hide your crazy + start acting like a lady9:49 AM
from the fall of 2011
Recently I've been coming across a lot of articles, books, blog posts talking about us as women being brave enough to use our "outside" voice. In the sense of not being ashamed of our stories, not being bullied into seclusion and not letting others zap our honesty and candidness from us. I've spent (almost) this past year finding my voice here in my little corner of the internet. And it has been lovely. You see I've had spaces before; my very first space when blogs were still new and I felt brave and shared genuinely and openly, then my voice was silenced so I changed it - I cloaked my pain and fear in daily outfit posts and a painted on smile. Then I shut my doors completely. I went away to "lick my wounds" if you will but also to grow and to strengthen myself because you simply can't hear your voice in the middle of a stampede. In the quiet I made peace with a lot of things, I let go of a lot of baggage and resentment and I re-acquainted myself with good old ME.
I suppose you could say I've been writing this post for four years. Sometimes I would write down these feelings and then erase them, hearing the old adage from Miranda Lambert's song "hide your crazy" and feeling ashamed of how I felt to begin with. This time it's different. It feels right. I recently read from Brene Brown where she talks about the difference between vulnerability and oversharing. The difference lies in mutuality and sharing with people who can bear the weight of your story. Honestly, I don't know if you can. But at the same time I feel like you can't understand me without knowing this puzzle piece to my story. Because unfortunately it colors my every interaction with a woman. And so I ask for your kindness and understanding and for your forgiveness if this is in fact useless oversharing.
My first experience with rejection happened in my second grade classroom in England. Even before I saw the haughty stares and caught the giggle laced whispers I knew I didn't fit in. Most of them were lanky, blonde and freckled. They wore cabled sweaters and grown up looking slacks. My curly dark Eastern European hair and hazel eyes had no place there. Neither did my accent. I was to forever be excluded at that school... and the next and the next one after that.
Over the course of my childhood, adolescence and well into my adulthood I was excluded, bullied, betrayed and broken by women. In high school I spent many a first period on my parents bathroom floor crying in the fetal position from the fear that would grip me at the thought of entering that torture chamber. For years, and occasionally even now, large groups of women tie my stomach into knots. And yet, when I started blogging I thought I had found the answer to all my problems! Here was sisterhood, here was acceptance, here was me being heard! Little did I know that those "sisters" would cause me more pain than I thought humanly possible. But before we get to that I must tell you about the fact that it was during my initial foray into blogging that I became a "meanie" myself.
Perhaps it was some sort of revenge fantasty, the idea that "I'm the popular one now" and the excitement that came from being the villian not the victim. I took the opportunity of being on top to right those wrongs, and in some sick way I think I believed I was healing myself - I was the one now sitting at the prized lunch table. I was the one that could exclude and the one who could ridicule others instead of being the one ridiculed. I said so many things I would give anything to take back. And believe me I've tried to. I hoarded friends like stamps for a collection, thinking that if I just had enough I would finally feel whole. It was exhausting, soul sucking and all around horrible. But I didn't know how to stop the ride. Until it came to a screeching halt all by itself. I won't go into the details because honestly they are meaningless, but I will say that I went from popular to pariah in a matter of hours. Talk about learning who your friends are. I now know that there is no loyalty among thieves and that that if you hear gossip about someone from your friend you can bet that "friend" gossips about you two. It's a vicious, never ending circle of hatefulness. In retrospect I'm grateful for what happened because I'm don't know if I would have ever had the guts to get out myself and that is a truly horrifying thought.
It's taken years and many hours of therapy to patch that wound. And it's still not over. When it comes to female friendship I feel like a deer - someone comes too close and I run. Run until I'm alone again because that's the only way I feel safe. I keep my circle painfully close and I haven't as of yet had the courage to let anyone new in. The risk of possible hurt weighs me down and ties my hands tightly behind my back. I'm working on it every day, letting little pieces of people in, seeing how it feels to carry them in my heart and soul. Some days I cower and bail and some days I am able to lay another brick onto the foundation of female friendship that I am slowly rebuilding.
The funny thing is I've never had any man or boy cause me nearly as much heartache and pain as women have over the years. I've always found men to be fairly straightforward, whereas women are utterly confusing. For crying out loud I find MYSELF confusing. We want what we can't have (forever pining to be friends with the "popular" girls that will never accept us instead of those women that are genuinely asking for our hand in friendship now), we relish watching other women fail and gossip is synonymous with groups of women. Sure we can blame it on men for holding us down, dust off that tired argument, but of course as with anything in life change only comes from taking control and responsibility. Admitting that yes in the dark murky corners of our email accounts and the deep recesses of twitter direct messages we can all be mean, cowardly and callous.
I've been thinking a lot about where this leaves me, leaves us, especially now that I'm a mother of a little girl. What am I to tell her the first time she feels that coldness from an icy stare when she goes to school?? How do I raise her to be confident but not proud, strong but not severe and a leader not a bully? What do you think?
I can't say I have all the answers or that I have it all figured out now. I'm still learning, stumbling as I go. I'm still trying to find a balance between trusting women enough to form a friendship but not leaving myself entirely vulnerable and exposed. It's difficult for an open book like myself. I hate withholding, I hate wearing a mask or pretending (let's be honest I wouldn't enjoy blogging nearly as much as I do was this not the case). If anything I can say that I truly did learn not to judge. I've made a lot of apologies over the years and accepted a few myself and I've come to see that things aren't always as straightforward as they seem. No one is all bad and we're all navigating the treacherous waters of female friendship together at the end of the day. And the tides change one little breeze at a time.
My father told me something years ago that at the time I dismissed as ridiculous but have since then began to implement and even cherish. He told me that when he was younger someone told him that every time he feels like being mean, cynical, judgmental or dismissive of a person or an idea to instead re-route your brain into something positive. When you sit down to write a nasty email take a moment and write a nice one instead. When you think jealous, hateful or nasty thoughts about someone start picking out all their positives and the things that are wonderful, unique and special about them. When your first thought is anger, bitterness or callousness change it to kindness, mercy and understanding. Now mind you in the beginning this will feel inauthentic and forced but as my father nudged me back then and I now know from experience with time it will become natural. Just because an insult rolls off one's tongue doesn't mean it needs to be uttered and just because a compliment takes more effort doesn't mean we should keep it to ourselves. I often have an internal dialogue with myself that sounds something like this "That is a nasty thought. You must stop it right this moment. You must focus your mind on something good and positive. You must promise to do/think better next time." It sounds silly but sometimes it's the only way I can keep myself on course.
I don't know why negativity comes so naturally. I don't know why it is that more often than not when I hear pieces of people's conversations on the street they're complaining about someone or something, they're gossiping, they're denigrating a "friend" or a co-worker. It's sad and it says sad things about us as individuals. But I also know we're all capable of great love, acceptance and kindness and it just takes each one of those to say "no, I'm not doing or saying that anymore" and to say every day that we chose love.
That's just my story and it's still evolving daily but I come to you because one person's experience is all of our experience and we are all raising future women and this is a conversation we don't chose to be a part of we simply are. So what do you think? What has been your experience? Where do you find hope??
And as always, thanks for listening :).