The universe can be such an asshole.
I released a new book last week, and have been preparing for an upcoming promotion. I felt good. Hopeful, even. I know what I’m doing and had all my ducks in a row. I even sold some copies. And then, as I was out puttering around on my Amazon author page, I noticed, to my absolute horror, a one-star rating on said newly released book, no written review, no explanation, just that.
It had the quality of a drive-by. I’m walking along in the ‘hood that is Amazon, light on my feet, when in the corner of my eye, a black sedan whispers by, one tinted window silently descending. Boom! Game over.
I’m an old curmudgeon; I know the drill, here. But the timing on this was spectacular. It lined up with personal things I’ve been dealing with for a long time. It even reflected one of the events in the book, in which the protagonist gets slammed with a devastating loss that leaves her hollow, numb and questioning everything. Trust me: I couldn’t have planned this better if I’d tried.
Any author will tell you, a one-star rating is a special kind of head fuck. For three days, all I saw was that single yellow star burning on my forehead like a brand. I did the whole opera: shock, disbelief, terror, worthlessness, shame, and despair followed by a detailed analysis of cause and effect worthy of a Justice Department investigation. I googled “how to deal with a one-star review” even though I’ve heard all that before. I avoided writers’ forums which feel like funeral guests offering wisdom and advice that might comfort you for about five minutes, until you return to your cold, dark house and the ghosts of your best-laid plans.
Then this interesting thing happened. This morning, I got an email linking to an article about the trickster archetype, complete with a brilliant quote by Joseph Campbell (given below). But it was the image of the Fool tarot card that got my attention. There I was, blithely walking toward a cliff edge, la la la, everything’s beautiful, as my clever little dog tries to get my attention and whoops! Splattered on the rocks below. WTF.
Almost all non-literate mythology has a trickster-hero of some kind. …And there’s a very special property in the trickster: he always breaks in, just as the unconscious does, to trip up the rational situation. He’s both a fool and someone who’s beyond the system. And the trickster represents all those possibilities of life that your mind hasn’t decided it wants to deal with. The mind structures a lifestyle, and the fool or trickster represents another whole range of possibilities. He doesn’t respect the values that you’ve set up for yourself, and smashes them. – Joseph Campbell
Well said, sir.
Here’s the thing. I won’t pretend to know what the universe is trying to tell me, here, if anything. But this experience did bring into focus the power of awareness. All the wailing and gnashing of teeth that comes up after a drive-by is designed for one thing and one thing only: to avoid feeling pain. This is a mystery, but if you drop all that and just feel it, really feel it, it will dissolve. In other words, you have to get in to get out.
So says the little dog, wise creature that he is.
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