I’ve had a really wonderful week. And the main reason is that I went out of my comfort zone and joined a writing group. Yeah, that would be way, WAY out of my comfort zone, but I did it, and I am very glad I did. The writing group main theme is “Healing through Writing”, and what made it work really well for me was the fact that all the comments on each other’s writing had to be positive – what did you like? What stuck with you? What was strong? This was a major departure from the kind of writing and responding to other’s writing that I had experienced in school. Even with the “sandwich” method, where the idea is to surround the critique with positive comments, you are still as a listener required to pay attention to what was “bad” or “weak” in the piece. By making the task of commenting just geared towards the positive, you are looking, and finding, the “good”, the “strong”. Hearing the positive comments and being forced to find the “good” in other’s pieces made for an amazing experience. It was so encouraging and wonderful to hear people respond in warm, caring ways towards my writing. It definitely created a safe space to communicate my ideas, and I felt relieved of the burden of rewriting and reworking a piece in response to criticism. I could simply enjoy the process of fitting words to images in pleasing patterns to tell a story of my own making. My self confidence increased by orders of magnitude. I felt, for the first time in a long time (I think since a friend and I would play poetry games in coffee shops right before I went to grad school) like I was really good at this, not just writing, but also in connecting with others in joyful, playful ways. Like I really did have something positive to contribute to the world.
But, I still have a ways to go towards healing my broken confidence and sense of self worth. Which isn’t surprising, as years of being ignored, undervalued, dismissed, gaslighted, etc, don’t go away overnight. But it was such a huge step in the right direction for me. It was fun just to have fun doing something I really enjoy with other like-minded folks. And it was a good reminder that not everyone (in fact, very few people, as it turns out) is an overly critical wet blanket like my ex. As I continue to accrue these positive experiences with others, I continue to heal.
On Sunday, my son had choir practice. They were starting a new piece, the Mozart Alelulia canon, which has three parts that are sung in a round. It’s very pretty, and a little bit complicated. Z happened to be the only one who could make it, so the director asked if I’d like to help sing the different parts. And I did, and I didn’t do so badly, and I had fun harmonizing. After we went through the piece once with all the parts, Z started going off about how I was really good and how I should write a book and other things, and I responded in my normal way when he says stuff like that. I was very self depricated, I said thanks, but I don´t know if that’s really possible, I´m not really good enough, because you have to be really good… and so forth. But this time, the choir director was there, and I noticed that she had this look on her face that said “Oh your son is so sweet, it´s breaking my heart!” And I realized that maybe I should just shut up and take the compliment already. And it was a bit painful to realize that extreme self deprecation was not a good example to show to my son. My attempts at humility went too far, and were presenting as a lack of joy in life, a lack of joy in my accomplishments, and an inability to connect in a positive way with my own son.
I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want my son to grow up like that. I don’t want to be tiny and unnoticable anymore. I am glad that I’m in a place where I can be myself, somewhat talented, silly, funny, engaging, and be loved for all of those things. I am glad that I am in a place where I can be appreciated and admired. I can flower here in ways that I couldn´t before, because I think that, at least in part, my talents and my enjoyment of life were threatening to my previous partners. It’s not really that I think of myself as Super Cool Amazingly Talented Writer for the Ages, or anything (I know I’m not, and wouldn’t want to be anyways), but I do know that my instructors and friends have responded very positively to my writing and my ideas. I think that my tendency towards being positive and caring in my writing and in my response to other’s writing was deeply threatening to my ex, which helps explain why she was so dismissive and rude. Not that I every showed her much of my writing beyond texts and emails, as I knew that she would simply exploit my insecurities and vulnerability.
So that’s me being all reasonable and rational about dealing with abusive b.s. But I really want to use words like “talentless hack” and “sad, pathetic, immature asshat”, and “flaming ball of impotent rage” (which I stole from an Onion segment on the Republican loss in the 2012 election).