Monday, April 1, 2013

"Do You Love Me Even If...?"

I started an odd tradition back in high school.

Every morning before a big test, I would track down my mom and have the following conversation:

Me: Hey mom?

Mom: (Distractedly trying to feed the dog/eat breakfast/unload the dishwasher, etc.) What Marni?

Me: love me, right?

Mom: Of course I love you, Marni. Where is this coming from?

Me: Youʼre going to love me even if I royally tank on my math test, right? Mom: (Rolls her eyes) Yes, Marni. Iʼm still going to love you.

Me: Promise? Because I really think Iʼm going to fail this one.
Mom: YES! I will love you even if you fail all of your math tests, Marni.

Me: Uh, good. Because thatʼs, yʼknow . . . entirely possible.

And then I would wrap my arms around her in a tight hug before I squared my shoulders and headed off to school. I think my mom expected my little tradition would be a phase Iʼd eventually outgrow. But much to her chagrin, throughout college those particular phone calls kept coming. I simply substituted “math test” for “physics exam” or “senior thesis paper.” The rest of the conversation stayed exactly the same.

Just for the record, I donʼt actually doubt the constancy of my momʼs love. I keep asking because there is a kind of magic that happens when I hear the specific words spoken aloud.

In hindsight, I think my do-you-love-me-even-if tradition played a large role in shaping my writing career. It helped me battle my fear of failure.

And yes, there were times when I failed spectacularly. Socially and academically.
I hear you, Bridget!
My high school and college years are packed with assignments where I failed to meet both my standards and those of my professors.

There were times when I also lowered my standards until they dragged the ground.

I remember dancing all the way back to my dorm room when I discovered that a D was a passing grade for my Physics class. My professor was less than impressed when I literally busted a move in his office upon hearing that I had barely squeaked by on his torturous final exam.

I laughed off his refusal to high-five me for such a dismally low score.

My mom loved me.

Sheʼd told me so herself right before I took the stupid test.

The cool part is that by giving me her permission to fail she also gave me the confidence to succeed. My mom is the one who taught me that report cards canʼt measure enthusiasm.

I have never once regretted the hours I spent photoshopping Ellen DeGeneres into my family photos.
I donʼt regret inappropriately groping a statue for my college art class.
And I definitely donʼt regret about opening myself up to ridicule by putting the stories in my head down on paper.
But it was by far the hardest task of them all.

Writing is personal.

For months--maybe even years--we live with a cast of characters nobody else can see. We think about them in the shower, we spend hours obsessing over their love lives in coffee shops, we cry over their heartbreaks, and sometimes we squeeze our eyes shut at night and hope they will find a way to haunt our dreams as well.

At least thatʼs the way it works for me.

Sometimes writing feels like so much more than a job. There are days when I become overwhelmed with a sense of obligation to do right by these fictitious people who are trusting me with their stories nonetheless. They are entirely dependent on me and sometimes--despite having the very best of intentions--I fail them.

There are the days when I stare blankly at my computer screen and brace myself for the Goodreads skewering that I can see looming on the horizon.

Thatʼs when I reach out to my writer friends. I drink an extra cup of coffee. I look for the humor in the situation. I dance to whatever strikes my fancy. And I remind myself that my mom will love me even if I get nothing but one-star reviews.

Then I get back to work.



Melissa Landers said...

I love this post! Not only will our moms still love us when we get one-starred, they'll secretly want to track down and throttle the reviewer. That's devotion, right there. ;)

Jennifer McAndrews said...

Marni, can you please photoshop Ellen into some of my family photos?

seriously, this is a great post and an excellent reminder of how those who love us, love us unconditionally

CareyCorp said...

Great post Marni. You mom sounds like she rocks! (and don't sweat the one-star reviews. they simply mean you are a real author) ;)