28 January 2008

Frightfully competent

There was a seminar on writing memoirs at the library this past weekend and I kept thinking I would sign up for it. Finally, I tried to call the number they listed to preregister, but got a disconnect message after trying it twice. I went to the library to pick up a book on hold for me there, intending to sign up for the workshop as well, but I only remembered the book. When I looked up the next day, and it was an hour after the writing seminar had ended, I took it as a sign that I must not have needed to go to the class after all. Later, I wrote this:

When I was a kid, I remember my mother whirling around in a rush, sometimes full of good cheer but othertimes a stream of mutterings accompanying the fluster of motion. Sometimes it was as if I wasn't there at all, even when I was the reason for and therefore the cause of all the action and fuss.

It's been brought to my attention that this is something I do. I get upset easily when I'm in this state, my own mutterings streaming forth: "No one else ever does this," or "Good thing I'm here or this would never get done," about whatever task I am engaged in. It's a martyrdom I feel some of that time as my muttering mother and stepmother too must have felt, where we are put upon at having to accommodate a generally oblivious child in every decision, and in my parents' cases, children who bestowed upon them by a smart but slippery guy who wanted to be as free of the care and feeding of the little urchins as possible.

Oddly, this scenario reminds me of my grandparents as well. My mother's mother was so fiercely protective of her time and privacy that as a grandmother she was an exotic myth, more than any parental presence in our lives. Was this a familiar pattern to my mother when she met my father, whose own father and grandfather before him had performed similar vanishing acts in their children's lives?

And how is it, I wonder, that I have found a best friend, who, given some tasks, attacks them as if a judge is standing over her with a stopwatch, trying to determine whether this will be her recordbreaking attempt to do x, y, or z, even if it's a task she's never attempted before?

I was having a similar problem when I was driving: I was constantly reacting to every situation as if someone like my father (drunk and/or angry) was right behind me, urging me to go faster or to get out of the way. Worse, I was treating every other driver as if I were my father. Does my dearest friend have someone like this hounding her when she works?

How do we get these characters to give us a little more time, a little more space? How do we remind ourselves to ask whether our mad mutterings behind the the broom or the wheel of a car are really true, or made-up stories we keep telling ourselves, stories that give us some kind of perverse impetus to get through a task or a moment?

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