I’ve been watching the growth and development of my daughter from afar, of necessity because she still avoids me for some unknown reason. At one point, when we were still talking, she told me that “all my messages were ones of fear”. This always struck me as unfair. I have always walked openly into the jaws of the dragon, I thought – following my ex hither and yon, heading to Canada for school when I was a kid, travelling single, changing careers, trying new things, bravely handling all that life threw at me.
But in a way, she was right. I have always lived my life in fear of other’s opinion of me. I am a quintessential “people pleaser”, given to smiling instead of taking offence, tolerating things I don’t like instead of making a scene, choosing the safe roads as vs hitchhiking through the backwoods of life. It’s served me well in some ways, less well in others. And when I take a stand and people start disliking me because of it (a firm stand means some people will take against you), I often retreat into beige, letting the colours slip from myself and not be bold with the reds and oranges. I joke about myself, making it seem that I didn’t really mean what I said, letting my power slip away. And, when I feel I have to make a stand and can’t change, I don’t know how to do it smoothly. People don’t expect it of me and so they are totally thrown off, take offence, are hurt.
So as I skulk along, picking up the messages about my daughter’s life, hearing what she is doing, I know that if I hadn’t been afraid back then, my life would have been so much more like hers, or my sons’, as versus the very conservative life I did live (though I hasten to add I was considered the “bad” kid by a lot of my family). I find myself chuckling at how very alike we are, she and I, despite our separation. Despite being far away, I feel closer to her than ever before.
I can’t help but feel proud – of all of my kids. They are themselves. Loudly. It hasn’t been easy – they’ve been individuals with strong opinions since they arrived. Perhaps there are parts of each of them that aren’t quite perfect for prime time – but that is their strength showing. And why SHOULD they be ready for “prime time” anyway? They should be who they are, as long as they remain willing to learn from the world, and open to other’s experiences.
I’m a bit jealous of my kids’ bravado – their willingness to really throw themselves into life, each in their own way. I’ve always held one foot on safe ground when I dip my foot into the sea of experience. Maybe it is time to copy my kids for a change, and jump right in.
Don’t do what you want. Do what you don’t want. Do what you’re trained not to want. Do the things that scare you the most.Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters, 1999
US writer (1962 – )