened the blow.
I believe I did some understated (so as not to draw the attention of the Lutheran Deity) smiling.
So, joyful, joyful.
And joy to the world.
and O Happy Day.
You know what I mean.
- I actually know precious little about the Lutheran religion. Everything I know about it I learned from Garrison Keillor. So, if I misrepresented the Lutheran view, please contact Mr. Keillor.
(this post is repurposed from a couple blog posts by Dr. Welch, in Spring or Summer, 2010) copyright Dr. Claudia Welch 2010