January 3rd, 2011

love a nerd

LJ Idol - My First World Problem

Last night, my husband and I had got home from spending nine days with my family in Washington State. Nine cold, snowy, frosty, icy, slippery, blindingly white days. Nine days where I once again found myself as filled with doubt about the path I’m taking as I was when I was in high school. My dad does this to me every time. Like a lot of people, I never feel like I’m good enough, and he doesn’t help.

About six months ago, I sat down and started writing my story. Mostly it was a cathartic thing for me to do – I needed to get it all out, so I sat down at my desk, crossed my legs Indian style beneath me, opened the “notes” application on Facebook and in great, vivid detail, told a story that is so ingrained in my head I couldn’t forget it if I ever tried. I still see myself, at twenty-four years old, boiling potatoes for dinner, adding butter and milk and a little salt, browning hamburger, draining the grease, adding tomato soup and green beans with the old white Kenmore top freezer refrigerator at my back as I cooked dinner for my husband on the night that our lives would turn upside down.

And it was received well. And people were shocked and stunned and surprised. People I haven’t talked to since high school started leaving me comments telling me how much they admired my strength. My friend Yvonne from work would continuously ask me when the next excerpt would be posted. My husband told all his Facebook friends about it, and before I knew it, there were a devoted group of readers hungry for the next installment of a story that nobody could have ever made up.

So I decided to turn this multitude of Facebook notes I had written into a book. I decided I’d call it “Slice Of Normalcy”. And I asked my friends, both here on Livejournal and on Facebook, if anyone was willing to be a beta reader. And they all jumped at the chance. Daphyn, Rachel, Kristie, Bren, my friend Paris that I haven’t seen since seventh grade – everyone wanted to read what I had written so far. And I found myself feeling like a real writer. My husband asked Jason Boyett, a Christian author I turned him onto, if he would be interested in being a beta reader as well. Eric, our pastor at church, knows people in publishing. My friend Cheryl told me once that it was amazing that for someone who loves to cook as much as I do, it was sad that I ended up living with someone who would flip the circuit breaker to the stove during the day out of spite.

And late on the night of December 23rd, 2010, as I sat in Mom and Dad’s cozy living room with the gray berber carpet, the Navajo patterned couch and pink rocker recliners, I proudly announced to my father that I’m writing a book. I still have a long way to go, but I’m writing a book.

And he asks me what I’m writing about.

I tell him. “It’s about what I dealt with when I was married to my ex-husband and how I came out a stronger person from it.”

He snorts derisively. “Nobody wants to read something that’s going to depress them. Why don’t you write something happy? How about children’s books? You’d be good at that.”

What I hear is that my six month labor of blood, sweat and tears, what I do before I leave for work in the morning and what I do between calls in the customer service job for a certain Big Blue department store’s dot-com department is a waste of time because “nobody wants to read something that’s going to depress them.”

Obviously, a sixty year old retired cop speaks for the masses.

That night, I slunk down the stairs to bed, devastated. Once again, my dreams have been shattered like a Mason jar dropped onto a tile floor. It’s not good enough.

”I’m writing a book!

”Nobody wants to read something that’s going to depress them. How about children’s books? You’d be good at that.

What I hear is that I am not good at what I’m doing. Whether or not it’s what he’s said, it’s what I hear.

Lying together on the hard mattress in the basement bedroom, I cry on my husband’s shoulder as he comforts me and reminds me that I can do whatever I want as long as I set my mind to it, and that there are multitudes of people out there who believe in me, and that Dad hasn’t even read anything I’ve written, so his opinion really means bumpkus, right?

WRONG.

It’s funny, because even as an adult, you never stop trying to please your parents. You still want to hear “I’m proud of you” or “I think that’s amazing” or “Way to go, I knew you could do it”. Thirty-two years old and I’m still seeking validation from the parent who always makes me feel like the world’s biggest, colossal failure.

But see, the thing with my dad is that he’s always made me feel like being a colossal failure will be the only thing I’ll really be able to do. It’s a form of bullying, in a way. He’s made me feel like I’ll never be able to achieve any of my dreams and essentially told me as much when I was about fourteen. I had a plaque that said “Believe in yourself and anything is possible”, and when I quoted that back to him one day, he told me that “was a nice sentiment, but not true for you, so just accept it.” When he would condescend to me, I’d ask him to stop in the nicest way I could, but he told me that he knew more than me and that gave him the right. When he told me that if he was “bringing me down” that I should just tell him that he was and say, “Dad, you’re bringing me down,” the response I got was, “Good, you deserve to be brought down!” When I express my desire to start a family with my husband, I hear that “you should just be happy with being a great aunt and a great uncle to your nieces and nephews instead.”

It’s not unlike what I dealt with growing up in public school.

Just like that picture I remember those third grade boys drawing on our class mural, a horrible looking thing with crossed eyes and hair everywhere, hearing someone whisper to me, “You know that’s supposed to be you, right?” is exactly the same thing as what my father’s been doing to me since I was old enough to realize it.

Parents, don’t bully your children. Please. Let your sons and daughters know that they really CAN achieve anything they set their minds to do. Don’t tell them they deserve to be brought down, ever. If your daughter tells you that if she believes in herself that anything is possible, give her a hug and a kiss and tell her that’s God’s honest truth, she sure as hell can. Don’t condescend, don’t be derogatory, don’t be hurtful, don’t be intentionally mean, don’t create crippling self-doubt in the fragile heart of a child.

Be a warrior mom like my mother-in-law. Be a warrior dad. Single Dad Laughing did an amazing blog about how you just broke your child. Don’t let that person be you.

Fight for your kids.

Make sure that they believe in themselves and that if they set their mind to it, they can do anything.

If you believe in them, then they believe in themselves.

Don’t let a few stupid words destroy that very delicate thing called self esteem.
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