Thursday, May 14, 2015

Your voice DOES sound like that, but it's okay.

Yesterday, I had a near-death experience. It made me think about a lot of stuff. This is pretty erratic. You've been warned.

When I was a kid, my parents were hard on us. They expected certain things that most parents do: respect, good grades, honesty, responsibility. There was another unspoken expectation that no one outwardly acknowledged, but we all knew existed: Perfection. I'm not beating up my parents. They did the best they could with the tools they had to raise us into productive members of society, and I don't hold them accountable--anymore--for my shortcomings. I beat myself up instead.

As a young mom, I was super hard on Chloe. I didn't get on her about her weight or hair color, as my mom had done with me, but I pushed her to excel at everything she did. When she was about 15, and I witnessed the crazy high standard of excellence she imposed on herself, I realized that I had instilled in her not only a drive to succeed, but also a drive to be perfect. I really beat myself up about that. I still do sometimes.

Beating myself is something I have excelled at for decades. When I was very little, I was frightened by my dad's yelling, but I quickly learned that I could be just as mean and scary by yelling and saying mean things. I also learned that when you say mean things to yourself, it doesn't hurt nearly as much when other people say those things. Since I'd told my 100 pound 13-year-old self how fat I was, my mother's admonishments that I "didn't have the eating habits of a thin person," went in one ear and out the other.

Still, I am a world-class champion when it comes to being hard on myself. It makes me laugh sometimes when people say or write derogatory things about me. Sticks and stones, pal; I've said way worse to myself.

My quest for self-awareness threatens to be pathological at times. My husband says, "Baby, you're too hard on yourself." My girlfriends say, "You're a good person." My kids say, "You're the best mom." My mental health professional friend says, "Try not to overthink your parenting." I read and pray and try but still continue the complicated cha-cha of self-acceptance and self-improvement.

Today, however, I had a revelation taking P to school. Revelations often happen in the car, and I hear Anne Lamott advising, "Writers always have a pen and paper handy to write these things down." And I do, Annie, I do, but I'm driving!! So, I open the notes app, press the little microphone and blurt out my revelation as fast as I can before it gets lost in the great abyss of nonsense I fret about.

Then I come home, make a wonderful cup of coffee and sit down to write an encouraging piece based on this revelation. But I open my notes app and it says: "All of thenthings we thought made us unlocks let." What the fuck does that mean? Read it again...slower this time... "All of thenthings we thought made us unlocks let."

You know when you hear your voice on a recording and think I don't sound like that? Well, I do sound like that (my recorded voice is high-pitched and childlike, not at all sexy and ScarJo as I envision it) and evidently, I don't speak in complete thoughts but weird fragments of ambiguity instead. That. Just. Figures.

Now, if you're still here, I promise I'm going to get to the point. Or at least a point. Sometimes, Brad asks me, "What made you think of that?" And I give him a long complicated story such as the dog was dreaming of running and the way her toenails clicked on the floor reminded me of tap dancing which made me think of Chloe in her only dance recital and how she stood in one position tapping her heel in a little purple costume and the sequins scattered all over my car which reminded me that I used to pick up sequins off the floor at Joann Fabrics when I went there with my mom and she took me to the dairy queen after but wouldn't let me get a peanut buster parfait like I wanted and made me get a small chocolate cone. I hate chocolate cones. It's so exhausting to be in my head for even one minute, you guys.

Anywayyyyyyy, my revelation was this: Sometimes the people in our lives who are "supposed to" love us fall short. Our parents, siblings, you know...the blood people. When this happens, God, or the Universe, whatever you believe--personally, I think we quibble more on semantics than actual beliefs--provides other people. These people love us not because they are "supposed to" but because they choose to. They look beyond our brokenness and imperfections, our past mistakes and current shortcomings and actually see us. These are the friends who encourage us, the partners who forgive us, the kids who adore us. They are the ones who look at all the things that we thought made us unlovable (that is what the illogical fragment meant, btw) and see instead what made us so special and unique.

This past week, I've been on self-help reading overload. I've mined my childhood for memories of my mom and dad and found both delightful and disturbing ones. I've written personal mission statements and examined what annoys me about other people and how those traits manifest in me. I told Brad this morning that I was really tired, and I'm beginning to realize why. So today, I'm going to smile, relax and be kind to people. Starting with myself. And you too.

6 comments:

  1. I learned early on that if I wanted to avoid the brutality of what our parents called parenting that I simply had to be harder on myself than either of them could be. That might spare me a beating. It's why to this day my ego is like a Janus coin: either the Golden God or Reek from GoT.

    You should really take it easier on yourself.

    I love you.

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  2. I so needed to hear this today. Thank you. Made me feel loved just reading it.

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    1. Thanks, Kaleroy! I love reading your about your adventures in India. I am never able to comment :/

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  3. Mary ,I connect with all your blogs , your a amazing writer, I have note books / journals full of events and memories good and bad that's stuck in my head but maybe afraid to share just yet , your very brave and you definitely seem good hearted don't be so hard on yourself, but I do get it I'm the same way there's no other way. Have a blessed day.

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    1. Hope, you know the most encouraging comment that I hear is "Me too." Writing is my way of trying to deal with what happen/s/ed, and I share sometimes not because I think I have things figured out, but because I am constantly seeking and trying. Thank you so much for reaching out. It is so reassuring to know others identify and understand. I would encourage you to be kind to yourself today and every day ❤️

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