Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Little Girl

I must be better. I'm writing again. Thanks to each of you for all the well wishes.

Some of you know I have written a career counseling book called "Good Work!" and have been working on the proposal to shop to publishers. But this is my 2nd book: the first was started now four or five years ago and put aside when I became discouraged by my agent's feedback.

This first book is on Happiness and it is the literary equivalent of the love of my life. This morning I revisited some pages I have not seen for quite some time. And for whatever reason, I've selected an excerpt. It begins a chapter called "Don't Turn On Yourself", one of ten principles for a happy life. I can vouch that every word of he story of the little girl is true:

“When will you have a little pity for every soft thing that walks
through the world, yourself included?” Mary Oliver

The little girl left for school every day wearing some derivative of a red plaid dress with a black pattern leather belt that matched her shoes and her folded down white cotton ankle socks. Every day, usually just before she arrived at school, and sometimes during recess, she threw up.
Every day she walked back home because she had soiled her dress or socks or coat, and on really bad days, everything.

When the little girl opened the back door and and stepped into the kitchen, her mother was there waiting, ready to hug her and tell her how brave she was. She helped her little daughter change into a set of fresh clothes that were already laid out on the back of the kitchen chair, and within five minutes, she was on her way back to school, where she was the teacher’s favorite and popular and comical among her peers.

The little girl is now a mother herself. She cannot imagine having the patience to clean vomit and prepare a second set of dress clothes every day. She loves her own daughter, but she cannot imagine this level of enduring patience. When she tells her friends about her childhood nervousness, she holds back tears as she says that her mother’s message—in word and deed—was that she was a courageous and strong little girl, never a shameful or difficult problem.

The little girl who is now an adult knows that this message resonates with her still, and maybe that is why she is able to take risks and engage in life even when she throws up.

Some Facts:
In a study on adult self-esteem, researchers found that people who are happy with themselves take defeat and explain it away, treating it as an isolated incident that indicates nothing about their ability. People who are unhappy take defeat and enlarge it, making it stand for who they are and using it to predict the outcome of future events (Brown and Dutton 1995).


  1. I started writing an anecdote in response to this but I am afraid I'd fill up your comments space.

    This is a nice piece KJ. You also write with a certain prose, rather poignant. An introspective piece.

    Maybe your agent was not a happy person. You should find another agent. If your stories are like the ones you posts here, people will read your book. Even those with restless minds stop to read your posts. I know so!

  2. Gosh. This is thought-provoking. *stumbles off, thinking*

  3. what a touching and encouraging story... i hope you will be able to publish your 1st book, i will certainly buy and read it.


  4. kj,
    this looks like a great post to repy to your question about my job… even though i have been extremely busy at work… with daunting deadlines… work is going exceptionaly well… the people are great and the job is challenging in a very fun way… it seems that week after week at the staff meetings, i am the only one who gets applause from the entire staff…

    to address what you are going through… hang in there… don't give up… even if your editor isn't thrilled with one aspect or another… there are always more editors and there are way more readers than editors so get your book out there… market it yourself… book some speaking engagements… do some readings and get people interested… a friend of mine did it with a book called the energy addict… and he got himself booked on the national morning news shows and finally got himself a big book deal… it can be done…

  5. KJ -- I really needed this this morning -- I'm not even sure what to write, other than, thank you! And, I wanna read BOTH your books!! :) xoxo

  6. thanks as always for the encouragement. i have the drive and persistence, so i'm in sync with michael's great advice.

  7. kj, the world needs your book. that is one of the most beautiful stories that I have heard in a very long time. and I agree with what ces has to say about your agent. maybe it just wasn't a good match. you probably already know that publishing isn't easy...but please don't give up! and thanks for the story this morning.

  8. Oh my God. This story made me cry. I've read some good stuff today as I catch up on my favourite blogs -- funny and touching and thought-provoking -- but this is the best of all. I got the message that I'm a happy person! And I felt a sense of kinship with that little girl. Thanks, kj.

  9. Wonderful piece.

  10. I think everyone should read what you have to say! Your writing is so compelling and important!