Monday, March 12, 2007

What Eleanor didn't tell us...

"No one can make you feel inferior without your permission."

Eleanor Roosevelt

I love a good quote, don't you? When such a powerful thought can be boiled down to one simple statement, it is rather awe-inspiring. It is such a popular craft that almost anywhere you create an account for personal purposes online, you are encouraged to share your favorite quote. The problem, I'm finding, with quotes is that they are too simple. We read a quote like the one above, and I'm sure you've all read it before, and we think "Yep, that sounds about right." Some of us might even say a little, "Amen, sister!" And often we think to ourselves, that is one we need to remember, because "that one is one I need to focus on!" And then two or three months or even a couple of years go by, and you read the quote again...and this time maybe you are thinking, "Oh yeah! I KNOW this. I've GOT to remember it." If you are like me, about the 784th time you run across this quote you are smacking yourself on the forehead and saying, "Why the hell can't I get this? What is wrong with me?" And look at that, Eleanor Roosevelt just made you feel didn't give her permission did you? Or did you? Hell you can't even remember a stupid quote, how the hell are you supposed to remember if you gave someone permission to make you feel inferior? The problem is not really the idea behind the quote; the problem is it doesn't make the reader go through the work of getting to that idea that the writer (or speaker) had to go through. So while you might think you've got it, you've only got its essence.

This occurred to me tonight as I drove home from work. I was humming along, windows down fresh, cool spring air blowing on my face and I was thinking about maybe writing a blog about Maddy, the newest Disney Princess to be launched in 2009. And I was smoking a cigarette. And I drove past a very put together looking woman on the street walking and pushing a toddler in a stroller. She gave me a look...a look I could only interpret as disdain, but I'm fessing up that it was only my interpretation. And I began making excuses to myself about my smoking and getting annoyed about presumptuous people judging me. "She's never waked in my shoes!" I lamented. And then someone pushed the pause button and I really stopped and thought about my own internal dialogue. Truth is, I had no idea why that woman shot me that look. Maybe she thought I was judging her for having her obviously mobile toddler in a stroller. Maybe she just remembered a bill she forgot to pay. Maybe a bug flew up her nose. And yes, maybe she was judging my smoking. But the truth is, all of that is irrelevant, because all the negativity that was affecting me was coming from ME. Wow.

I finished my business at the bank, already knowing my blogging subject matter had changed, when I came to a two way know one of those places where the sign is posted "Through traffic DOES NOT STOP." And there was someone else across the way, coming from the opposite direction. This stop is just beyond the rise of a little hill, so sometimes it is a little hard to see the "through traffic." The woman across the way thought she saw an opening and started across and I tapped on the gas, but slammed on my breaks quickly when I saw an oncoming car. The person in that car also slammed on the breaks, tires squealing, horn blasting. As my "other side of the road" counter part whizzed by me, the driver of the car that had stopped was waving her hands and yelling, though I don't know what. And my internal dialogue took off again with excuses that it is really hard to see and "Gee, you don't have to be a bitch!" I only realized a few minutes later that I was in fact feeling guilty for my moment of having stepped on the gas, even though I had stopped in plenty of time. This problem, I surmised, runs deep in me.

I've actually been working a lot on my internal dialogue, and the fact that I'm seeing this behavior in myself says a lot to that. It is easy for us to get angry with ourselves for all kinds of things and project it out on other people. This is what happens to me when I find myself brooding over slights, real or imagined...the person I'm usually getting unreasonable flack from is myself. I don't know that I've found the cure, but I'm really working on being gentler in the way I talk to myself. The funny thing is, it results in me being gentler with the people around me. I stopped being mad at both these ladies almost instantly, in fact, I found myself laughing and hoping that their evenings got better, and I allowed myself to go on and have a better evening too. What a cool gift.

Just wanted to tell you that.

1 comment:

motherlawyer said...

Wise words. Thanks!

Yes, I did.

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