Thursday, July 19, 2007

Rebel without a cause

I recently had one of those days. You know, the sort that the next day you wake up with Big Mouth Regret.

First, a bit of honesty: I have a sad inclination at times to not trust people very much when it comes to me. This ties back to the Hump Day Hmm theme this week of letting go, which---when it comes to believing that people can and will accept me as I am---I haven't done. I haven't let go of all those times I wasn't. Times, by the way, that are not in the past, which is probably why the letting go bit is so hard.

I have learned that people are generally more comfortable with me when I put on the Facade, you know, the old "scarf over the lightbulb to dim the wattage" trick. I'm not fooling them; people aren't stupid. They can tell I am a wolf in sheep's clothing. But as long as I act like a sheep rather than a wolf, we can all be okay.

I make it sound like I think that's a bad thing---it's not, and I don't. We all do a degree of masking in order to respect the boundaries of individuals, groups, and situations.

Every person you pass who says, "Hi! How are you?" doesn't want a thirty minute verbal expository essay. And neither do most of us when we ask.

We can all tell usually when the interest is genuine and the time is right for more depth, honesty, soul-baring.

But what if that moment hasn't come in a long time, too long?

That's me, and that's why I did what I did. I got to a point of feeling inside a bit like a candle under a bush that set the bush afire. The Julie bit said, let me out or the bush is toast! I needed to be more than Patience's mom, Persistence's mom. Sometimes I wonder if that is why I blog so infrequently about my kids. This is my space, the Julie space. I even use my name here.

Behind the curtain, the Wizard of Oz was a man. Behind the stained shirt, overly large bag bulging with un poco de todo, annoyingly directive voice, the mom is still a woman.

We all say this, but do we know it?

When you meet a mom for the first time, or after a while, are you more likely to leap into a discussion of headlines or parenting? Ask about her views on whether religion is a factor in the presidential race for 2008, or ask what her kids have been up to?

And that, my friends, is why I recently had one of those days: it's been the latter, and the latter, and the latter again for me.

I want to tell you what I think about religion as a factor in the presidential race, and I shall, here on my blog...it's already written up, waiting in drafts.

But I also want that in my corporeal life, not per se that exact conversation, but the sorts of conversations I have on my blog. I want that, out here, too.

However, I don't feel like I have that channel available to me out here. I tried getting involved in a political group...but didn't click and anyway, they were all wary of me since they couldn't understand why I'd move here from Massachusetts. I tried finding a book club. Unsuccessful. I did find a great discussion group for religious issues for a while, but it sort of washed out a bit; the meaty discussions moved more towards parenting chit chat. Again.

One day it disturbed me to realize that the only people I have to talk to about my meaty issues are...online.

Thanks goodness for the Internet, and what would I do without it, I'm immensely grateful and enjoy my community here, but...

* what's it mean that I don't feel like I have one person around me who is interested in my interests and issues?

* what's it mean that I pour the weight of me into the Internet?

* what's it mean that this is where I turn to find the things that matter a lot to me?

Is this the common plight of the SAHM? Of moms in general? Is this why there are so many of us online, discussing these sorts of things...issues beyond parenting?

It made me feel a little weary, that. I felt a degree of---potentially false---superficiality to my life, and my corporeal relationships.

Even my husband, once my favorite issue discussing partner, and I focus on the kids when we talk.

So what happened was...one day I decided to trust the people around me---trepidatiously, more of a mental decision to trust more than an actual feeling of trust---and be honest and say what I really think. Politely. I'm not saying turn into some Jim Carey character and blab everything on my mind. I just mean: be polite and honest.

Let's say...maybe it didn't go so well, maybe it did---it remains to be seen, I suppose. But I did wake up the next day with a pretty bad case of Big Mouth Regret. I'm hoping that eases soon.

The true source of my Big Mouth Regret is not so much that I did open my mouth and say what I think, nor is it really about how I said what I said; it's more why I said it: fatigue with masking and a 'selfish' need to reveal what I really think.

If I can get past the anxiety about revealing myself through truth and the guilt about being who I needed to be instead of who I think others need me to be, I'll see that this might not need regret.

So what do I think the outcome is, that makes me feel some regret?

I think some people think I am insane. Maybe I am. I think some people are a little miffed, and I'm not sure whether it is because I broke the rules (just nod, smile and go along to get along) or because I, someone they always trusted to agree with them and be on their side, expressed a difference of opinion. I think some people were glad to have some truths out in the open. Some things helped, other things fell flat.

I don't know where it is going to go---will it lead to more openness? More discussions beyond parenting? meaningful discussions beyond parenting?

I still don't think, while at a playdate, I'm going to begin pouring my thoughts and views about the function of historical winner's rhetoric in modern xenophobic culture.

I still don't think---despite a high level of intelligence in most people I know---that many people are terribly interested right now in the unbearable lightness of being. I think most of the time most people feel pretty heavy under the weight of being: being parent, worker, spouse, friend, child, self, etc.

In this case, I'm not too sure, though, whether this is my lack of trust resurfacing or a solid gut instinct that would serve me well to listen to.

I do think that it might have opened a door, though, so if someone does want weight and meat beyond what you get in parenting, they know I'm open for business.

P.S. I had another entry to the Hump Day Hmm: Mary-LUE's The Things They Carried: A Hump Day Hmm-er Double Header

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

27 comments:

Gina Pintar said...

Is this the common plight of the SAHM? A resounding YES! At least in my case. I *love* being home with the kids but miss the adult conversation that you get when you are at work. World issues, political issues, environmental issues etc. I miss talking about more than just my kids.

You know I think my son was harmed and thank goodness I have an outlet for that online and IRL. When it gets to me, I have people to call to let it out. But you are right, I don't unleash that at regular folks. It is not an easy message.

I hope you find some friends to be out there with. I LOL at you saying you are insane. NOT.

kaliroz said...

To quote my father ... this is my attitude about all of this.

People don't like what I say they can "Kiss my go to hell". (Told you he was a sailor. Although I believe his grandmother coined that particular family phrase.)

Julie, I really do think we are two birds of a feather. Or some other animal analology.

I've always been a "say what's expected, not what you're thinking" kind of person. A "don't ruffle any feathers" kind of person.

You know what it's gotten me?

A case of flaring IBS, adult acne, a serious drinking habit and periodic episodes of insomnia.

And I'm not exaggerating here.

I don't like to cause a ruckus, really. But all this holding my true self in is eating me alive. It's destroying me. Granted, I'm about to move several states away, but I've started piping up at work. I've stopped being what people want and being who I am. And while all of the above mentioned stress-induced things I'm still battling, at least I'm feeling better about me.

There's only so long you can squelch yourself without killing yourself. You know? Putting your head in a figurative gas oven.

I'm in the South too. A Yankee transplant. I "feel your pain" about not finding like-minded individuals down here. Hence the blogging. It's my outlet. And I do have a few friends I can talk with. Funnily enough, the one woman is actually a mother we met in the park. During playdates the girls run amok at my house with this mom and I talk about redshirting and politics and religion and husbands and film. She's a treasure and I really thought I was going to go postal before I met her.

I think, when you're in the situations we're in, you have to just chuck expectations to the wind and be you. Wear pants when everyone else is wearing skirts. Smoke 'em if you've got 'em out in the open while other's hide their habits.

My struggles the last few years have been trying to find my place in this society and I've finally realized I don't have to find a place. I have one. And everyone else will just have to deal.

Tere said...

I have to think about all this, but in a gut level, I'm with you.

slouching mom said...

Interesting and familiar. My two best friends here are both liberal, thank goodness, but neither is what I would call political. They don't particularly care to have political conversations. And most of the time, that's OK with me. I do talk to my husband.

But once in a while, it's tough. It feels as if there's a large part of me that's not getting use.

Kyla said...

In short, yes, it is the plight of the SAHM.

For me, I would never start a political discussion, because until recently I've honestly never felt strongly about it. Blogging has opened this up for me, and I so enjoy reading and learning about it all. I enjoy the perspectives and knowledge that is shared. It moves me. It challenges me to grow as a person.

If we were sitting next to each other at a playdate, and you started a conversation about politics, I would be all too happy to discuss it, although I might not have a lot to add. I would still enjoy it. Adult conversation! Hooray! Same goes for religion or literature. It would be enjoyable for me. Perhaps even challenging, in a wonderful way. An opportunity to stretch those parts of myself that so often lie dormant.

I play the "What is going on with the kids?" card, because it is already established common ground. It is a ready-made conversation, but that isn't to say it should be the ONLY conversation. It just tends to be the obvious one, and some people never move beyond it.

thailandchani said...

I like Kaliroz's message a lot. The reason is that I went through that very same process, trying to fit in to a society (social style is perhaps a better way of putting it) that didn't fit me.

And after a while I got tired of trying to cram me into a box that was invariably too small or too large. It never failed that parts of me would leak out the sides. Then the consequences...

Since I am framed very differently now, people expect me to be different and that's almost a blessing. Well, it is a blessing!

I think most people are equally afraid to reveal their true selves, and discuss important issues, because disagreement is in such disfavor in US culture. Political correctness, respecting all viewpoints equally (who can do that? Really!), always being sunny and outgoing with a positive spin on everything. So they stick with superficiality and platitudes.

That's the edict ~ and way too many people get lost in it. And way too many conversations that should take place among us don't take place.

Discussing books and ideas is what I'm all about.. and, truly, I can't be something else because it's what's expected of me.

You are not alone in this. Not at all. Especially in workplace culture. Good grief,it's a wonder you can open your mouth at all!


Peace,

~Chani

ALM said...

And you know what's interesting -- I started becoming more an on-line person - joined on line pregnancy support group, etc - because I had nobody to talk to about parenting issues! None! I started doing this to seek out people to talk to about mom stuff & parenting stuff! So this suits me just fine.

Emily said...

I think it is the fate of all parents. Whenever I get frustrated that I have no idea what is going on in the news, I remind myself that this is a short period in my life and I will regain outside interests. I hope. (Otherwise, I may become my aunt...) I try not to get to anxuous about it anymore, because presumably the kids will know how to tap themselves after peeing and I can go back to reading the paper.

Mad Hatter said...

I blame Sienfeld. Well, ok, not Seinfeld per se but a funny thing happened in the mid-90s. It became uncool to talk about anything that mattered. Conversations had to be fast and breezy. This all started when I was in grad school. Here I was surrounded by all these fabulously smart people but the pressure was definitely there to shut up about all things smart, to make light of life and learning so as to make the educational experience collegial. It's a phenomenon that lingers now that I am an adult. Rarely do I find myself with a group of people who want to talk beyond the breeze. That's why I think blogging has become so popular. People (not just Moms) are searching for more meaningful contacts with other people.

I also think the inverse is true: that blogging makes it difficult to engage normally in the corporeal world. I will take on any issue on my blog. I will not in conversation simply because I don't have time to think, to process before I respond, to listen acutely (here I can re-read to make sure I got the point). Real life REAL conversations make me feel defensive and exposed. I'd rather do that from the safety of my blog.

Sober Briquette said...

This reminds me of my acquaintance, Deborah. We met in MOMS Club, but it was our dogs who had playdates.

She called me one day, saying that an article in The New Yorker had disturbed her enough that she was cancelling her subscription, and what periodicals did I recommend?

I tried to change the subject, but she persisted. Finally, I admitted, "I get Family Fun and Women's Day." Dead silence on her end.

Not long afterward, she moved to a rural community and we lost touch. I hope for her sake, she blogs.

kim said...

I've done all the same things, book club(pseudo-intellectual and boring)political(superfreaks)religious (holy pious)and have pretty much determined that I'm a picky b*tch. Actually I'm not, I just don't want to have to fit into one box.

I have one friend who said she values our friendship because we talk about more than just kids. Roy road with me in a car full of SAHM's on a school field trip. He asked later "Is that all SAHM's talk about, kids?" Sadly I answered yes, the majority yes.

Christine said...

this is an issue that i am confronted with every single day. i have several very conservative friends here who it is clear that any sort of political or religious discussion would divide us forever. so we avoid it. but is that really healthy? perhapsnot, but who knows.

on the other hand i have a couple of friends who are so out of the reality loop that they don't read, listen to, or watch news. they don't read novels or non-fiction. they don't engage with the world outside of simple play dates and birthday parties. it frustrates me, and makes me feel like they simply have checked out and have refused to be citizens of the world. yet, (do people say on the 3rd hand? LOL) i have several very liberal, educated friends who are SO smart and savvy that i feel like an idiot and pretty much nod politely, damn, i am wishy washy.

sigh.

Harmaniac Man said...

I refrain from publishing serious and polarizing issues on my blog because my blogspace was created so I could release the goofball that gets trapped inside me from being serious all week.

I applaud you for writing whatever you want, that's what blogs are for! Although I have seen some people get beat up by the opposing viewpoint so badly that they've ultimately ended up taking their blogs down because of ridiculous hate mail. So I guess it can be one of those "be careful what you ask for" kind of deals.

flutter said...

Are you supposed share your meaty bits with everyone? Or do you get to choose? Seems to me you are doing what is good for you.

painted maypole said...

i feel the same way about talks with other moms - that it's just all about the kids. Even the book group I'm a part of tends to devolve into kid stories. Drives me batty. I would love it if a mom asked me those kind of questions at the park. Maybe I need to start doing that myself. Food for thought... thanks

Julie Pippert said...

Flutter, I don't want the meaty bits with everyone, nor all the time. But sometimes with at least one person...now that would be nice. :)

***

Painted Maypole, maybe I'll try to find your playground. ;)

***

Gina, yeah online is a fortunate outlet, and that's exactly it: it's not an easy message. And when you do go serious, I think people wonder, "What does this person expect, want of me?" Dude, just your opinion or ear...that's all.

***

Roz, I don't suppress me entirely. Like I said, I do have outlets. I've just finally noticed that my friendships here haven't evolved much past the mom-chat stage, for which there can be a lot of reasons, but I think the three big ones are the ones I mentioned---which you touched on too. But yes, I think I do hold back much more down here. And I think it has finally started to get to me. It's a somewhat unusual state of being for me.

***

Tere, thanks.

***

SM, yeah it's that: a large part of me not getting use, but more than that, it feels like a part of me hopping like a sugared-up two year old looking for a way to release some frantic energy. Also, how uncool is it that I keep a good portion of me under wraps in a friendship, regularly?

***

Kyla, I think your last sentence says it all: my frustration with it isn't that I have it most of the time with most people, but---here's comes the analogy---it's like being stuck in first or second gear, all the time with everyone.

I think you'd contribute wonderfully to any of those topics.

***

Back for more...because more good points...soon...

jen said...

i have never once thought you were insane.

it's about being seen, isn't it? and being seen means allowing others to see us and shoulder the risks and joys of that seeing. and Mad has a great point, blogging makes for these incredibly soulful connections that aren't easily manifested, say, in playgroup. and in my everyday life that can often lead to not putting myself out there.

very good post, friend.

bubandpie said...

When I push the boundaries of how much I usually reveal, I always have oversharer's remorse. But I think a lot of the time I'm imagining the negative response, simply because I'm uncomfortable with how much I shared. You feel a little raw, so every glance is like a whiplash.

Momish said...

I know how you feel. While having an outlet on the internet is helpful, wonderful and enjoyable, it is not enough at times. Just like books are not enough, you need the open and personal discourse about them in the end.

The remorse is hard at times, but being true to yourself usually wins out in the end. There is probably another woman there breathing a sigh of relief that for once the topic at hand was not the same old, same old.

Mary G said...

I think Mad has a real point -- Political Correctness is far more limiting now that it was a generation ago. Speaking of which, wait until you have white hair and wrinkles and you will have even less opportunity to talk about real stuff. Grandmas are really disregarded, dern it all.

But no, you're not nuts. You just haven't lucked in to anyone on the same wavelength lately.
I applaud your courage in taking the leap to say what you think, even partially, and I really hope it jerks one or more of your acquaintances to life. Sometimes, sometimes, speaking your mind will allow someone else to do so also and you will have found a friend.
In the meantime, we are here.

Scribbit said...

I enjoyed your post and though I take your thoughts seriously, that "scarf over the lightbulb to dim the wattage" image had me chuckling.

Julie Pippert said...

Everybody, thanks so much for all of your thoughts, support, insight, etc. It's amazing. See, this is awesome. Even my sister commented on it, and she brought up a good point, which is one that several of you touched on too:

I have this great community here, in the blog, and it is awesome.

Which sort of begs the question: then what's missing?

Momish hit on that with the concept that sometimes you crave the personal face-to-face interaction, which is basically it.

But, I have given it pause to think and ponder, especially because Mad and Jen brought up the idea that this sort of connection is rather unique to blogging for several reasons.

I might have to blog further on this once it finishes processing in my brain.

Which leads me to the othe rgood point that Chani, Mad and Mary all mentioned:

Political Correctness

This is definitely a blog topic. Keep your eyes on my blog...there is going to be something here soon...

Thanks again. So many awesome and articulate people bringing insight.

And, FTR, no regrets on my end. :)

kaliroz said...

Julie, I'm thankful for my move. Somewhere bluer where the "real" me isn't going to feel like such an eyesore.

Before I found the mama I can talk non-kid things with, I was going absolutely apeshit. And I'm a WOHM.

Thank god for the internets!

Snoskred said...

In real life a lot of people "keep up appearances". I mean lets face it, if you upset the other Mom's, its less likely your kids will be invited to the fun stuff. Yes, it's unfair, but to discuss things like politics and religion etc means that people will judge you based on what you say and if you say something they don't like the sound of, they're going to distance themselves.

Whereas online, we're all much more accepting of each others opinions and view points. We can say what we really think here and still be accepted by others.

I did this myself recently in real life. I don't tell people that I'm a scambaiter, usually, after someone reacted badly once. But I'd given one person a link to my blog and they mentioned it in front of others and a discussion ensued. As always, there came a point where I was feeling judged by someone in the discussion, and I said to the person who was doing the judging "I usually don't tell people that I scam bait, because they don't really understand what it means. It's not until you speak to an 80 year old nun who has lost their life savings that you get angry at these scammers and want to do something to try and get in their way. That's why I do it - because I have spoken to so many victims. Imagine that someone you love, someone close to you, has lost all their life savings to one of these guys, and rethink it".

I can understand you not trusting. In real life I rarely do that. People are so judgmental and I really only have a very small close group of friends who I know don't do that to me or each other. I think that is true of almost everyone.

We have the people we know will accept us and then there's a huge gap between them and the other people we know. But there comes a point for all of us where we get sick of that masking and we throw caution to the wind and say what we really think to people who don't DESERVE that. Do you know what I mean?

I mean, it's a bit like your views and your opinions are really precious - like sapphires and diamonds and emeralds and rubies, and you allowed some people to see that who you'd normally just show the costume jewelery to.

Maybe that doesn't make sense, it's late here and it's been another day of euphoria. ;)

Her Bad Mother said...

This is the common plight of women. Of human beings, generally, I fear.

Mary-LUE said...

I would add another thought to this. If you made a pie chart of the population around you and could figure out what percentage of people have the same level of interest in the kinds of things you want to talk about, I think it would show that your odds of running into very many people who share that same level of passion and interest would not be very great.

For example, (I always like to use my interest in Myers-Briggs Temperament theory as an example because it is a fairly safe subject) I could sample the population of So-So Cal and find a) a certain percentage of people with no interest, b) a certain with a mild interest and c) a (probably fairly small) number of people with the same degree of interest as mine. Some mathy person, like the geeky guy from that Numbers TV show, could probably then run the odds of my running into people from category C in my day to day moving about in my world. I'm sure it would be a small chance.

Now, I think that the issues others have brought up are factors, also. So, when you throw it all together, I think it shows how hard it is to find like-minded people.

Blogging helps with that. It is easier, through other people's commenters and blogrolls to find commonalities. The nature of it also makes it easier to have just one or two things in common with a fellow blogger. In real life, it isn't as easy to develop a relationship with someone if all you have in common is one thing.

But... I think there is much to be said for the in person relationship. The give and take is in real time, the ability to see what's in a person's eyes and hear their tone of voice. A real life hug from a friend? Can't beat it.

I do think that it gets easier as your children get older to move past the child-centric conversations. I still have them with my friends but we talk about lots of other stuff, too. There's hope yet, Julie!

Lawyer Mama said...

Well, I'm late to the conversation but I completely understand what you mean. I don't think it's just the South. There are intelligent, liberal minded people down here, we can just be a bit harder to find.

I have found, however, that in most places I've lived I've only found one *maybe* two people with which I could have those sorts of in depth conversation. Northern Virginia, however, wow. You can't swing a dead cat without encountering a controversial discussion about something up there. Seriously. You'd love it.

I tend to have the same sort of remorse as you. I generally mind my p's & q's when I'm around people I know will react badly to my true thoughts. But ocassionally, I will let loose and consequences be damned. It always seems to happen at functions hosted by people my husband works with in the defense industry.... But sometimes you've just got to say what you think.