The large auditorium was filled with tables, every table was filled with books, and every book was filled with words. My two sons and I wandered about, picking and browsing our way through it all. We had been at the Park City Library book sale for about twenty minutes when it happened.
“Dad, come here,” Caleb said, his hand reaching out and pulling lightly on my arm.
I turned, and found myself facing a familiar and very formidable enemy: Self-Doubt.
Caleb’s presence crackled beside me as I reached out and picked a copy of my own book, “West of Independence” from the table of books in front of us. It felt heavy in my hand, so much so that the bones in my forearm threatened to snap under its weight. My heart dropped into my gut, and the air around me grew thick with the syrup of dread. I suddenly found it difficult to breath.
“Bad enough to see it here, but please don’t let it be the library’s copy,” I prayed without words as I peeled back the cover.
It wasn't, but that did little to keep my spirit from slipping further down the treacherous slope of failure towards the dark and depressive despair waiting below.
Standing beside me was one of my biggest fans, one of the four living people that I hate to disappoint. In the long moment that followed, I wondered what it meant for Caleb to watch me pluck my work from a library book sale table; did he feel sorry for me? Would this be the moment that changed forever the way he felt about his father? Was I as much a failure in his eyes as I was in mine?
I swallowed hard and said aloud with feigned confidence, “Someone must have read it, and then donated it to the library for the book sale. That’s nice.”
I stuck the book between two large hardcovers that I had already picked from another table. I didn't want anyone to see my picture on the back cover and feel sorry for me.
“Are you going to buy it?” Caleb asked.
“Sure, why not? I’ll buy it and sell it to someone else, or your mom can send it to someone for a review,” I answered, turning away so that my son would not see the forced optimism in my eyes.
I wandered in and out of the tables, trying to ignore the heavy burden I carried with me. Within the short course of a few minutes, I had rifled through piles of my favorite authors, looking for anything they had written that I hadn't read.
And then it hit me…I was rifling through books written by my favorite authors, in the same book sale where my son had found a copy of mine! I felt my self-worth claw its way back to the top of that slippery slope and up over the edge. Exhausted, he lay on his back and sucked in the sweet air of victory.
Between the three of us, we picked out two bags of books. Together we made our way to the checkout table, where a woman offered to help us tally what we owed. I emptied the first bag and handed over the stack of books.
“Do you have to pay for it if you wrote it?” I asked, a joke in my tone.
“Oh? Did you write one of these?”
“Yes, I wrote that one,” I said, pointing at “West ofIndependence.”
“Oh my, I've been reading about you, and I have been wanting to read this!” The woman exclaimed, dropping my fellow authors onto the table so that she could cradle my work in her hands.
“Well, that’s kind of you to say, let me buy it and I will give it to you,” I offered.
“Oh, no, I want to buy it. Would you sign it for me?”
So I did. With my sons watching.
Suck it, Self-Doubt.