Thursday, July 12, 2007

Storytelling, parents' style

Think of it as an exercise in storytelling. That is what I have been telling myself for the last week, as I listened to my parents narrate my life back to me, working themselves into fevered crescendos, quivering with italics and outrage.

Oh, I know they mean well, I do. They are just like those articles in the newspaper, the ones that swear that they will tell you the one way to avoid disaster and mice in the pantry, because you are the kind of special person who should never suffer, or deal with rodents in the rice. Except for the fact that my parents tend to skip the kind lead in, and thrust straight to the black heart of the matter.

They disapprove. And that is an understatement. They disapprove of my life so thoroughly that as I listened to them, I found myself agreeing—their arguments had such force, and passion, and characterization! If I could write the way my parents harangue, I am sure I would have a bestseller on my hands, or at least a page turner.

The thing is, they DO mean well, and they DID focus unerringly on several aspects of my life which are also causing me great dissatisfaction. The aforementioned weight gain, the disturbing lack of writing motivation, the long stretches of lonely days while TEG works himself into a fervor. TEG himself, and our relationship, or lately lack thereof. These are all things I have noticed myself, things that make me frown and look for solutions. So my parents' lectures were a bit like reading Cliff Notes for books I have already analyzed to death, but being no closer to writing that definitive paper on them. It's beyond frustrating to see problems but no answers everywhere. Where is the lag here? What am I not letting myself acknowledge?

I've spent most of the time since they left arguing with them, mustering up all of the arguments that would finally trump theirs, and prove to them that “see, I'm not such a passive little loser!”

But they can't hear that. No, they really can't, because in all of my 34 years on this earth I have never ONCE managed to outshout my parents when they feel strongly about something.

Their voices are still echoing in my ears, and I am working on separating what I agree with, what I can safely ignore, and what I need to recast in order to remove the sting of hurt and make it palatable. Because I don't agree with everything they said, especially with regards to my ambition (or as they see it, lack thereof). Just because I don't want what they want to me to want, doesn't mean I don't WANT at all.

Anyone who can make sense of that previous sentence gets a cookie. As you can see, the writing is and continues to be a problem. At this point, it's like a bad relationship—I want to do something dramatic for relief, to flounce away, tossing my hair. To get a restraining order against my manuscript.

I can see why people burn their writing. That one moment of freedom, of trumping, must be like an “AHA, IN YOUR FACE, WRITING!” even if you spend the rest of the time berating yourself for being weak.

Which leads me back to my parents and their visit. Other than the ego lambasting I received, this wasn't a bad time. My main goal was to have Madam spend more time with her grandparents and I think that aspect of the trip worked well.

Now I just need to spend a few days licking my wounds until I feel like I'm back in my life again.

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12 Comments:

Blogger bubandpie said...

That sounds like a dreadful conversation. What exactly was its purpose? If the problems/issues really are so vast, it's not like destroying all sense of self-esteem in you is really going to help solve them.

7:34 PM, July 12, 2007  
Anonymous Emmie (Better Make It A Double) said...

Ouch. I, too, hear the voice of my parents in almost everything I do, but your post leads me to think that perhaps I should be grateful that they're a little more subtle. I get to find out what's up by talking to my brother. I'm sorry you had to deal with that, and glad it wasn't all bad.

8:48 PM, July 12, 2007  
Blogger deirdre said...

Send me a cookie please. I get it. And I'm sending acceptance to you with the hope you'll wrap it around your shoulders and let it settle into your heart. It must have been a week of mixed blessings and emotions.

Hold on to yourself, sweetie. You've got too many people telling you what you should be and do and become and achieve. Parents have powerful voices, even when we're all grown up and think we should be beyond a scolding. One day, soon, your own power will click into place and everything will feel different.

9:46 AM, July 13, 2007  
Blogger kate said...

I wish there was something helpful I could say or write to you right now, but the truth is I don't have anything brilliant to say. I will remind you again of how talented I think you are.

I was talking with another writer friend this morning, and we both agreed that the biggest (and most important) thing you need in order to see your book through, to get it finished and published, is persistence. You plug along in the face of rejection. You just keep going. And some day, though it often feels as though this day will never come, the work will pay off. I have to believe that.

1:30 PM, July 13, 2007  
Blogger Tori said...

I get it. I get it a lot...
I am sorry. Please be gentle with yourself.

6:44 PM, July 13, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

gosh, that sounds awful. I'm sorry! And I get a cookie -- I totally get you.

I cannot begin to imagine how hard it must be to stay on track with things when you've got a toddler on your hands. The one thing I DO know is the way getting the upper hand on ONE problem in your life, like weight, can give you a big boost in the other areas too, like writing. At least, for me, the period of time that I was finally finishing my novel was ALSO the time I managed to lose weight I'd been wanting to lose for ages. It made me feel so powerful!

And man, I have been TOTALLY wrestling with MY manuscript this year too. I will NOT let it pin me though!

Good thoughts to you!
-Laini

1:16 AM, July 14, 2007  
Blogger Becca said...

Well, I get a cookie, too, because I get it. But, speaking as the parent of an adult child, it makes me madder than heck that your parents did that to you. I'm sorry, but it's just plain wrong.
You are obviously a very intelligent, mature young woman, not to mention your talent in writing. You are still in the process of creating your life, and doing that with a toddler and a workaholic husband is no picnic (I know, I did it myself). They should be supporting you in positive ways, not tearing you down.

I swear, it makes me livid. I wish I could adopt you!

(Sorry for ranting, but my heart just aches for you.)

Sending you love, peace, and hugs xo

10:37 AM, July 14, 2007  
Anonymous fern said...

Somewhere along the way we form our own identities and that is just as powerful as the voices that try to quiet them.
I'm sorry for what you had to go through :(
But you have to know how much I've grown to respect you as a person and writer. Keep your chin up, babe...the person that you are is precious.

5:09 PM, July 14, 2007  
Blogger Jessie said...

honey, all i can say is that this is some goddamn beautiful writing...i'm sorry that it comes from a painful experience.

today, when i was with you, i wish i would have put my hands on both of your shoulders, looked you straight in the eyes, and told you how beautiful, intelligent, and wonderful you are. i wanted to do that as we sat over our plates of scrabbled eggs and yogurt. i should have...because i want you to know that about yourself. never question that.

8:17 PM, July 15, 2007  
Anonymous Frida said...

you want what you want whether or not that is what your parent's want you to want. That is not only ambitious, it is also authentic. It is amazing how many people get through their entire lives without ever really assessing whether they are pursuing their own heart's desires or the dreams that other people dreamt for them.

I admire that you are not rushing to throw it all out and send you lots of genuine admiration and respect as you work your way through it all. And a big hug.

12:29 PM, July 16, 2007  
Blogger Amber said...

Awww, no! That sounds really hard. I am sorry your parents are so hard on you. It would be very easy to doubt yourself, if you grew up with the people "who know better" being so hard on you... Maybe that is what is behind some of your doubt and fear about your (amazing) writing?

Parents. They love us. And they fuck us up...And their parents did it to them, too. How in the world do we fix it? lol

:)

8:39 PM, July 16, 2007  
Anonymous Marilyn said...

Dearest M, I fell way behind in reading my favorite blogs. Have just caught up here. I missed your birthday...happy 34th! You wrote that you want to be not just a writer, but a GREAT writer. You are. YOU ARE A GREAT WRITER. I realize that it won't matter how many times any of us tell you, you have to believe it yourself. But I just thought I'd tell you again. ;) And if India is a touchstone for you, why don't you find ways to incorporate elements of it in your life...that's what I do (not with India, but with other things). Sometimes even just one tiny thing that represents something I'm passionate about can have a wonderful effect when I look at it amid a frustrating situation. Hoping all is well with you. xoxo

4:40 PM, July 20, 2007  

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