Friday, October 9, 2009

The Paranoid Paradox of Faith

Last Monday I received a phone call. “Hi. Is this Lyn Brakeman?” (Too cheery. Telemarketer for sure.) “Yes,” I say guarded. “Oh,” the female voice continues, its brightness dimmed. “Oh, well then. This is Holly from Writers Digest.” “Yes.” (Wants to know when I’ll renew.) “Well,” (Could she be more excited? Sounds like my mother used to. I imagine her jumping up and down.) “I called to tell you that your essay Electric Salvation has won fifth prize in our annual national Writers Digest contest in the category of Inspirational Writing. “Cool.” (Warming up. Inspired myself.) “So we need your email to tell you the details.” Gladly I oblige. Thanks are exchanged. “You’ll be getting an email from us soon.”

My heart jumps up and down. I call Dick. He jumps up and down. Send email to friends and call my kids.

Tuesday there’s no email confirmation. Anxiety edges out joy. Who is Holly? Sudden panic. It’s a hoax. Go online to their site. Read the list of winners. I’m not on it. Call Dick. He dashes home to join me in my puddle of tears, asks a few details. What? You gave her your email address? I told you don’t give any personal information out to anyone on the phone. It was in good faith. She sounded true. He freaks out. Now he’s paranoid too. Guilt.

I call the magazine, manage, navigate twelve prompts and then four more after I find the correct one for my question, which is “Is it true?” Leave a message for Teresa or Marissa Brower, Bower or Bowes.

I don’t know which head got cool first his or mine but he goes to the computer at the same instant I wonder if I’ve looked at the list of last year’s winners. But it says the winners would be on line. Will be? Yeah. Early November. It’s October. They wouldn’t put them on line before the next issue is out or no one would buy the magazine. Oh.

Call Marissa/Teresa B. Leave an apologetic message. Courteous. Call writing buddy to laugh with her about my paranoid process. My magazine just came she says. Yes. Here’s your name listed. It’s true.

It’s true. I feel as if I’d just seen the bodily Resurrection of Christ and I know it’s true, a fact. I feel about six years old. It’s true. I notify the “world.” It’s true.

It’s amazing what writers go through—out here writing, hunched over computers, submitting to countless publications, editors, etc. over and over along with hundreds of thousands of aspirants all as hopeful as you are. Rejections pour in by mail and email. It's easy to lose heart, get paranoid, be sure the whole world of publishing is out to get you alone, expose your foolishness. Your spirit begins to schlump, great yiddish word. Thank God for friends who schlump too, and thank God for Spirit who raises up schlumpers.

I’m still waiting for Holly’s cheery email and wondering at the paradox: the more passionate you are about something and the more hopeful and persevering you are about it and the more faith you have in your efforts, the more vulnerable you are to paranoia when hope turns to truth.

How odd. It reminds me of the phrase in Luke’s gospel describing the Jesus followers’ reaction to the news the women brought of the Resurrection. First they called it a hoax, an “idle tale” (like the ones women always tell, right?) Then they ran to check it out for themselves. Then they had a spiritual experience of the resurrected Jesus himself on the road to Emmaus. They “disbelieved for joy.” (Luke 24:41)


wenvirly said...

Congratulations, Lyn! I'm so glad it was true (though I would have loved you just as much if it had been a cruel hoax.) For no apparent reason the following episode from my own life came to mind as I read your column. It certainly is not a precise parallel, but I'll share it anyway: I remember coming upstairs to the 'mail table' in my boarding school dorm on a Saturday, my 17th birthday, and there was NOTHING on the table addressed to me, NOT ONE THING! As anger and tears welled up simultaneosly within me, I proceded to my bedroom, hoping none of my roomates would be there, so I could cry relentlessly into my pillow. (Screaming was'beyond the pale') But on my bed was a package and a bunch of letters and cards, which I suppose the letter sorter had thought would take up too much space on the table. What an uncomfortable mixture of emotions confronted me at that moment - joy in the remembrances, shame at my lack of faith in those who loved me,and all the physical remnants of anger and hurt and personal injury which had not had time to subside,and which, no doubt, reflected more than an imagined birthday slight. Years later, I compared this experience to Thomas demanding the proof of the wounds before he could believe in the resurrected Christ, and then finding himself in the incontrovertible Presence where such proofs seemed paltry. Paradox, yes; paranoia, I'm not so sure. Perhaps it's more the lack of faith in ourselves (and by extension, doubting God's faith in us) that lies at the root of our suspicians or assumptions in interpreting events so close to our hearts.

Ardis said...

I rejoice with you Lyn! And the comments of wenvirly are right on. I love your exuberance and passion which is an energy that causses the universe to vibrate. What's next?!