Last Thursday I sent Andrew Solomon an email and a Mint Leaf of a poem. I was feeling beyond shy, full of doubt and bold all at the same time. Today, he wrote back.
Here are the letters:
Mr. Solomon –
There’s no way for me to overstate your influence on my thinking around issues of depression and disability. I read Far From the Tree when my son was just four. He has Down Syndrome and I still struggle with being a strong and loving presence for a boy who in many ways I don’t understand. Still, his vulnerability unseats me.
I’m writing to you to express my gratitude. I am also writing by way of introduction. I began my writing life as a poet and, after Cassius was born, I began a book. What had its origin as a sweet rhapsody on parenting turned into a book on raising a child with a disability. Then a personal tsunami hit. It’s taken me five years to recover and now, the book is nearly done.
I’m ridiculously hopeful, with all your success and the pulls that come with it, that you’ll see this email. I’m equally hopeful that I may ask you to read the book before it comes out. In my attempt to be brief, I’m not speaking of the tsunami but I’ll simply say that it shaped me in ways that only falling into the underworld can. I feel lucky to have made it out alive.
I will also speak to the high dream of doing a Ted Talk with you some day. Oh, I’m bold on this Thursday!
I have much to say about how my son influenced my humanity. It has come out in both poetry and prose and if I am fortunate, Dear Little Fish will find publication and many eyes to see it.
Feel free to look at my Website in the ample amount of spare time that you as a father, writer and lecturer undoubtedly have. You will get a sense of me there, and the poem Mint Leaf for David Foster Wallace was written when Cassius was two. Know also that the site was created pre-tsunami. Much has happened since then.
Regardless, know that your work has touched and shaped me in the deepest of ways. Thank you for that. A million times, thank you.
With deepest gratitude,
(HERE’S WHAT MR. SOLOMON WROTE BACK. HE DID NOT, AS I’D HOPED, INVITE ME TO JOIN HIM IN A TED TALK. BUT HE WROTE BACK. HE’S KIND AND GENEROUS AND I’LL TAKE KIND AND GENEROUS ANY DAY.)
Thank you so much for your very kind letter. I am glad my work has helped you. I am terribly overcommitted at the moment and cannot take on any new assignments. But I wish you great good luck with your book, and continued strength and courage.
That was it.
I whooped and then felt the fire of doubt. I am working to extinguish doubt and the Gollum (that nasty little Lord of the Rings slime guy) that sits at my back flinging matches.
Being an artist/writer in the US is not an easy task. Doubt and uncertainty are part of the package and working toward courage at every heart offering is essential.
And boy-o, do I need courage. My Kickstarter launches October 28th and I feel like my heart is beginning a slow climb from my chest to my throat.
This is my first Kickstarter (those of you who’ve done it – huzzah! You rock!) and I’m just a little terrified. My aim is to support the final stage of writing Dear Little Fish, that book has been five years in the making. It’s the biggest heart offering of my life and in stepping up this way, I’m encountering every bit of fear and doubt that still clings like mucky shadows inside of me.
Gollum will continue with his matches. He’s part of the shadow and the muck and the fire. It’s his job.
I will continue spraying water on his head and writing my ass off. May we all- every damn one of us – extinguish our own personal doubtfires. And if we can’t extinuish them, let’s just tell them to sit in the corner and zip it for a while.
I mean, really.
We have work to do.