I Do Have a New Year’s Resolution
I’ve hesitated to make New Year’s Resolutions in the past because of my poor record of living up to them, and this year seemed to be no exception. I changed my mind.
Last Sunday I signed up for the Writing Together workshop with the amazing author Nina LaCour in order to focus on my purpose and goals for the new year. We did a lot of freewriting and sharing, and I must admit I wasn’t one of the people who volunteered to share because the almost 200 attendees intimidated me. But I appreciated the insights of everyone who took a turn, and it made me think about what I need to focus on this year, when I have four books scheduled to come out along with adjusting to the sudden passing of my husband.
My goal — and it’s something I’ve always been reluctant to do in the past — is ASK FOR HELP.
I will do anything to avoid asking for help. I pride myself on my independence. I pride myself on helping others and not asking for anything in return. After all, it’s a purely generous gesture to do so, done out of sincere support and not for the desire to obtain favors.
And to be honest, I have a lot of trauma surrounding my asking for help. I experienced relentless bullying as a child and teenager, and when I asked adults for help, they blamed me. They told me to think hard about what I did, or didn’t do, that caused others to make fun of me, hurt me physically, or exclude me from their groups and activities. When I asked my peers to help me or include me, they took advantage of me. They left me worse off than I was before.
As an adult, I see what often happens when people ask for help. Help comes grudgingly, if at all. People look down on the supplicant. I admit that I have been among them, crossing the street to avoid people who are unhoused or asking for change. I do believe that it’s important to donate to organizations that can help, and to seek the kinds of structural changes that reduce or eliminate homelessness. Similarly, I appreciate organizations like We Need Diverse Books that have increased support and opportunities for BIPOC and other marginalized writers for young people. I have audited my own reading and reviewing to make sure that I give visibility to diverse voices.
Asking for help, though, is important to maintain community. When I taught seventh graders in a Reform Jewish Sunday school in Schenectady, our theme for each year was Kehillah Kedosha, the Sacred Community. In both history and ethics classes, we talked about the importance of giving tzedakah, charity or help. But, as I explained to my students, it’s also important to ask for help. You can’t give help to people who don’t ask for it. If no one asked for help and no one gave help, we would not be a community. We would be a collection of detached individuals. I also pointed out that in the sacred community, those who received help also gave it. Everyone gives to the best of their abilities.
For this reason, I ask for help not only because I need help at a difficult time, but also as a matter of principle. I can’t let my trauma control me. I can’t remain unattached. Just like my characters, such as JJ in Moonwalking and Tomáš and Lída in Torch, need to learn to connect with others, I do as well. So I will be asking for help with my books this year, help getting the word out so they can find their readers. My Books page has information on my past and forthcoming books, and I’ve added separate pages for both She Persisted: Temple Grandin and Moonwalking, my April 2022 releases. And I’d like you to show me how I can be a better citizen of the writing community as well.