And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
I am struggling with how to write about the Moment this week. I have always been honest in the Moments, and at times, I’ve written about things that were uncomfortable for me. This week’s Moment brought about a quiet sense of happiness, but also an absolutely physical feeling of relief as an issue was lifted from my shoulders.
But how to talk about it?
It’s interesting to think about, because this week, in another Moment, I was invited into a high school classroom with kids who want to be writers. I appeared online, via the smartboard in their classroom. One of the kids read Today’s Moment Of Happiness Despite The News, the book published in 2018 which included the first year of this blog, when I wrote a Moment every single day. This student emailed me, telling me what the book meant to her, and in the classroom, she said that reading how I worked through my difficult Moments helped her get through hers. Then another student asked, “How did you get through them?”
And I explained how writing the Moments helped me to be more observant in my own world, in the life and air around me, in the events I was living through, in the sharing of my life with the lives of others. My kids. My family. My friends. My students and clients. Strangers on the street.
And now, here I am, wondering how to explain this Moment. Which is difficult.
So it’s well-known that I run my own business, AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop. It’s a studio and a community for writers at all ends of the career spectrum – just starting out with their first word, or writing their umpteenth book. The studio began with my having no knowledge on how to run a business, and it’s grown into an international community, filled with people that I consider a part of my writing family, people that I love.
Though every now and then, very, very rare, there’s an exception.
Over the years, the studio has grown into something that now provides for my family. I work no less than 85 hours a week, and I’ve done this for almost 17 years. Running this business is way more than just my walking into a classroom and teaching. I’ve had to learn so much. And I’ve learned it. I absolutely love what I do, even as I do so much of it.
So I had this client. He’s been my client for 8 months. At first, I really enjoyed working with him. His book was a challenge, he knew it was a challenge, and he listened and learned and applied what I was teaching him. And then his book went completely off the rails.
Slowly, the book became about justifying the abuse of women. It became about how men were completely innocent in this, and that actually, in his reality, abuse happened because women wanted it and coerced their men into abusing them.
Each week, I found my jaw dropping further. And each week, I tried to show him the error in his logic, in what wasn’t on the page, and that what was on the page wasn’t working.
Then his behavior toward me shifted. He became a bully. He became verbally abusive. And like in the book, where the abuse began to happen because women wanted it and coerced their men into doing it, he began to say that the fault with the book wasn’t what he was putting down on the page, it was with me. Because I am a woman.
And honestly? It took me a while to realize how much this was hurting me. How much this was shrinking me.
Now part of the hurt was flat down-to-earth practicality. The studio provides for my family. This student, who paid to have me work with him, was providing for my family. And so for awhile there, I took it. I took it because I wanted to help, as I want to help all writers. But I also took it because there are always bills to pay.
Our meeting last week was the worst. When I ran downstairs to meet my next client in the classroom, I did so in tears. Michael called after me, “I have never heard you sound so exasperated with a student!”
Exasperated really wasn’t what I was feeling. Or maybe, I was feeling exasperated with myself. Because I was beginning to see what was going on.
Over the weekend, there was a flurry of emails, each one putting me down, pushing me down, further and further. His final email ended with, “Well, let’s just get through it.” As if working with me was a chore, a difficult, difficult chore.
And bear in mind that “getting through it” meant getting through the rest of his already written over 800-page book – and we were only in the 300’s.
I didn’t sleep at all the night after that email. Not a bit. Around five in the morning, I dragged myself to my computer, booted it, and answered his email. I told him that we were no longer going to be working together. And that I would refund the balance of what he’d paid for – which was a year in advance of coaching.
This was not a small amount. It was a bite. And it was a bite into what provides for my family.
But his behavior was also a bite into me. And it’s me that provides for my family.
When I hit send on that email, I cannot even describe the feel of the weight off my shoulders. Off my body. Off my mind. Off ME. I didn’t know how weighted down I was, until I stepped back into myself and threw the weight away.
So it’s a bite. But I will find a way to provide. And I will be whole while I’m doing it.
After I told Michael what I’d done, he said, “I’m proud of you.”
I’m proud of me too.
(And for any students and clients who are reading this, no, I have never ever ever felt that way about any of you. That’s why it was hard to write this. You all need to know how very special you are.)
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.