I love getting emails from readers. Every single one of them touches my heart. And once in a while, I get one that especially moves me. Here’s a note that I really wanted to share.
Dear Mr. Konigsberg
I just finished your book and I have to say, what an amazing piece of art. I honestly have to say reading your book changed my life. I’m not gay, but I think you don’t have to be gay for this book to be inspiring. When I finished this, I was overcome by happiness. I honestly couldn’t tell you why, but I think it was because of all the honest sweetness in the book. It was happy and loving and beautiful and poetic. I’m sure that’s pretty weird to think, but that’s what I felt after reading your book. Also, Rafe made me think about myself. I tend to be really harsh on myself, for no reason. I have really self-destructive thoughts and I think things about myself that aren’t exactly healthy. I think I feel this sort of guilt, like I’m not contributing to the world, like I should feel bad that I’m not suffering alongside all the sufferers in the world. Its like I’m upset that I’m so happy, and I can’t figure out why. I’ve pondered this time and time again, and have come up with nothing. This is why I love your book. It made me realize that maybe I’m the one who’s always mean to me, that I should stop trying to someone I’m not, some superficial fake person who is afraid to be themselves. So thank you, Mr. Konigsberg, for writing your book, for anyone who was struggling to except themselves, gay or not. I don’t know if I got the message I was supposed to get from your book, but the one I got was a good one at that, and I couldn’t be more elated I had the experience of reading your book. So again, thank you.
If you didn’t get the intended message, I’d never admit it now, because the message you state here is so beautiful. I totally get where you’re coming from. Those voices in our heads can be terribly distracting. I’ve battled them for years. I’ll share with you a few things people have told me that have helped.
Before I do that, I want to say that you probably felt that way because of the stuff with the camera that Rafe talks about. Did you know that when I first brought up the camera (in the first line of the book), I didn’t actually know what I was doing with it? I didn’t understand how I, as an author, have trained my own camera on me for so long, and I didn’t get how that was related to the struggle Rafe was going through. So to paraphrase E.L. Doctorow, I started with nothing and learned as I went.
Here are four nuggets that have helped me battle those awful negative voices in my head. Maybe they will help you, too!
-Random acts of kindness.
Often when the voices in my head get loud and I start to get down on myself, I find that I really need to turn the voices off. The best way to do that is to focus my energy outward. About a month ago, I was having a tough day. Really tough, and it was all in my brain, me beating up me. Then I remembered a friend had told me once that the best thing to do when you’re upset is to do something for someone else. So I went to Mill Avenue in Tempe and bought lunch for two homeless people and got water for a homeless dog. And guess what? Voices gone!
This is a big one. All my life I’ve taken myself so seriously, as if the things in my life matter to the universe. There’s a moment in my first novel, Out of the Pocket, where Rahim is helping Bobby, who is upset. He points at the sky, and he says something like, “Look how small we are.” It’s not that our problems and issues don’t matter; they do matter. It’s our lives. But sometimes I need to remember that in the grand scheme of things, my problem is but a tiny pebble in the ocean.
-Laughing at myself.
And this is what I’m learning right now. If I don’t take myself and my thoughts so seriously, they lose their power. I’m just a guy with a crazy brain, and you are that way, and millions of us are that way. It’s beautiful, if you think about it. My book touched you because you sensed a kindred spirit. That’s wonderful. We’re all crazy, flawed, sweet kids trying to do our best, and that’s kinda funny if you think about it.
-Xena, Warrior Princess
This is a new one. I use Xena because the person who told me this was female. She said that when her voices and self-doubt and self-flaggelation came up, she closed her eyes and summoned her inner warrior. For her, it was Xena. She imagined this strong inner part of her, and then imagined that Xena bludgeoning an actual wall with any weapon she chose. That was is the wall of negativity in her life. It taught her that even if she has some negative voices, she has a lot of strength, too. I don’t have a male Xena yet, but I have imagined myself destroying that wall with a hammer. Try it sometime. It feels good, and no one gets hurt.
I hope this is useful! Just know you are truly not alone. And I’m so glad you loved the book! Just wait ’til next summer and The Porcupine of Truth! I think you’ll truly adore that one.