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Pickle Me This

June 11, 2019

We Need Each Other

This week in a blog post, Carrie Snyder made a note about her discomfort in receiving, and if her post had been a page in a book, I would have underlined the entire passage and made an annotation in the margin: YES!! But it’s strange for me, because I’m never expecting to feel this way. My instinct is to feel absolutely entitled to everything…until it arrives and then I want to sit under the table and hide. So that the two choices the end up available to me are between not getting what I want and being dissatisfied (and angry and resentful), or getting what I want and feeling tremendously uncomfortable. (“The one great thing about having your book rejected is that at least you don’t have to go through the agony of publishing a book,” is a thing that I’ve said lately.)

Launching Briny Books last week was a million times less stressful than launching a book—and I have so enjoyed learning more about marketing and the opportunity to market something that is less connected to me personally. (I am ridiculously sensitive, although I am working on it always, but the most 2019 emo thing about me is that every time someone unsubscribes from my newsletter, my feelings are hurt.) It’s been fun and exciting and I’ve been so pleased that others seems to find the idea (which is a pretty simple one) as compelling as I do. Getting comments on Facebook (and sales too!) from people who I don’t know and/or who are unconnected with my mom seems significant. My mom commands a vast and powerful social network, to which I have to thank for a sold-out book launch awhile back, but moving beyond the plane of her influence seems next-level to me.

But moving beyond would not be possible if not for my mom, and my friends, whose support of the project was overwhelming and amazing, even if it did make me want to hide under the table. The support of my husband too, who has devoted more labour than anyone else to the project, with web design and photography. To me, this entire experience has underlined the power and possibilities of collaboration and community. I am so grateful to everyone I know and love who purchased books and helped spread the work in their own networks. I continue to be overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of people I’ve never met except on Instagram or through my blog, people in whose lives and experiences I’ve found myself become so invested, and who are incredible champions of the stuff I get up to. To my friends, who never show it if they’re tired of showing up for me, and all week I kept thinking, “What did I ever do to deserve all this goodness?” That there are people out there like you.

My favourite thing about Briny Books is that partnership is at the heart of it, though that’s primarily because it’s always my objective to make things as simple as possible. Sure, it’s great to support to independent bookstores in principle, but in practice too, there’s a lot going for the idea. They know how to sell books for one, as in bring in copies from the distributor and then ring the order through the till. Possibly my greatest strength as an entrepreneur is an openness to outsourcing—which comes of my greatest weakness as an entrepreneur, which is having no money. But what a thing, to put our strengths and passions together. I know that having Blue Heron as a partner in Briny Books has done good things for our reputation—and I know too that Blue Heron’s willingness to pursue a project like Briny Books is how they got their reputation in the first place, for ever pursuing fresh and creative ways to connect books with readers. And bringing books to readers is a kind of partnership too. In a community of readers, books connect us all.

Maybe what I’m trying to get at here is how surprised I am at the revelation that my reliance upon other people is actually a kind of strength, instead of its opposite.

(Even though once upon a time, I thought this reliance was something I must necessarily defy, possibly because I spent my formative years reading too many books by men, and that was when I was 23 and ran away to Europe with a backpack in order to discover myself—but the only thing I would discover was abject loneliness and a propensity for crying in phone booths.)

But perhaps reframing receiving in these terms—of strength and community—is what’s necessary to help me work through the discomfort of receiving. What if it’s receiving care and support from others that makes us our truest selves? As Briellen Hopper writes in her essay, “Lean On,” “I experience myself as someone formed and sustained by others’ love and patience, by student loans and stipends, by the kindness of strangers.”

My friend Ann Douglas has been writing a lot about community lately and inspiring so much of my own thinking, and I appreciate what she said in this piece about thinking of community as a resource instead of a burden. “The more you turn to other people for support, the more you give them the opportunity to support you, which feels really good to the other person,” she explains. Which is true: I remember one day a few months back, Ann reached out to me for something, and I felt so buoyed by being called upon, by having something to offer.

Similarly, I have a very generous and kind neighbour who is forever bringing us gifts and doing us favours, and the best email I ever received from him was the day he needed to use my printer. When you get to help out your neighbour, you’re also contributing to making a world in which people help their neighbours happen. Bad news though: he did use our printer, but has since approached me with a problem that he’s having, which is that he has too much beer, but wasn’t sure if we liked beer, so he’d felt uncomfortable bringing bottles over.

I am beginning to accept that I will never outdo this person when it comes to kindness and generosity…

But maybe it was never a contest anyway?

2 thoughts on “We Need Each Other”

  1. Joan Frances Clare says:

    Love my girl..

  2. Ann Douglas says:

    I love this blog post and I love your commitment to community — to building community, to celebrating community, and to being there for the people in your community.

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