Sunday, January 19, 2014
So, this week I finally dragged myself to a doctor and found out I have....a Frozen Shoulder! Yippee! Right after giving me a shot in the shoulder and referring me to a physical therapist who would then recommend the exact same exercises Jane told me about two months ago, the doc sat down for some chit chat.
"What do you do for a living?"
I recently quit my job managing a small Christian bookstore, so I tried out something new:
"I'm a writer."
I've never said that before. It sounded strange, maybe a little bit of a stretch, but it felt good, too. I hadn't anticipated the next question, even though it was an obvious one.
"So, have you written any books?"
"Well, yes, my first book is coming out in September." Now, THAT felt great to say!
But why oh why wasn't I ready for the next question? I know I need to get used to speaking about my book. I need to not be embarrassed or ashamed about the subject matter. I need to believe that there is a reason I've been given the chance to tell my story, and that it can't help anyone if I don't share it.
Deep breath: "Well, it's a memoir about losing my son."
"Oh, I'm sorry. But I sure won't be reading it. I don't DO tragedy."
The doctor's words did not offend me. He was on the spot, in that little exam room. He had plunged into something uncomfortable and scary, when all he wanted was a few seconds of small talk. And his thoughts were not so very different from ones that I have voiced before. I mean, who wants to DO tragedy, if they can help it?
I remember that when Jack was born almost 15 years ago, I abruptly stopped watching some of my favorite shows, most notably Law and Order SVU. I just couldn't take the depravity of the world and the way it made me feel so vulnerable, especially since I had a little one to take care of now. No longer fascinated by the dark side of the human experience, I wanted to shield us from it any way I could, and covering my eyes and ears seemed like a viable option. I had to seriously limit the Oprah book club books I read, too.
I understand that the doctor doesn't want to read my book. I totally get it.
Then today, at my first physical therapy appointment, the therapist asked me how many kids I have. I had already cried when it felt like she was breaking my arm, and more tears trickled out when I said, "I used to have 2, but now I have 1." It's not what I expected to say when asked this question, as if Jack had ceased to exist in a "poof!" but it's what came out. Usually I just say "2" and leave it at that, but she and I will be seeing each other 3 times a week for a while, and I didn't want to make her feel even more awkward later with follow-up questions if I had led her to believe I had two healthy kids at home with me.
It's interesting, because in the next months, I'm going to have to figure out how to talk about what I write about. I'll have to get out behind the screen and actually talk to people. I'll be attending conferences and meeting people, and eventually promoting my book. Not only am I a horrible sales person, "Umm, you, uh, wouldn't want to buy some Girl Scout cookies, would you?" I am also reluctant to put people on the spot and make them uncomfortable.
They are such natural questions, "What do you blog about? What's your book about? How many kids do you have?" but they freak me out. The last blog conference I went to, I brought a stack of business cards that I was too chicken to give out, when people asked what I blogged about, I said, "Uh, Life," and when I wasn't hiding in my room, I tried to stick very close to people who already knew my story.
I'm thinking my honest yet awkward answers to the doctor and the physical therapist were important baby steps for me.
Do you have any suggestions? Is there a way to know if someone just wants a quick, pleasant interaction versus the truth? Do I use the same gauges I use in determining whether someone really wants to know how I'm doing or is just asking to ask?