Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sunday Scribblings-Two Cents

First of all, it’s never just two cents. You know that, I know that. If I could assign a more accurate dollar amount to all of the opinions, criticisms, hints, and “no offense, but...”s that I hear masquerading as someone’s two cents, I’d be able to afford that dream of all tired mommies, a qualified nanny.

I come from a long line of critical people—people relentlessly dedicated to improving the universe, one pointed opinion at a time. No one gets more of their loving tractor beam than the family. And, like other things that roll downhill or float downstream, most of it ends up on me, the baby of the family.

To be fair (which is more than they usually are, but I digress...), there is a certain air of vulnerability around me. A close friend once referred to me as a “wounded gazelle”—I suppose because I always seem to be acutely aware of how difficult things can be, and sometimes I just don’t feel up to the task. This has always irritated my family to no end...why should things be so hard for me? I think I developed a bit of an inferiority complex to compensate for the rest of my family’s swaggering assurance. They assumed that things would always work out by sheer force of their personalities. They were perfectly happy to bully the world into falling under their dominion, if necessary.

I never quite had their confidence. I saw the potential pitfalls, the dark edges, the instability, the uncertainty. Maybe I had to do so, to prepare them for those moments when I wouldn’t succeed the way they all assumed I would.

So this worries them, and leads them to conclude that if only they could GUIDE me towards a better way of thinking, I would grow into my destiny as a highly successful person.

But I need to be honest...I have always gravitated towards books, experts, theorists, people who would give my ideas heft, and whose thoughts were more valuable than mine. I married TEG, in part, because his strength of mind borders on arrogance...and I like that. So it makes sense that my family, the people who know me best (ostensibly) would be first in the long line of people I have allowed to have say-so over my life. Basically, anyone could step right up and be the boss of me. Everyone, of course, except me.

Hence, the two cents.

These innocuous little comments pepper every single conversation I have with my parents.

If only I would move to their city, get a job, go to graduate school, lose 15 pounds, let Madam cry, follow that new parenting technique they saw on Univision, be more confident, stop looking on the dark side, grow my hair, realize I can do anything I set my mind to, get firm with Madam, get firm with my inlaws, get firm with everyone but them...

Or they leisurely remind me of all of the opportunities that have faded away...

Mami: You went to such a good expensive! You could have done anything after that...oh well...I guess you don’t need so much education to stay home with Madam, right? You were so young waited too long to have a much time gone! And you didn’t even get a graduate degree!

When their voices are (temporarily) silent, then the internal two cents start. And so often, that voice is repeating exactly what my family tells me, guiding their words deep into the soft underbelly of my secret fears. But the voice has an advantage they don’ can prey upon my weaknesses with precision.

And so the two copper Lincolns work as little scalpels, scraping away my already-fragile self-confidence.

And all too often, the two cents are coming from me. Second guessing my instincts to the point where I can’t feel them anymore. Re-interpreting my decisions in the worst possible way. Waiting to fail so I can gloat at myself.

Ultimately, it’s two things, over and over again. You can’t take care of yourself. And now you have to take care of a helpless little person...someone you can’t fail. Someone you can’t change your mind about. Everything is life or death.

But...what if it isn’t? What if all of this doubt is just “hate hating through me”, like I read in a book recently? What if taking care of myself is a process I need to learn all the time, not something that can be trapped like a butterfly into one moment in my history?

I’ve already begun talking back to my family...trying to show them that honest ambivalence is not always a weakness, that admitting difficulty does not automatically assume failure.

Having a blog, though, has shown me that not all comments have to be negative ones. I look forward to all of your opinions and two cents...but maybe that's the sunny side of the same penny? The truth is...I want someone to tell me that I am on the right path...I want someone to tell me what to do, so that I don't have to risk failing at something I really want. I look forward to your good opinion so that I can talk back to that Voice inside my own head, with proof this time.

But I need to supply my own proof, don't I?
I need to appreciate comments and advice and applause and yes, even criticism, without losing sight of my own beliefs, without being deaf to my own voice.

I need to stop giving my authority away to anyone with an opinion and a couple of coins to rub together.

It’s finally time to talk back to that Voice inside my head, and tell her that she needs to pay me a lot more than two cents for each of her so-called “insights” into all of my mistakes.

I should be able to afford therapy in no time. Or a nanny.

Or earplugs.

For more two cents, go here.



Blogger paris parfait said...

Only you can tell whether or not you're on the right path. Perhaps if you listen to your own voice rather than negative voices of others, you'll feel better. You are a valuable human being, with unique contributions to make to the world. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, just because your choices weren't theirs. Thanks for this honest, soul-searching piece.

3:45 AM, July 30, 2006  
Anonymous bonnie said...

Thank you for your transparency. No one on this earth has any vote as to who you are or what you have to offer. You are a unique creation, and I hope that you continue to search yourself for why you are here, and what your particular role is to be. Good luck with your quest for fullfillment.

6:47 AM, July 30, 2006  
Blogger jblack designs said...

You're on the right path, girl. Things seem impossible at times, but, as the cliche goes, life continues on. There will come a day you'll look back and not remember what the fuss was about. Really.

Beautiful piece. Soulfully written. I thank you for that.

8:02 AM, July 30, 2006  
Blogger Becca said...

Your life path is yours to choose -do not allow anyone to make you feel badly about your choices!

You've written a very courageous piece here, and done it beautifully. Listen to your heart and stand tall!

8:17 AM, July 30, 2006  
Blogger Gemma said...

If we all lived our lives the way others would have us...well we wouldn't be us. Follow your heart.

8:53 AM, July 30, 2006  
Anonymous Marilyn said...

As usual, the bells of resonance began ringing almost as soon as I started reading this post. There's plenty I want to say about this post, but I don't want to ramble on in the comments, so I'll put it into an email. That said, I wish you still lived out we could meet in between...and I could give you a big ol' HUG. xoxo

12:07 PM, July 30, 2006  
Blogger wendylou who? said...

so many good things in this post. I relate...very well....I would afford a live in housekeeper, as my kids are older..but same riff.

Here's what i try to practice. Some how we teach people how to treat us...then we wake up...and realize its not woking anymore.

In Changing,(both you and others)expect nothing, nothing....then VOLCANO of resistance. Just stay your course.Wait for what happens next.

The second part...harder for me, is admitting, that, also, in some way, this old way(people treated you)..used to work,or feed you somehow. You were part of it. Find out why. Find out what's changed. Say good bye to no longer needed...

And have a party and realize how much you've grown.

You, my friend, are on your way!

12:10 PM, July 30, 2006  
Blogger Kamsin said...

I can totally relate to a lot of what you say. I read something recently about how liberating it can be to fail sometimes. It's not the soul-crushing experience we think it is most of the time. I'm struggling at the moment because I'm in a situation where I have to make certain crucial decisions, where in the past I've always had those decisions made for me. I'm failing quite a lot and I don't like having to take the responsibilty, but I'm sure I'll benefit from it more in the long run.
People who seem to lack any self-doubt probably have it easier a lot of the time but I guess they don't see the ambivalence and possibilty for other choices which make part of who you are. You might not get them to admitt their are other ways to see the world than theirs but you have to make your own choices and be proud of who you are.

Sorry for going on for so long! Thank you for your post. And thanks for stopping by my blog!

12:18 PM, July 30, 2006  
Blogger melba said...

I feel that I have to take care of two children and I don't even want to take care of myself. Sometimes that happens, but mostly I take it out on my husband and think I have to take care of myself and my two children I don't want to take care of you too! I think it comes from never being taken care of as a child. I was the yuongest and had to fend for myself A LOT. Sean (my husband) is the youngest too but he is the only boy with 4 older sisters so they all took care of him.
It takes practice to silence that inner critic. You can do it.

1:47 PM, July 30, 2006  
Blogger Catherine said...

I can identify with so much of this. Seeing more than one side is not a bad thing, though. People who are so totally sure of themselves, sometimes crash and burn when they turn out to be wrong. Still I know from experience that it's possible to ruminate forever and take action. I find I need to be careful to analyse the possible choices, but then at some point I need to make a decision and stick to it.
It is a beautiful piece. You see the situation so clearly, I'm sure you will find your own path.

3:27 PM, July 30, 2006  
Blogger la vie en rose said...

i say you take all youe 2 cents and throw them in the fountain all at once. what a splash that would make! or run to the nearest gumball machine and trade them all in for gummy chewy sweetness.

5:17 PM, July 30, 2006  
Anonymous Fern said...

What a great, honest post as usual. It's scary to listen to our own voice in spite of people's opinions sometimes. Suppose they're right? What makes us think we know any better?

Solutions are so unique to specific problems that how can anyone else REALLY know? It comes down to trusting ourselves. It's something that I need to practice every single day.

I just hope that you continue to listen to your own voice- that whisper below the shouts of a million opinions. You're doing great.

10:13 PM, July 30, 2006  
Blogger Lynn said...

When their voices are (temporarily) silent, then the internal two cents start.

I know what you mean. It's hard for me to escape those internal voices myself.

11:58 PM, July 30, 2006  
Blogger briliantdonkey said...

Once again, a very nicely written post. I think we all have those inner voices in us doubting all the time. You said something in there about doing something and worrying about failing. I myself have been going through that a lot in my life as well. Most recently, or at least most steadily I have when it comes to the idea of writing. I had thought about it for quite some time but never really acted on it at all for fear that I wouldn't be good enough at it. Then I read something some where. I think it may have been in Chris Baty's book "No Plot, No problem" but I am not sure. It is about Nanowrimo and one of the biggest peices of advise he gives is to give it a try and don't worry about failing. I think the way he put it was to (paraphrasing here) "quit thinking of writing a national best seller and just try to write something that wont make people vomit." It was just a small snippet of advice but it helped me tremendously. Anyways, this comment is getting long, but thanks again for the post and for sharing it. Your writing is quite impressive and I enjoyed it.


12:05 AM, July 31, 2006  
Blogger Ally Bean said...

your two cents rings so true. we all doubt and change-- and have to put up with the people who refuse to help us along the way. but it sounds like you know that already.

hang in there. you're doing a great job of evolving into you.

6:46 AM, July 31, 2006  
Blogger Bug said...

Great post. I love the metaphor of the wounded gazelle. I often feel like that too. (and for a busy mom--you're writing a lot! Congrats!)

5:35 PM, July 31, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your post - I think I was actually supposed to find it. I feel like I'm learning the "Answers" to being happy and in control of my life, but I now feel the need to give everyone my two cents on finding theirs. And while I'm aware of doing it at times, it seems I can't stop. I've wounded my brother and my father (who are both very unhappy and don't take responsibility for their situations). The point is, while I may think I see where they need to change, it's not for me to tell them. Or judge them. Everyone needs to find their own path and me trying to ping them in the head with my two cents doesn't help them at all, makes them feel worse, makes me feel bad... plus I'm taking all the fun out of our disfunctional family. Thank you again for sharing - reading this has really helped me understand why I'm bothered by the "truth" I've told them. Now, how to right the wrong?

7:15 PM, July 31, 2006  
Blogger deirdre said...

You've been living my life! Holy smokes honey. We do need to talk.

10:44 PM, July 31, 2006  

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