Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Art of Being You

Before I launch into my Deep Thoughts, I wanted to give y'all an update on Punkin. I didn't really tell y'all about this, but Punkin's eyeball under her upper eyelid was blood red and it was freaking me out. Her pediatrician deemed it a subconjunctival hemmorhage, and while freaky it is basically harmless. He also cut her antibiotic dose in half which has alleviate her stomach troubles.

When she returned to school today all her friends greeted her like Norm walking into Cheers and Mr. Daddy said they all came up and hugged her. Her sweet little smile when she was telling me about it did my heart good, especially when I think back to those months when I worried about her social skills and whether or not she had any friends.

Anyway, back to my Deep Thoughts.

A week or so ago I read a post Alice Bradley wrote over at Finslippy talking about fear. Specifically, she was talking about the fear people get when they've done something creative like write a blog post, or a poem, or paint a picture. There's always going to be someone out there who has something negative to say about whatever topic is at hand. Most of us have had trolls on our blogs (though, thankfully I've had very, very few of them and they actually weren't very troll-y) or have read ugly comments on other people's blogs. Unfortunately, because of the option to comment anonymously, I think that this has let loose upon the world a river of hatred, vitriol, and negativity that I honestly wish we could do without. I'm all for free speech, but I believe that if you want to say it, you should be willing to give your name.

Anyway, I digress. Sort of. Because I haven't really been the target of online negative comments I can only imagine that they are quite hurtful and if received often enough, could dampen one's enthusiasm for the creative process.

But what actually came to my mind when I read Alice's post was my friend Sara. Up until about 3 months ago, Sara had long, full, vibrant, naturally curly hair. It was, so to speak, her crowning glory and the thing that people noticed immediately about her. It was just gorgeous.

But, Sara is also a full time student pursuing her Master's Degree in Divinity, a full-time mother, a wife, a friend to many, part-time pastor at her church and other duties as assigned. And I think, and this is partly conjecture on my part, that Sara's hair began to feel like a burden. It was one more thing she had to deal with and it was the one thing that was expendable. Also, because of some other things she's dealing with, I think she wanted to prove that a person is more than their physical appearance.

So she cut it off. All of it. It's pixie short and so cute.

But the reactions she's received. My Lord, you would have thought the world had come to an end. Her first Sunday at church the reactions ran the gamut from "Please tell me I'm dreaming that you cut all your hair off" to "Oh, don't worry, it will grow back!" as though she cut it off by accident. People have actually seemed to be offended that she dared to cut her hair. As though it were THEIR hair.

The day before I read Alice's post, someone had said something to Sara that had particularly hurt her feelings. They'd caught her on a low day and she began to question herself, whether she HAD done the right thing by cutting her hair. And so, when I read "A few words about fear" I thought of the trolls in our lives, the ones who stifle our creativity with backhanded compliments. The ones who can't stand it when we do something for ourselves, or something that takes us outside of the little box they've placed us in. I think we've all had those people in our lives who try to sabotage us by taking our good and making it bad.

On Ash Wednesday our minister preached about the real face behind the masks we wear every day. I think that as we get older we get more comfortable presenting that real face to the world. We become more comfortable in our own skin, more willing to stand up for what we believe, for what we want to do, for how we want to look.

I'm not going to lie, I've let other people's expectations of me keep me in their little box for many years. But I'm trying to put down my mask and be the real me.

That day I forwarded Alice's post to Sara and told her that I thought of her when I read it. That she is creating Sara every day -- the Sara she wants to be and the Sara that she presents to the world. And if other people don't like it, screw them. Actually, if you want to know the truth, I said "If they don't like it, fuck 'em." I'm sorry for the language, but sometimes I cuss. You should know that about me. Especially when I'm mad. This is the real me.

So, don't let the trolls in your life hold you back. Be you. And I'll do the same.


Kristy Dixon said...

What a fantastic statement. It also helps knowing there are folks out there willing and ready to lift others up when people are being less than kind. Striving to go inward and to celebrate and take care of oneself means being able to go outward and take that kindness with you.

"Fundamentally, the basis on which you can build a sense of caring for others is the capacity to love yourself." - H.H. the Dalai Lama

Thank you for a lovely post!

el-e-e said...

Oh, wow. Love this.

And I hope little Punkin gets all better soon!! Poor Mama. That has to be tough.

Tara said...

I love this. Helps me remember who I am and who I want to be. Also reminds me, yet again, that you are a writer of insight and beauty. Thanks for sharing your gift!

Katie in MA said...

I love whenever someone posts about this topic. I love hearing (or reading) the words "It's okay that it's hard; it's okay that it's scary." Because it *is* hard and it *is* scary sometimes. Do it anyway. Because real people will be there to support you. Awesome post!

(And I'm glad Punkin is okay - I was worried about you guys!)

Burgh Baby said...

I get my fair share of trolls, but somehow they don't bother me. I guess because I consider them to be random people who really don't know what they're talking about and are just spewing hate for the "fun" of it. It's the people in day-to-day life who talk about me behind my back that can get to me. Instantly. I kinda wish I could reverse that.

Kathy said...

So glad Punkin is on the mend.

Thank you for this post. It is great to be reminded that we should do things for ourselves and not just to plesae others. A very hard lesson to remember at times.

The story about your friend Sara reminded me of Faith Hill's haircut unveiled at the 2001 AMA's. She had gone from long hair to a shag cut. Her reasons were her own, but the outrage from fans was unreal. As if her singing had anything to do with her hair. Sometimes it is hard to ignore the insensitive comments.

calicobebop said...

Awesome post - totally agree. It's been hard for me to reconcile all the different masks but I'm getting there. It's ok to be who we are. I guess. :)

Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

AWEsome. Love this story and the message behind it.

Laurel said...

Great post. It's interesting that feel compelled or even invited to comment on another's personal choices. I'm all for healthy and respectful debate about societal trends and attitudes, but hair? Really? Why is that anyone else's business? I have a friend that cut her hair off and she had people tell her it made her look older. Uh...thanks?

I think you said it well, and I'll be thinking about feeling fear in correlation with creativity for a while. It is unnerving to put yourself out there. I've felt some of that fear for sure, but I'm so lucky to have been treated very kindly in blogland. So many wonderful people, you included, have become part of my consciousness, and I'm forever grateful. As for the trolls, I second your sentiments exactly. Screw 'em. :o)

Laurel said...

I forgot the "people" in that first sentence. See what happens when the phone rings midthought?