Hives, Rejections, And Other Irritations

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Picture it, a week ago: I’m seated at my office desk, so ready for the day to be over. It was Friday, I daydreamed of lazily lounging at home all weekend and wanted nothing more than to be away from people. I was exhausted, cranky, and spent into the negative range of my energy levels. But it was Friday after all, I had reached the end of the week. Surely nothing wrong could happen?

Let’s all laugh at my cute naivety . All together now! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

You see, it didn’t take long for my day to go awry. All it took was missing breakfast but trying to be healthy. That’s right, friends, my bad decision was the choice to be healthy. Stay with me now and you’ll see why!

My stomach began to rumble, hollowed out with nothing but half a mug of sweetened coffee ingested before running out the door for work. Luckily, or so I thought, I had a box of 100-calorie packs of mixed nuts to snack on. Trying to be better about what I eat, I had purchased them only that very week. I figure, I’ll eat one of those and it’ll keep me full till lunch. Now, get ready to laugh again…

Within a span of five minutes, I sat down at my desk after chatting with a coworker right next to me. I grabbed the bag and ripped it open, poured a couple of handfuls of almonds, cashews, and dried cranberries, and snacked unsuspectingly away. See, I had no reason to be wary of this snack; I had been snacking on the same brand of almonds the months before and dried cranberries had been a favorite snack of mine for years (I used to eat the Oceanspray Craisins by the bag). The only stranger?

Cashews. Blasted cashews.

See, I haven’t consumed any of those devious nuts since childhood, which back then I thought they were gross and never really touched them to begin with. They’re those nuts that no one really uses in many recipes, unlike peanuts or almonds or walnuts. But without a single food allergy recorded in my family, I’m not one to question whether I should eat something or not.

I should have.

Within that five minute span of sitting and snacking, a heat began to spread up my neck and flourish against my right cheek. I thought, “Huh, that’s weird. What’s that heat flushing my skin?”

Itching began to creep down my arms, a similar heat flaring beneath my underarms and against my chest. Removing my jacket, I see a large patch of red blaring down my upper arms and into the bend of my elbows. I’ve seen this kind of breakout before, when I slept in a hotel with sheets washed in the cheapest detergent, causing an allergic breakout.

I get up, walk back to my coworker, and ask, “Hey, do I look okay?”

His jaw nearly drops at the sight of me. “Um, no, you don’t. You’re all red! Seriously, you were just talking to me and looked fine! What did you do?!”

“I don’t know!” Another coworker saw and rushed me some antihistamine medicine. Another marked the growing rash on my arms, a fresh outbreak of hives, to make sure we could see if it would spread. In an hour, I would be at the urgent care down the street receiving a steroid IV to stop a steady cough I gained and a pressure weighing on my chest.

My husband has been bit by a water moccasin snake, a black widow spider, been struck by lightning, and electrocuted by a ground cable he dug into, yet is healthier than ever. Me? I try to be healthy and nearly died! What cold cruelty is that?!

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I’m fine now, and luckily I didn’t swell up like Will Smith in Hitch, but the day felt overpowered by the quick medical visit and the exhaustion that hit after so much medicine thrummed through my blood and by the end of the day I was ragged. The steroid pills I was prescribed would keep me up the entire weekend accompanied by horrible night sweats whenever I did manage to sleep. I felt like my body was revolting obscenely and all I did was eat a healthier snack! Next time, I obviously should go for the candy machine! (Nah, just maybe dried fruit next time instead).

What else is enough to make my skin itch? Lately, I’ve been receiving constant rejections left and right for my short stories. I mean a lot of rejections. Almost one a day (not as fun as the gummy vitamins, you know?). Sometimes, I don’t even remember sending my work into certain journals or magazines. I just open an email and see that dreaded sentence every writer becomes overwhelmingly familiar with:

“Dear (insert your name), thank you so much for your submission and showing your interest in (insert diabolical magazine/publisher here). Although I found your piece interesting, I’m afraid it is not what we looking for to publish at this time. Thank you for your submission. We wish your work all the success.”

Know it, read it, bleed it, love it. The words are a twist of a dulled fountain pen messily jabbed into my chest. Anymore, when the wound is teased and bleeds fresh, I wish I could say it hurts less but the sting still throbs. That’s what writers and all artists do for their art; we suffer and then go through it willingly over and over again. I mean, you could stop submitting but then you’ll never get an acceptance letter.

Don’t fret, though; breaking through to the current market is the biggest struggle, right after editing of course. It never really gets easier but you do grow a thicker skin to the brutal razors of rejection and denial. Think of it this way; any author or writer that’s made it big has been rejected countless times. If you’re still able to count your rejections, you haven’t made it halfway through the journey yet. It’s rare for a writer to find success before then, and if you have, you’re a rare breed with unbelievable luck! Sometimes it takes catching the right eye at the right time. There’s no way to know this, though, much like there’s no way to know you’re allergic to a freaking cashew before you eat two handfuls of them.

Don’t feel defeated! I did for a long time, creating a deflated sag in my writing timeline, but my husband, who did acting for a long time, described the numerous times he’d go to auditions to stand in line for literally hours that dragged by with hundreds of experienced and talented actors vying for the same role. Sometimes he’d lose it to just one other person, and “other times,” he said, “I’d walk in, the casting director would look at me and say ‘no, sorry, you’re not the right look for this but thanks, next!'” He wouldn’t even get to audition; just his looks could set him back, completely beyond his control.

We all struggle, we all get dragged through the gravel and broken glass. After all, our work is our words, our emotions, a tender piece that is as precious as a child. We hold them up and get told “No, that’s alright, I don’t want it,” and think “Oh, god, is my child ugly? Hideous? What’s wrong with it?”

Nothing. I assure you, nothing is wrong with your work. It really is all about finding the right publisher or agent who find promise in the chapters, the characters, or a strong plot. We’ve all come across books that are so bizarre or so poorly constructed we wonder “How in the Hell did you get someone to say yes?” Look up a few of the weirdest books and be assured if they can be published, you undoubtedly can too.

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Keep reading and writing, lovelies! Have a great week!

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