The Story I Never Tell Part 13: The Actual Facts
I am sitting here having a very hard time getting this next blog post out, but something in me just wants to jump to the end of this story I never tell and get it over with. Like ripping off a bandaid. Because this is beginning of the actual story I never tell. It isn’t the various abuses and mistakes of my youth. It isn’t the fairly pedestrian lies I told myself about my ugliness or my worthlessness or whatever normal adolescent angst I have shared thus far. It isn’t the story of how I met my husband or the stories of my red dress and the drama that it ignited. It’s this story right here.
I’ve been all prepared to write this down for days, but then I just sit here looking at the page and not writing this story and instead working on other projects, of perhaps greater value, but still, this story sits on top of my chest weighing me down with the fucks I give to it. This is clearly the thing that hurts me the most then, right? This is my most shameful and embarrassing thing in a life full of all manor of shameful and embarrassing things. And if I don’t just go ahead and tell it, then setting up this whole website and this whole blog and my whole mission will be for naught. I will have let this beast in my heart derail me yet again.
So what I have decided to do is to write just the facts. And then a series of very short posts, rather than in what was becoming long post after long post as I digress and obfuscate off the central issue in the story. And I have to remind myself again and again that this blog is for me, not for you, and that you are just coming along for the ride if you so choose. I will start with the facts and then afterward, maybe tomorrow or the next day or for the next week, I’ll tell you the facts of what happened after the facts.
Here are the facts:
I published a novel in February of 2010 with Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press. In March of 2010, Carolyn See gave my beautiful book the most crushing, mean-spirited, strangely give-with-one-hand-take-with-the-other book review I have ever read in my life. Me, my agent, and my editor, and the publicist at Thomas Dunne were all so excited when we learned that the Washington Post was going to review my book, because it’s a rare gift to get a review in a huge paper like the Washington Post. Most novels never get a national review in such a newspaper. It was a very big deal.
It was supposed to drop on a Friday as I recall, and late on Thursday night, I googled and found it. I was so excited. So imagine that first: I was so excited. And then I read the review, and I really don’t think that there has ever been a moment in my life, to that point or since, that felt the way that moment felt. Even writing it about it now is making my pulse race and my palms sweat. And I feel a little nauseous. I mean right now at this moment, 7 years later, writing this down, I feel a little nauseous. This is the story I never tell.
This is what is happening right now as I type this: I feel like throwing up. My face is hot with shame bubbling up out of my stomach and pooling in my cheeks and in the divots of my temples. The tip of my nose is cold and my eyes are sort of stinging. My palms are sweating as I type. The feeling of total humiliation is flooding my body right now, because I really and truly never tell this story. I am hoping that by letting my feelings on this subject out into the sunlight, I will release the shame, which is absolutely a fuck to give and, as I’ve repeated a hundred times already, I have no more room for fucks and they’ve all got to go.
This is what happened then: I read the review on my computer at about midnight. It would be in the following morning’s print edition of The Washington Post, my hometown paper, one of the most widely read papers in the world, and this horrible review would be there for all to see come morning. I remember the icy flood of shame through my body making my arms and legs weak, and I remember I went completely cold and I began to shake uncontrollably. I turned off the computer and I walked out of my office and into my bedroom and I woke Brett up and I couldn’t even speak at full volume. I hoarsely whispered, “Brett, Brett, Brett, I got a bad review. I got a terrible, terrible review.” I couldn’t cry and I could hardly breathe and I was so cold. Brett barely woke up, but he said, “Just come to bed,” and I got into bed. I was shivering violently. I backed myself into Brett and he put his arm over me and he said, “It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. It’s okay,” and he fell back to sleep. We will revisit his reaction later, because that’s another part of the story I never tell, but at the moment what happened was that: I shivered, despite Brett’s volcanic heat, and I felt like my whole life was over. I know this might sound prima donna maudlin, and I know I risk a collective rolling of eyes that a healthy woman who got a book published in the first place, who is lying in her comfortable bed within the embrace of her husband while her two healthy children slept down the hall, felt that her life was over, but I sort of did. As melodramatic as that might sound, it’s still the truth. I might as well admit the full shame of it all and everything I felt, whether or not I had the right to the feelings. So those are the facts that really begin the story I never tell.
This is a fuck that is the mother of all fucks, and I am not quite ready to burn this one yet. I can still feel that shame in me, and so I know it isn’t yet ripe for burning. But I will get to it shortly when I tell you the remainder of this story I never tell.