I’m in a dark place. Leave it to me to be so direct, right?
Post-publication depression, or at least angst, is a thing. I’ve been talking with a few authors lately who recently debuted, and it seems like all of us struggle with some kind of reaction in the pub day wake. I’m not just talking about sales figures and earning back advances though that can obviously be an enormous part of it. Some struggle with landing the second book deal, or writing the second book without feeling like a fraud, or sadness that the recently published book didn’t garner the attention they’d hoped. The common thread I’ve found is that our expectations for better or worse didn’t totally match the ultimate outcome – of course they didn’t, because when you publish a book for the first time, you have no idea what to expect.
For me, post-launch is a world of contradictory juxtapositions. I’m reading as many letters from readers who have shared my experiences as I thought I would, but the weight of their words and their stories is heavier than I expected. I feel helpless. I feel helpless especially when my go-to activism involves selling this memoir with which often people are hesitant to engage. It’s a “hard story” after all, and most people prefer a celebrity memoir or the intellectual equivalent. (That is, if they are part of the minority in America who even reads in the first place.) It’s almost as if the more readers share their reactions to Caged Eyes, and tell me it is a book that has changed them, the more frustrated I get that there aren’t more readers and I can’t compete with the like of Fifty Shades of Grey. Please, America, put down the books which re-entrench the problematic of our culture and pick-up books that tackle social problems (not just mine).
I had no clue that after the launch of my memoir, I’d feel this helpless.
See? Dark place.
Good news: From my suburban neighborhood, I can watch the snow melt from the high Rockies. Mountain running season is coming, my friends! Enter, my vice of choice. When life gets rough, I run away. I’m a four-year old throwing her hands on her hips and stomping and packing a backpack filled with cookies and popsicles and stuffed koalas and zebras.
Come June, I’ll pack the back of my XTerra with sleeping bags, coolers, and shoes. I’ll pick a trail – sometimes at random – and sleep under the stars. I’ll run in the mornings, soak my legs in alpine creeks in the afternoon, and then cozy up in the back seats of my XTerra to break out the laptop for a few minutes in the evening to continue to promote Caged Eyes and finish writing Alpenglow, it’s sequel. Then I’ll chose a different trail, no matter the distance or altitude, and do it all over again. I’ll come home when I want a shower and a decent meal. Or when I miss that guy I live with.
My first trail running race of the year is June 3rd, a 50K. My second and biggest race of the year is August 11th, Fat Dog 120, a 200K race through British Columbia. In between the two races, I’ll run so many miles my legs will at some point seem to detach from my hips, and it’s going to be awesome. I’ll cherish the feeling of every muscle cramp and filthy toe. I have training runs planned in all of the major Colorado mountain ranges: the San Juans, the Elks, the Sangres, plus runs planned in Wyoming including the Teton Crest Trail.
Some people confuse this little vice of mine with something bigger or better than it is. Trust me, it isn’t anything but escapism, no doubt about it. Complete reckless abandon for social conventions or what might be considered reasonable. The other night when I couldn’t sleep, rather than counting sheep I counted miles of planned runs, and I reached over 600 before September. Ha! It’s funny when I put it like that. Bring on the arnica and protein. Hang in there legs; don’t quit on me now.
I don’t run 100-mile ultras because I think it’s good for my health. (They aren’t.) I run them because putting that many trail miles in during the summer months is the only way I can keep surviving this thing called life. Mountain running is sometimes the only thing that makes me feel like the world is an okay place. Immersing myself in all of those alpine basins will relieve the weight of the stories I’m hearing from readers. Bonding with my running partners up there in the high country tweaks my depressive thoughts. They become less, “I hate the world and everyone in it,” and more, “There are ugly parts of this world and beautiful parts. There are horrible people and wonderful ones. I don’t hate the world; I just hate the particular angle at which it spins.”