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FINALLY, I CAN SAY IT...
30 January 2006
We learn very early in life what we can and cannot say. We learn to be comfortable with letting our feelings out, or keeping them all bottled up. Those feelings we pass along to our own children, and the cycle continues.
In my family, my sister Karen and I learned from the start that the family motto was "don't upset your father."
You never knew what would set my father off.
It could be the telephone ringing at the wrong time, or someone ringing the doorbell, or an offhand comment you made that hit him the wrong way, or some interaction he'd had outside the house that would make him so angry that he took it out on the rest of us. My response to his volatile and unpredictable temper was to learn to keep everything bottled up. Don't say what you feel about anything. Ever.
Karen reacted just the opposite. NOTHING was going to keep her quiet when she felt strongly about things, and I remember battle royals which took place between her and my father over lots of things. I don't really know what they argued about because the way I protected myself was just to leave the room when fights broke out, go somewhere else and dissociate.
So I grew up never knowing how to express myself, fearful of saying anything about anything, willing to have my opinion shaped by anybody who had anything forceful to say to me. (I remember getting very excited about a guy who was running for political office at UC Berkeley, and going home with the thrill of wanting to work for this guy, only to be totally shut down by my father, who felt he was a communist and I should not be helping him. That effectively ended my political activism for decades.)
Peggy teases that one of my strong points is "suffering in silence." I guess I don't see it that way. I guess that I've been this way--whatever "this way" is--for so long that it just comes naturally to me, and sitting down to talk about differences of opinion on matters close to me just seems unnatural.
I can defend "third party" issues. I can talk about gay rights, the rights of breastfeeding mothers, immigration issues, for example, and feel fairly comfortable. But those conversations that start with "when you do xyz, it makes me feel zyx" will just never come easily for me.
So it was a bit of a challenge to read the meme which asks you to write 10 sentences, things you would like to say to 10 people in your life, but to make their identity not obvious from what you write. So here are the ten things I would like to say to 10 people who are now or who have been in my life. And no, I won't identify them to anybody. (Because that would start a "when you do xyz, it makes me feel zyx" dialogue!)
(And just so they won't sit here wondering about all of this, none of them is addressed to my immediate family. I may be a fool, but there is a limit to my folly.)
1. Helping you was one of the things I regret most. Doing it more than once was just plain stupid.
2. It was a great idea and I was really excited about it--then you completely lost interest.
3. I think we could be better friends if I could be more open with you, but I cant.
4. I know I should love you, but the truth is I don't really even like you.
5. I love you dearly, but you simply have to stop it. Stop it now or I may have to reconsider the whole 'I love you dearly' thing!
6. The difference is I do it because I want to, you do it because you feel you have to.
7. Sometimes it's better to just let relationships be and not to examine them with a fine tooth comb, psychoanalyze them to death trying to make sure that everything is perfect.
8. You are a beautiful, intelligent person, but you're too damn thin!
9. People would like you more if you would stop trying to make yourself sound so important and stop looking for so much acknowledgment.
10. Maintaining a friendship consists of more than just forwarding some stale joke that you received fifth hand from someone you barely know. Occasionally an "I am fine, how are you?" message would be nice.
Funny that even thinking that someone might recognize him/herself here is a bit unnerving. Some of the people above are still in my life, some are not. But to all of them, these are things that I wanted to say at some point or other.
And now I've said it. So there.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Reflection in the windows at the Metreon,