I got the email about the review rate cut while on vacation. I decided to put thinking about it on hold, maybe let my deeper, wiser self work on it while I looked at Texas antiques, ate cowboy barbecue, and cried by the side of the road next to the X that marks the spot where JFK was shot.
What really got me about that place was the window of the book depository from where the sniper shot. It has never been closed, but is still open just those few inches it takes to stick the barrel of a gun out and ruin a man, a family, a nation. You know what? I really don’t want to talk about my silly job thing now. It is so unimportant next to the death of a president.
I cried twice that day standing out there on Elm Street; once when I saw the two Xs on the road and again when I looked up at the window. We didn’t take pictures. We didn’t linger long. It was a walk I’d wanted to take, but it wasn’t something I enjoyed.
Martha Beck calls necessary but painful times like my afternoon on Elm Street “walking through the ring of fire.” I’m not sure why, but I couldn’t leave Dallas without seeing the scene of that horrific crime. Beck says doing tough stuff burns off the “shallows.” In my case, that might be the shallowness of a tourist: buying things like miniature beer bottles filled with something called beer salt and hunting down a pink “Don’t Mess With Texas” t-shirt. I also tried on a cowboy hat and acquired a southern accent. The shallows.
Entering the ring of fire, I finally told my husband about the review rate cut last night. He thinks the price of my writing is beyond rubies, so he was upset on my behalf. I was glad to let him be since I’ve been putting off dealing with the whole thing, putting off feeling bad about it, putting off making a decision about staying or going. He didn’t give me any advice; he knew it was my decision to make. I still didn’t know what to do when I woke up this morning.
On the one hand, it’s really insulting to be told that your words are now worth exactly half of what they used to be. It hurts my pride and my pocketbook and my barely articulated hope of moving up to bigger and better things at the magazine. On the other hand, I love to read and I love to write and being on staff at a magazine is a life-long dream.
One of the exercises Martha suggests in Steering by Starlight is to make a visual map of where you want your life to go next. When I came across that exercise this morning, I looked at the bulletin board over my desk, which is where I typically arrange such collages. It was almost empty, awaiting a proper collage for Rose and Belinda.
Since I had a bunch of magazines ready to rip apart for appropriate images, I decided to make Beck’s pictorial star chart. I love it! And something I noticed almost immediately is that I already have one of the things I am longing for…a job writing for a magazine. I went downstairs and checked inside my front door. Like a sign sent directly from my star chart, there was a book waiting for me to review. Deadline’s May 30. I need to get reading.