The Overflowing Port-a-Potties at National Parks are stressing me out

I was only three paragraphs into an article about the senatorial stalemate over the government shutdown and I was already stressed. My latent fear that we are all very near the edge of a cliff surges every time I read about the Oval Office Occupant. So cavalier, so crass; the news is never good. The mere mention of how the port-a-potties in Nat’l Parks are overflowing due to the lack of government staffing was too much. The metaphor of our crap piling high in forced neglect. This latest surge of fearfulness felt more like magma than simply a fizzy anxiety bubbling to the surface.

I suppose this is because I failed to choose a word for the year. This is likely my penance for not pressing my ear to the Universe more closely, asking her to whisper me my January mantra. Everyone else is so evolved! So zen and able to cope. I’m already a fail potato and it’s only January 6.

The more I thought about how one man’s job was affecting me, how I was allowing it to leverage power over my mental peace, the more resentful I became. I was letting the man with the orange pallor—whom I’ve never met—take something that wasn’t his. Therein I found my resolution, perhaps not one for the full year but at least until the frenzied feeling is no longer palpable. Because frenzied feelings that compel us to enact change are productive. But this one was incapacitating and that is not good for anyone.

Ergo, I resolve to tear a page out of my therapist husband’s playbook. This man, knocking on 40’s door, has the abs of a functionally fit college man. We hate him. We adore him. But we realize his physique is not by accident or genetic overblessing. I once asked him how he stays motivated to get up every day at o’dark thirty to complete a workout at a gym for which he doesn’t pay and for which no hired trainer is present. He said that because of the nature of his job, where he listens and contains the stories of adolescents dealing with trauma and grief and addiction, that, in order to be the best in showing up for them, he has to first show up for himself. And he does so at the gym.

So in this year, my 38th on this planet, I am showing up for myself in the following ways, so that I can further show the frenzied feelings compelled by Presidential Dysfunction that they have no power over me:
- Journaling briefly each day
- Doing the SheReadsTruth study on the Book of Luke as often as possible
- Plotting out my workout schedule each week so that I know when I am going to classes, when I am letting my walk with the dog suffice for the workout du jour

I am fully aware that this is such a White Overprivileged Lady thing to write, like, really? You are combatting injustice by putting on your yoga pants? But I’d like to believe that by showing up for myself and having a plan about where my energy will be spent, I will better be able to stand down the inequities that surface as well as more shrewdly allocate my time and resources toward resistance, because I’m already in command of them.

I’d love to hear how you are allocating your time and energy with intention and how it may make you a better activist in doing so.

Yours in not being a fail potato,

On meeting (exceeding) my goal of getting 52 rejections in a year

There’s a piece about a woman who got 101 rejections in a year in the New York Times, today,” Loverpants mentions.

Perhaps for other couples, the person who mentioned this to the other might expect to have another day to live, or a few hours at most. Who casually teases the other with rejection tales, casual-like, as if it’s a Crossfit workout of the day tip? But in our particular entanglement, this teaser was a complete aphrodisiac. I felt so seen. So known. So loved. I wanted to jump that man’s bones. And also to read the New York Times immediately.

At the beginning of the year, I had set out to do the same as the writer in the NYT. I challenged myself to seek 52 rejections, one per week, for my writing. I wanted to play the numbers game. I know this works for e-bay sellers, for example. The more pairs of Nikes they list, the more sales they see. Plus, momentum is powerful. Objects in motion continue in motion unless flatly and coldly rejected by a non-paying literary magazine, as the Law of Literary Motion goes, which Isaac Newton probably knew but just failed to disclose since his poetry wasn’t very good either. Ego! When your goal is to maintain momentum, though, there’s no time to stew over a door slamming shut. You have to find another potential door to knock on. You’re very busy trying to come up with your salutation once you do.

I submitted my work a total of 159 times in 2018. Most were for publications I read regularly, some were for more obscure literary magazines, and a couple were for residencies/conferences. Here is the breakdown:


The math isn’t exactly the kind of pretty pie graphable fair compare. These aren’t the numbers that show clearly how the sweat equity leads to success. The measuring stick for writers is different and personal and ever-evolving. And it’s always set to music, trust me. It’s just like “Grey’s Anatomy” over here any time an editor’s e-mail appears. ::cue emo song by Ingrid Michaelson::

For me, I was determined to place my writing in new outlets. This was the first year I had pieces published in and the Washington Post. These opportunities were thrilling for me. THRILLLLLLLING like getting sung to by the waiters wearing sombreros at Chi Chis in the 80s! I enjoyed the work and tore my hair out over it, as well. The process was not glamorous and rewriting three different drafts for one story for one editor was a deep dish of humble pie. I still loved the work, in the way one loves anything hard that reaps rewards.

The numbers also don’t represent the relationships forged, both with amazing editors who are consummate professionals, as well as with sources who trusted me with their vulnerability and the details of their stories. I got to be in touch with several people with whom I’ve not been in touch for years. And I got paid to do so. That’s some awesome time travel, cruising back to the past where you met someone and meeting them in the present where they share meaningful details of their lives. I’m grateful for all of it.

The psychology behind aiming for rejection rather than acceptance, as the NYT piece says, is essentially exposure therapy. If rejection is the fearsome activity, one needs to pursue it so much and so doggedly that it loses its mystique and therefore its potency. In pursuing rejection, did rejection lose its sting for me? I’d have to say that it did. I don’t think I realized how much it was unseating me to have my work dismissed or ignored. I knew I was kind of a precious pain whenever I couldn’t scrape myself off the floor because an editor didn’t like my penchant for portmanteaus. I just knew that I had sad feeeeeelings. Knowing it was my job, though, to take a rejection and turn it into forward motion—that is, to find somewhere else to try to place the work — reframed the process for me. A dead end was actually just a cul-de-sac where I could turn around and find somewhere else in the neighborhood to visit.

As much as I’d like to end on the note that I’m aiming for twice as many rejections in the new year, I’d say that I may take a different, less bullish approach. The momentum of seeking rejection helped me to overcome a lot of the fear I hadn’t realized was holding me back from doing the damn thing. The rejection momentum seeped into the rest of my life, and I started to recognize other areas where I had been listening to a whole lotta noise. My big mood heading into 2019 is to carve out time for wellness, and I include my writing in this. I feel better when I’m writing, but, I’m not totally convinced that it always needs to be published by a third party. So I’m hoping to do a good bit more on this platform. And you? What are you resolving or reaffirming in the New Year?

On dressing mannequins

Ann Taylor occupies two floors in Boston’s Faneuil Hall historic shopping plaza. On the second floor, there are narrow shafts for window displays that are only wide enough for my 23 year-old petite body to stand very still. Problems ensue when I am tasked with dressing one of the mannequins (size 2, all of them, because when have you seen a mannequin holding a hamburger?). My managers at Ann Taylor never say, “Oh, Kendra, can you go simply drape this fetching scarf around the neck of a mannequin upstairs?” They never ask, “Could you be a dear and quick like a bunny change out the broche on that one’s blouse up there?” They are prepared to exploit me for their big window dressing asks, like a child with tiny fingers taken out of school to sew sequins onto gowns. Only I am being paid a fair wage. And am not denied an education. (Forget the child labor comparison. I was being hyperbolic.) My managers see that I am scheduled to work and order the full rack of tweed blazers steamed and for the mannequin in the upstairs windows to don the new angora turtleneck and wool pants with no zippers.

Photo by  Fancycrave  on  Unsplash

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

I am a visual assistant at Ann Taylor in the hours before the shop opens. Except I am not assisting anyone, per se, besides the mannequins out of their naked Barbie doll ignominy and into the season’s latest couture. This early shift is an absolute idyll for an introvert. It’s so peaceful up in the window shaft. I get to watch the cobblestone paths of this Boston tourist destination come alive. From the second floor window, I see a queue of New Bostonians preparing for their citizenship swearing in outside of Quincy Market. I observe flocks of pigeons pecking at last night’s stale popcorn. I wrestle the mannequins and watch the sun come up. The best and worst part is: not a soul bothers me.

So when I get stuck in the window, no one can hear me banging. The door to the window shaft has suddenly swung shut and I cannot seem to bump it open. I knock on the window, but no one looks up from below on the cobblestone because it is mainly just pigeons and a hungover security detail. Actually, no. That guy doesn’t work security. He’s a leftover from Cheers last night. No one inside the store can hear me yelling, because it is just the manager and I and she is a volunteer gospel choir director, so she is most likely opening up the cash wrap downstairs and practicing, “I Surrender All” while I am upstairs singing, “Here I Am, Lord!!” and hoping that a merciful god/manager lets me out of here soon. I begin to think about how little air there really is in this window shaft and how sad that I may spend my last Christmas on earth with the Madame Tussaud’s rendering of my junior high nemesis and just as I begin to feel tears pooling, Nestor, the custodian, just happens to be swapping out a broom upstairs and hears my plight. Nestor does not speak much English and my Spanish is mostly garbage, but!! That day, Eso dia! He heard my cry for help and answered the call perfectly. I won’t be spending Christmas as a mannequin in rigor mortis after all. Praises be!