Diapers and Dragons

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Backbone

There are times when silence clogs my throat and I cannot say what needs to be said. I am fixed by uncertainty, frozen by fear. What will be the reaction to my words? Will they be met by scorn, ridicule, disappointment?

Habit. Years of keeping my tongue still, swallowing my words, saying only what I think will be met with approval. Years of fearing to make my own decisions or suggestions or, God forbid, demands.

When I was a little girl, I was very opinionated. According to my parents, I was the very definition of the Strong Willed Child. My children come by their Attitudes honestly. Well, that and apparently God was listening when my mother cursed me lo, those many years ago.

Somewhere along the way that little girl crawled into a corner of my mind and my backbone went AWOL.

How pitiful is this: when someone asks me what I'd like for dinner or which restaurant I'd prefer or what activity I'd enjoy, I rarely respond with anything other than Oh, I don't know. It doesn't matter to me. I might indicate a few options I would NOT like, but I am far more comfortable with the decision being made for me. That way, you see, I won't chance ridicule or disagreement.

How sad is this: I went up north this last weekend to MTL's parents' place. Saturday morning MTL and I both woke early and, unable to sleep, took our coffee out on the back porch to enjoy the sunrise. The morning air was damp and chilly. When MTL rose to find the off switch for the glaring porch light, I suggested he bring out a sleeping bag to cover our legs. I had been thinking about this for five minutes and had to overcome enormous reluctance to make the suggestion. His response? A big smile and a comment about how smart I am. What I subconsciously expected? A scowl and a comment about it not being THAT cold, and if I was chilled, maybe I should go get the blanket myself. Which, I should mention, is not typical of MTL. That didn't matter. It was still my automatic apprehension.

I started thinking.

Put me in charge of a group of students and I have no problem being Queen and Goddess of the Classroom. Put me in a professional setting with my coworkers and my Voice is Heard.

Put me in a social setting with my peers and I falter. I follow rather than lead, give way rather than stand strong.

Don't get me wrong: if something is suggested with which I strongly disagree, I won't do it. I'm not mindless. But when it comes to anything that is smaller in scope, that doesn't involve moral or legal issues, I'd rather not rock the boat.

I'm better than I used to be. Saturday I overcame my illogical fear and suggested the blanket. And the blanket was fetched. Monday, when asked what I wanted for dinner, I responded, Taco salad. And taco salad we had.

I'm building my backbone. It helps that my dearest friends and loved ones have been responding with encouragement rather than disapproval. It helps that I've had to stand on my own for a year now, that I've had to learn to say

No. 

This is the line I will not cross. 

That won't work for me. 

This is what will work for me.

This is what I need.

This is what I want.

The healing continues. I just keep wondering what happened to the little girl who always had to Have It Her Way and why it's taken so long for her to show up again.

9 bits of love:

Arby said...

I look forward to the day when you stand up and argue back. :-)

MTL?

LoriM said...

Man, I can really relate. I have been teasing my [someone close] about ALWAYS having a better idea when I suggest or try something. It is very annoying. I don't know if s/he's just "giving options" or if s/he really thinks I have No Good Ideas. It's become so bad (at least in my mind), that when s/he agrees with me, I say "What? I had a good idea?" And we laugh.

I've always been afraid of giving my opinions and my goal now is to offer my opinion even when I'm *sure* it will be either ignored or even worse - looked down on. Facebook is a great place to practice this.

I'm also curious who is MTL.

The Kampers said...

Sorry I have been so good at lurking lately...and yes, I will say it a third time MTL?

Monica said...

Sounds very familiar, all the way from the spunky little girl to the reticent woman, afraid of derision. It's hard to change, isn't it? I remember as recently as my early 20's still having that confidence to speak my mind. I'm spending my 40's trying to get it back. Blogs are good for that too! Nice post.

Dad said...

You pretty much have described me over my entire lifetime. I don't think I was ever the Strong Willed Child and I am sure being the youngest of 6 contributed to that. You were strong willed, yes, and we had our conflicts, but you were and are such a dear dear person. So I am cheering for the rebirth of the backbone to add to your "stare" and then you can truly say with that devastating affect: "EAT YOUR SPINACH."

Dad said...

I am cheering for that backbone, my dear one. But I am also wandering what will happen when that backbone is combined with the "STARE" that you have so perfected. If that happens I am sure it will be a small thing for you to stand up at the supper table, fix the recalcitrant and obstinate colonel in the eyes, and tell him, nay, command him to: "EAT YOUR SPINACH!"

GingerB said...

Help me here: who is MTL?

Anyway, give yourself a break on this. Women often interact this way, and it doesn't always mean no backbone, it sometimes means courtesy for others' wishes, sometimes means not wanting to be seen as a controlling biyatch, whatever. I was having a similar discussion with five other women judges and not one of us would push the others into a decision of what movie we would see. Six women judges, not wanting to make a decision at the expense of the others' feelings. A man overheard our conversation and said how interesting it was that we interacted this way, eventually passing a note back and forth and voting for any movie we would each see, and all agreeiang to go to the movie with the most votes, even though two ladies really didn't want that one. The man said the men in his group the night before just discussed things until the movies had all begun, so they had to give it all a miss and stay at the boring Holiday Inn.

I am trying to have a backbone but not leave everyone around me feeling that I am always pushy.

Interesting!

Amber Page Writes said...

Well, that little girl is finally finding her voice again, and that's all that matters.

I have a hard time with this myself.

Nicola said...

I am totally with you on this one (although close friends and family may beg to differ). I am trying to push forward in my life right now but doing it so gently and sensitively - heaven help me that HE gets upset by my go-getting attitude, gosh, that would never do - and of course waiting for HIM to take action is a rather pointless exercise...and nothing is happening. Need to take the bull by the horns. But it is so damned difficult to change those amenable habits of a lifetime! This post is kinda spurring me on tho. Thanks x

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