Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Growing up

Strength from thr Rider-White Tarot Deck

I’ve managed to avoid my computer for over a week, telling myself that I was on vacation, that I was celebrating my daughter’s birthday and seeing my family again.

But in truth, I was just getting rusty. Rusty and cranky. So this entry may be disjointed, may make no sense. So be it. I need to turn the wheel somehow, need to enter this space again.

During this self-imposed computer and blog fast, I have been reading a lot. Reading books chosen on a whim, at random, but that all seem related and giving me the same message.

I found myself slipping back into old patterns this week, around my family and my in laws. I was so anxious to please them, so quick to agree, to smile even when I didn’t feel like doing it. I became subservient, the eternal little sister, youngest daughter.

It occurs to me that I am tired of feeling that way. Of being that way. But I am not sure how to change it.

What does it mean to be a grown up woman? For years, I resisted the idea of becoming a grown up, equating it with a life of nittygrit, setting tables and making dinners and paying the mortgage and changing diapers. My passion for literature would have to be put away and I would have to be consumed with "real life."

And now I do all of those things, but I still don’t feel like a grown up. I still feel like I am masquerading in this role, like I need to apologize for being me, for taking up people’s time, for taking up space. I speak in a hushed, high voice, begging for a scrap of approval. I lie and sneak around my house like a child, afraid of being punished or accused of "wasting time" with my writing and my reading. I am tentative. I have no authority.

This is not what I want to model to my daughter.

One of the books I just finished reading, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd, calls this being a daughter in your mind—unable to step into a central role in your own life. To take yourself seriously. When I read that, something inside me went "click." I don’t make myself central to my own life, and so I revolve around everyone else and what they will think. My parents. TEG. I don’t win a lot of arguments around here because I can never seem to convince myself, or anyone else, that what I want is worth having. That my ideas have value.

So I give in, because I don’t make the money, because my parents are older, because I should respect my in laws, because I am afraid of taking on the responsibility of sticking to my ideals—what if I am wrong?

So I give in, and then I seethe, dream about grabbing Madam and escaping to a place where no one knows that I used to be dutiful, that I used to look wistfully at people doing the most ordinary things—living alone, getting tattoos, going back to school—and feel completely ineffectual and inept.

But of course I don’t do that.

So the question remains—how to be a grown up woman?

Lately, I have been looking for mentors—women writers who have managed to produce work and live creatively even with small children. I discovered a book called The Writer at Her Work and have been devouring the encouraging essays by such writers as Joan Didion and Anne Tyler. And yes, some of them have children and talk about the ways that being mothers helped and hindered their process. But I was struck by something else in their voices—a certain clear-eyed confidence in the power of their own minds, in the value of their own thoughts. Many of them were around my age when they were first published, or when they wrote the essays in the book. These women were, are, clearly adults—clearly in control. Clearly equals in their own relationships, in their own lives.

Reading them, absorbing their voices, shook me. I’m 33, and a mother, and I can’t claim the same power over my own life. And I’m angry. I’m angry at TEG for his often-cutting belittling comments. I’m angry with my parents for discounting all of my accomplishments and focusing on my failures. I’m angry with my siblings for bossing me around even now and trying to keep me in my place as their little sister. But most of all, I am angry with myself for arresting my own development—for avoiding responsibility and power and strength and adulthood for so long. And for trying to please everyone and smile and sidle along inoffensively, even when I know that I can think. I can lead. I can write.

I am tired of insincerity, of my endless givens, of begging for scraps from the grown up table. I am tired of being secondary, subservient, and overlooked. I feel as though I need to finally feel strong and be strong in order to really come into my creative voice—to be able to withstand criticism and ridicule.

Forget my inner child. I am discovering that in order to be a writer, I need to become a grown up. A woman.


Blogger deirdre said...

Well, that didn't read rusty at all. Your voice is strong and should be heard.

12:51 AM, July 20, 2006  
Blogger Ally Bean said...

people have little interest in helping you change. it's too much work for them to get to know the new, real you, so they try to stop you from being different. at least, that's been my experience.

you're not alone in your desire to manifest a new you, but the support doesn't come from those that have known you in the past. it comes from those who you will know in the future. or at least, that's how it worked out for me.

(clear as mud here, i suppose.)

6:36 AM, July 20, 2006  
Anonymous Marilyn said...

A powerful post. For some reason, the quote I quoted yesterday (which had been quoted in someone else's post) came to mind...from the book "Art & Fear": "...fears about yourself prevent you from doing your best work, while fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your OWN work." The voice I hear in this post is of a woman who's READY to do her OWN work. It can be hard when support doesn't come from our loved ones in 'real life'...that's why the blogosphere has been so helpful to so many. I know it's not the same, but WE'RE here to support you. We hear you. Let her speak, the grown woman clamoring to get out...we'll be here waiting to listen to what she has to say.

10:47 AM, July 20, 2006  
Blogger M said...

I totally agree with Deirdre! So strong. I have missed you and was wondering where you had gone. Sounds like you've had a big week, full of happiness and learning. I know I too am trying to figure out what it means to be a grown up, who I want to be as a woman, a constant query with myself, the world, and my place in it. YOu are not alone and I'm inspired once again by your brilliant writing. Glad you're back!!

11:22 AM, July 20, 2006  
Blogger la vie en rose said...

oh girl, i resonate with so much of what you have said here. just last night, in my session with my therapist, we addressed some of these very issues--the issue of still feeling like a child even though i'm a woman. i think that you are stronger, wiser, more grown up than you give yourself credit for. i know i only catch little glimpses of you in your writing but i haven't read anything so far, and i've read a lot of your posts, that sounds like a child. you sound like a woman struggling in her growth..but with the struggle comes the strenght. keep struggling my friend. i'm right here with ya!

ps--i've read dissident daughter too and it was very powerful for me...

4:53 PM, July 20, 2006  
Blogger Nea said...

You have taken the first step. You have decided what you want. You definitely have the ability to write, to draw the reader in, and to make them care about what you have to say.

people that you know and love should be the first to encourage you, but they usually aren't. The reason, it is a control issue, and also everyone has a place in a family, a pecking order so to speak. It shakes the core of a family when someone wants to step out of the roll that they have been given and spread their wings. I can't begin to tell you the tempest in a teapot I caused in my own family when I chose to LEAVE. And in some families that is what it takes. I am not advocating this, but I am saying....go for it. With a calm firm voice make yourself be heard. Because the resentment that builds when you take the back seat for too long, will eventually spew all over.

1:29 AM, July 21, 2006  
Anonymous Fern said...

As I've read your entries over the past few months, I've often marvelled at the stregnth of your voice, and wished that somehow, I could find my own. I love how you tell your stories- with warmth, with honesty, but most importantly with a confidence and boldness that has always seemed so unreachable to me. You know HOW to say exactly what you mean to say.
Just as the women in your books have inspired you with their unwavering, steady, sure voices, you've done the same for me.
(So I realize this in no way helps your situation, but I just thought I'd let you know, LOL)

So thanks.

10:07 AM, July 21, 2006  
Blogger Shari said...

Hi, I am so glad you found me again, because I got the post on my birthday and that was a nice little gift for me. I was on vacation and took a little bloggie break as well, but I'm back and ready to share my 2 cents.

From your post, it sounds as if your metamorphosis is starting. That little voice inside is going to get louder and louder and one day, maybe not even by choice, you are going to roar! You may snap, you may claw, but you will be heard. Sometimes you have to let others see the other side or new growth in you in order for them to look and react to you differently. I really committed to pursuing my art because of my daughter as well. The person I am becoming, the person I am is the person I want her know as her mother. Sometimes I do yell, sometimes I'm just straightforward, and sometimes I give in a little (because you need this part too for balance). But I want her to see my look at me and know that I could protect her if I had look at me and know I am doing what I am meant to look at me and know I won't tolerate look at me and learn how to nurture her creativity.

Your anger can be transformed into great power. You have such a wonderful talent, it's hard to believe you see yourself as a fledgling. It is so beautiful and natural and honest. I can't imagine what would come out if you fought for the time to honor your creative spirit. And it is a fight, believe me, sometimes it seems constant, and other times they just seem to get it and other times you steal away what you can. On no, sister, do not let yourself be belittled. You are not little. You just haven't unfurled yourself yet!

Thanks for the book ideas. Love Sue Monk Kidd. Also, check out The Artist's Way, it is a must for an emerging creative spirit. The morning pages and artist's dates are some ways to devote time to your creative self.

4:32 PM, July 21, 2006  
Blogger Laini said...

Monica, it surprises me to hear you describe yourself this way because as a writer you have such a clear voice and sense of self. Even though over the months I've been reading your blog you've expressed a lot of uncertainty about your place in your life right now, you still seem to be so solidly in possession of yourself. I don't really know how to articulate what I mean, but I find myself indignant for you, wanting to come up there and wag my finger at all the negative voices in your life, to make you a writing room of your own, and somehow create the space for you to unleash your very clear and shining talent! I somehow feel sure that you will find your way. And I bet that all those women writers didn't always feel like grownups either -- maybe it just looks like that from the outside. And even if THEY do, so many of us don't, and we need to read about others going through that uncertainty, in such a way as you are so good at expressing.

11:02 PM, July 21, 2006  
Blogger Alexandra G said...

I am largely in this same place and can relate all too well. There is a writer I think you might really like that I am reading and finding a guiding light of sorts through the process- a Jungian writer, James Hollis. YOu might check him out on Amazon. Today I was writing in my journal about what I want this next chapter in my life to look like, what I want to no longer tolerate, etc, and it was so hard writing it I realized most of all because I don't have that faith that I will actually follow through and give these things to myself. Definitely a hard time. Know that you aren't alone as you make your way.

10:49 PM, July 26, 2006  

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