So, my mother took my grandmother’s horrible advice and stayed married to my father for eleven years. During that time she put her own life on hold, pretending the entire time to be someone else.
She consoled herself that she would leave one day, but she was waiting until I was older, thinking the divorce would not be so traumatic. Then, along came my brother and so she waited for him…
Truth be told, she was never happy as a housewife and a mother. These roles chafed and confined her. She constantly sought other avenues of expression.
Looking back, I see she never had a clear sense of her own identity and kept trying on other people’s hats to see which ones fit. She never took on her own.
Over the years mom did:
Macrame – that’s artistic knot tying made popular in the 70’s
Ceramics – this got big in the 80’s. Entire businesses were founded on frustrated moms looking for something to do.
Antique restoration – which gave way to a business, buying and selling antiques.
Feminism – In the mid 80’s she finally did leave my dad, for another woman. Becky was a graduate student and a staunch feminist of the old guard. Mom took this mantle and carried it as her own identity, being active in not only her local NOW chapter, but also attending national conventions, spearheading reproductive rights initiatives and marching on Washington on several occasions. Which is hard to criticize except…
Indian/POW Rights – After eleven years she left Becky for Bill. She turned her back on all the work she’d done over the the previous decade and suddenly found a new new passion for the plights of Native Americans and the missing POWs of the Vietnam War.
Every time she found a new pastime it became a new identity.
Growing up under her guidance and influence I too learned to doubt my own worth and sought external masks I thought others would like better.
In grade school I was The Good Student, in high school the Rebel, and in college the Non-Conformist. All three of these masks I wore because I thought they would make me cool.
The problem with trying to be cool? You’re too busy worrying about what other people are thinking to actually be cool.
Throughout our lives we will need the favorable impression of others in order to succeed or move forward. Be it for emotional, social, or financial reasons we will care what other people think. The irony is the people we like the best are the ones who place their own opinions of themselves over ours. Not that I don’t think they value our opinions, just that they have to like themselves before they can worry about whether or not we do.
Collectively, we can spot a fake a mile away and won’t support one for long. We prize the genuine article and look for authenticity.
Yet, when it comes to us we think we can put up a false front and get by with it. We doubt ourselves so much we assume we can’t be real because no one will like us, and we need to be liked so much.
There are more people like you than you imagine and I am a testimony to that. As we go on and I share more of my story you’ll begin to see that mine is a pretty unique story, especially for the time I came up in.
But still, we relate. You read these emails because there something about me that you can relate to, even if the details are completely alien. I do my best to be real, to share with you my understanding, as it it is right now.
Yes, I am special, but I’m not any more special than you are. Your story is every bit as unique and, at the same time, universal as mine.
To our imperfect perfection,
P.S. Mental Meatheads is selling so fast it’s making my head spin. As of today there are only 4 spots left. If I were you I’d make sure one of those was mine.