But what happened was really due to much more than just classic burn out. It also had to do with some deep introspection. Being something of an engineer, I’ll number the paragraphs.
1. My book has sold just about as well as any self published book these days. Something under 300 copies in the first six months. Most authors sell to all their friends and family members and a few other acquaintances and that’s about it. To the rest of the world, your book is no different from the thousands of other books that are published every month, at least in the eyes of the book buying public. If nobody knows you (because you’re not already famous for some other reason), they will only learn of your book by chance.
This realization came to me like a fall off a cliff. While writing and editing the book, I had such dreams of exhilarating sales and recognition as a great (or at least very good) writer. Sorry, but it’s extremely rare that anyone achieves anything close to that. You have to “shout” pretty loudly to be heard above the “noise” of all those other authors trying to promote their books.
2. I looked back on the other major projects that I worked on in my life that ended up with no appreciable result. I started to wonder, what’s wrong with me that I throw myself into things so diligently, work for years (literally!) and end up with failure? Why do I keep trying? What motivates me to invest so much time in lost causes? Of course, in my melancholy mood, I forgot all the success I’ve had in the non-profit arena, such as my work as the founding president of ACMI, now a successful community media studio and educational resource. Or my significant contribution and support in the creation of CAT, the Con Advisory Team (a group of U.U. youth and adult advisors, formed to plan weekend retreats and youth outreach). But somehow the pain of failure seemed to be more prominent in my mind.
3. It seemed as if my life long effort to “change the world” had come to an end. Just because I think I have a perspective that is distinctly different from most of what I hear or read, it doesn’t mean that my ideas are truly unique, or even necessarily superior to anybody else’s. And even if they may have some special value, where is the response? My blog posts here seem to go without any comments. My tweets on Twittter seldom get any “likes” or retweets or replies. On Facebook, there is at least some response, but of course, that’s mostly from my friends who happen to be on Facebook, who already know me there. It doesn’t reach out to the outside world. Meanwhile political posturing, sniping, divisiveness, etc., seems to continue unabated. When there is a different voice, calling for love and collaboration, it’s rare, and I don’t seem to be able to break into the conversation and contribute.
Perhaps I have been “co-dependent with the world.” Co-dependency starts, when, as a child, you try to “fix” your parents, who seem so dysfunctional. If you are dumped into the role of adult too soon, in order to manage your own life and theirs to protect yourself from emotional harm, then you miss out on the natural process of being a child! You practice this struggle to “improve” them for so long (with the goal to relax and enjoy your childhood), that when you reach adulthood, you keep finding relationship partners who “need fixing” in a similar way. You “fall in love” with the same kind of dysfunctional people, over and over again, and the whole mess ends up scuttling any chance at a real adult to adult relationship!
Likewise, I want to live in a world that feels good, but it seems to be a rather painful place instead. So my instincts kick in and I try to “fix” everything, not only to improve my life, but life for my friends and others around me.
But then a funny thing happened. I started getting incoming messages from people who clicked “Contact Us” on this web site and filled in the form. Not too many, just a few. Here were people who actually wanted to talk to me, perhaps invite me to give a talk to their group, etc., and I was too depressed to even reply to them!
I met someone who really likes my book and my mission and started giving me 'pep talks' and talking up my book to others wherever she went. I went to the Fetish Flea Market just over a week ago and ended up in a conversation with some young men who urged me to contact PFLAG and BAGLY and offer to give talks, sit on panels, etc. Good point!
So, now I realize that, as hard as it’s been to do this work, this is actually what I imagined doing some time in the distant past. My book is not the end but merely a step in a process. I may not be able to change the world as a whole, but I can have a positive impact on at least a small part of it. I said in the past that if I can save one life (from suicide, perhaps), then all these years of writing and publishing will have been worth it. OK, here’s my opportunity.
It’s time to come to peace with all those failures of the past. Yes, they hurt. Yes, it took years to pay off the loans. But as depressed as I was after all that, I don’t need to dwell in that world. I don’t need to stay angry at how much time I “wasted” on those projects. Instead, I can find the people who can hold me while I grieve the pain of the past and find a way to put it all to bed. I’m one of those “moon in Cancer” people for whom there are a lot of tears to get over things, but it can be done. I don’t need to define my life as a series of failures.
And, unlike how I was lectured at when I was a child, I’m not headed for success because I’m following someone else’s strict instructions (making me a mere instrument of their plan). I’m going to do it because the credit belongs to me. Me, the person who took the initiative, dug in, worked hard, took the ideas that were given to me (from my intuition or mentioned by others) and made something out of them.
And, no I have no illusions that it’s all me. It’s a combination of all my effort, and all the resources I happen to have had available. I know damned well that as a “white” person, born male, grown tall and thin, with a good voice, raised middle class, living in the USA, I have had opportunities and resources that many other people in this world either don’t have or have been denied to them. But rather than worry about how that came to be, I think it’s my duty to take what I have and make something worthwhile to give to others - to give back to the world something significant in exchange for what privileges I’ve had. Of course, there are a lot of drawbacks to being a white male person raised middle class protestant during times of patriarchy, racism, and so forth. Apparently, as I write this, it’s going to take more time before we all start to realize that almost nobody, not even those supposedly at the “top of the heap” of privilege necessarily have smooth sailing through life (just look at the suicide rates for a clue). It’s up to all of us to listen to and understand each other as much as we can. Healing is needed in almost every walk of life. We’re all in this together, in the long run. To live right by each other and nature around us, it’s going to take everyone working together.