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
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.
3 years ago