Category Archives: Things You’re Not Supposed to Say

The Most Difficult Woman Who Ever Lived is Dead

My grandmother died this weekend. She wasn’t the kind of grandmother you see in movies or read about in books. Verna Williams didn’t bake or hug or dote on us. Bluntly put: she was an extremely unhappy woman who hurt a lot of people. She wasn’t particularly nice to anyone, but I cannot recall a single time she was kind to my mother. Mourning a woman like that is complicated.

We wouldn’t be us if there wasn’t high drama surrounding her passing. Grown people are behaving like children. It’s gonna be a long week trying to get through the funeral.

I never had a very good relationship with my grandmother. In many ways, I wanted to put as much distance between myself and her as I could. Somewhere in me, I’ve always been afraid she is the worst version of me.

Several years ago, in an attempt gig me, Charlie created the Verna-meter. He would score particular behaviors, often exhibited by my grandmother, to prove I was acting like her, so I would stop. I found this to be extremely rude and totally uncalled for. Then my cousin’s husband got in on it. He started throwing out Verna-like behaviors he’d seen in his wife. We were so mad, but it was funny and kinda true, so we couldn’t stay that way.

The following behaviors score points on the Verna-meter:

  • Unstable stacking.
  • Insistence you know “the best way” to get to any location.
  • Out of control crafting.
  • Collecting obscene amounts of glassware and/or dishes.
  • Love of flea markets.
  • Buying strange pieces of fabric, signs, mannequins or broken furniture on the insistence you can “use them for something someday.”
  • Harboring an irrational love of El Chico.
  • Requiring to be re-seated in a restaurant multiple times because “something is blowing on me.”
  • Demanding the wait staff bring you several glasses of ice, that are never touched.
  • Asking to order off the menu. Or more accurately, asking to order something that hasn’t been on the menu in 20 years.

I really can’t defend any of the above behavior, although I’ve been guilty of all of it to some degree. Except one thing: El Chico is really good!

So here’s to you Verna! Thanks for having my mom. She was your best effort at unstable stacking. In spite of you, or maybe because of you, she has always been a kind person.

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Progress Report {Things You’re Not Supposed To Say}

When I was in elementary school, every progress report I ever got was the same. I was a bright girl. I did well in school. History, Math, Science, Reading, subject after subject the mark was the same: S – Superior. I understood school. I was given work. I did it the way I was asked. I got good grades.

I did well, except in one category. Four times a year, I had to bring home the report card with the same dark stain. Controls Talking: N – Needs Improvement. No matter how much I tried, and I really did, I could not improve. It’s like my DNA needs my mouth to move.

There have been a series of events this week that brought it all back. I talk too much. I say what I think. I write what goes on in my head. Some of it’s funny. Some of it’s clever. As it turns out, some of it’s abrasive or offensive. Some of it’s irritating.

I’m a lot to take. I’ve known that for a long time. I try to edit, hold back, be socially acceptable, but I never quite get there. I’m the girl who says the things other people think, but don’t say out loud. That has consequences.

I get private messages from some people thanking me for finally being the someone willing to say “it,” whatever it is, out loud. I also get a blow up of comments on my blog about a joke missing the intended mark, and hitting too close to home on another. I get reminded people who matter don’t find me nearly as charming as I find myself. My family is confused by my willingness to write about my life on the Internet, but my failure to pick up the phone. My husband, who fell in love with a loud-mouthed broad, is sometimes annoyed by my inability to just let some things go.

My control over my talking still needs improvement. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever improve enough.

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Just Mean {Things You’re Not Supposed to Say}

For the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about Things You’re Not Supposed to Say. I did this because I think the reasons for not saying them are stupid. But there is a category of things you actually shouldn’t say. And there’s a good reason: it’s just mean!

There is no good reason to ever be mean. There are times when a truth must be told, and it will hurt. Those times must be approached delicately, with as much love and care as can be achieved. There is never a time for cruelty. It is not acceptable to deliberately hurt another person.

For instance:

  • Under no circumstances should the size of a pregnant woman be mentioned. Ever. The only acceptable thing you may tell her about her appearance is, “You’re beautiful.” (Gentlemen, repeat this advice to yourself on a regular basis.)
  • Do not tell your friend who has just been through a bad break-up you “knew all along he was no good.” If you knew all along, you should have had one of those tough love conversations during the relationship. After the fact is just rubbing her nose in it. Shut.up.
  • Junior High is over. If you are using any form of the Internet (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.) to do the 21st Century version of passing ugly notes about other people, grow.up.

Keeping toxic secrets is not healthy. Frank discussions about tough topics are necessary. Supporting each other because it’s really difficult to just be human sometimes is so important. But keep your ugly baby comments to yourself. That’s just mean!

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I had Depression {Things You’re Not Supposed to Say}

I wasn’t convinced I was crazy, though I feared I was. Some people say that having any conscious opinion on the matter is a sign of sanity, but I’m not sure that’s true. I still think about it. I’ll always have to think about it. ~Girl Interrupted

I had a clinical depression several years ago. It was so bad I almost couldn’t get out of bed. I tried to hide it for a long time. I didn’t tell anyone. My work suffered. My relationships were strained. I was terrified if I ever told anyone I would be unemployable forever. Who wants to hire the crazy lady? The actually crazy lady, not just the one who jokes about it.

Several weeks ago, my friend Noelle wrote about her struggle with depression. At the time, I thought she was so brave to share it. It’s been gnawing at me ever since. Why is it brave to tell the truth? It’s not “brave” to say you have high blood pressure or asthma. But if you have a clinical depression, old school fear and misunderstandings of anything remotely mental is scary and potentially a show stopper professionally. Depression and anxiety are things you’re not supposed to say.

Lunatics are similar to designated hitters. Often an entire family is crazy, but since an entire family can’t go into the hospital, one person is designated as crazy and goes inside. Then, depending on how the rest of the family is feeling that person is kept inside or snatched out, to prove something about the family’s mental health. ~Girl Interrupted

I don’t come from a family that’s accepting of any kind of any weakness from me. Or at least that’s how I’ve always felt. I’m supposed to be the one who has it all together. If I’m sad or the darkness is closing in, I’m supposed to just push it back. But I couldn’t. There came a point I couldn’t fake it anymore. So I went to see a psychiatrist. I took the pills. I did the talk therapy. I didn’t tell anyone but my husband and a couple of close friends. I made up reasons I had to leave work for my appointments.

It’s become clear to me the only way for this to stop being taboo is to say it out loud. All of us who face this must speak up. I’m healthy now. Have been for a while. If I’m deadly honest, I admit I could have another depression. It’s not a simple disease. That’s why I keep taking my pills. My husband knows what signs to look for. My closest friend know my tells. If I start to slip, they are there to catch me.

I understand what people are afraid of. I was afraid, too. But if saying the thing you’re not supposed to say sends one person to a doctor who needs to be there, then I’m happy. Silence is the enemy. Being quiet is the weapon of the darkness. Light and space are all there is between me and the monsters. I will not get close enough to smell their breath again.

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I look forward to being alone {Things You’re Not Supposed to Say}

Recently, we’ve known a rash of people, either through job or life situations learning to live by themselves. Some of them are doing well. Others do not like it at all. Some people just do not enjoy living alone. They like having another person bumping around in the house. I can understand that. For some, after living more than 60 years with a spouse, the adjustment to a quiet house is daunting.

Here’s the thing you’re not supposed to say: I look forward to living my final days by myself. That’s my reward for having put up with everyone else for the decades I will. Let me be clear, I love my family. Baby Daddy and my chickens make my life full and wonderful. I wouldn’t trade this time in my life for anything. But this is my phase, now. There will be others later. On days when the demands of taking care of clients, chickens, a husband and two dogs have left my bucket empty, I think about a time when I won’t have to take care of anyone else on a day-to-day basis.

I’m not supposed to write that. I’m supposed to write that I cannot imagine anything better than this right now. I’m supposed to say I don’t ever want it to be any different. I’m supposed to say there is nothing more wonderful than taking care of other people. It is no doubt an experience I would regret having missed. But it doesn’t have to be the only good part of my life.

Here’s my theory: The blessings of my life are many. The people who have poured themselves into me are innumerable. I have the duty to pay it forward. I plan to spend my life pouring as much of myself out into other people as I can. I will leave everything on the field. I will work, donate, volunteer and give all that is possible.

As one grows older, one becomes wiser and more foolish. ~François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld

Actuarially, Baby Daddy will die before me. That means I will have time at the end of my life to myself. I plan to sell this big house and move to a small condo where someone else will tend my yard. I will paint my walls pink or lavender or any other girly color that suits me. I will not worry about resale value. I will spend my days working, volunteering, interacting in some way with my community. But when I go to the grocery store, I’m not going to care what anyone else might want. I’m just gonna shop for me. I’m going to watch any trashy television show I might like without listening to catterwalling from Baby Daddy. I will not drive a Subaru station wagon. I will drive something cute and sporty. I will not have pets. The floor will not be scattered with toy cars. It will be scattered with amazing shoes that are all mine.

And it will be fabulous! If you’re really nice to me, I’ll let you visit.

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Motherhood Doesn’t Make You Special {Things You’re Not Supposed to Say}

Mother’s Day celebrates a huge lie about the value of women: that mothers are superior beings, that they have done more with their lives and chosen a more difficult path. ~Anne Lamott

Me and Monkey Boy

Me and Monkey Boy 2007

Years ago, a friend told me after the birth of her first child she had this epiphany. She suddenly understood why she was on this planet. Her life’s plan was clear to her. She was to be a mother. (pause for dramatic bars of music)

There was a definite superiority in her tone. She had the most sacred of titles now: Mother. I secretly suspected then, and still do on some level, she simply did not want to go back to work because she didn’t like her job, and her husband couldn’t argue with Jesus showing her the path to great wisdom through parenting. But maybe she did. Who am I really to say?

Some women enter motherhood very spiritually. The mix of sex and growing another person inside your body is highly mystical and profound for them. For me, motherhood was a failed medical experiment turned business transaction. We wanted a baby. Birthing one didn’t work out. We went an agency and ordered one. Two years later, Monkey Boy joined the scene. He didn’t come with an epiphany. Just a bill, COD.

Maybe because of the adoption or maybe because we had been married almost 10 years before he arrived or maybe because it’s just how I’m wired, but here’s the thing you’re not supposed to say: I legitimately grieved the loss of being a childless couple. A few weeks after we brought Monkey Boy home, I broke down crying because he was totally interfering with the life I used to have with my husband. He never went away. Ever. He was always there. Needing things, wanting things, demanding things. I liked sleeping in on the weekends and going places without pounds of gear. I liked carrying a handbag, not a diaper bag. I liked the life we had before we had this life.

Let me be perfectly clear, I have loved Monkey Boy from the beginning. He was and remains a wanted member of this family. I just never expected to be so conflicted about how much I liked *not* being a mother.

I have never considered myself less of a mother than anyone else. My daily experience is the same as every other parent trying to raise children into decent, productive citizens without requiring more therapy than their health insurance will pay for. But I don’t considered myself more of a person now either.

Women without children are also the best of mothers, often, with the patience, interest, and saving grace that the constant relationship with children cannot always sustain. I come to crave our talk and our daughters gain precious aunts. Women who are not mothering their own children have the clarity and focus to see deeply into the character of children webbed by family. A child is fortunate who feels witnessed as a person, outside relationships with parents by another adult. ~Louise Erdrich

I don’t think I have any insights on life or the universe that are not available to others just because I’ve changed diapers. I don’t think I am more spiritual or more reverent because I occasionally get up in the middle of the night to comfort a sick or scared little boy. I do think the choice to live inside a traditional family unit forces me to be less selfish and more patient. I don’t get my own way every moment of every day. I also think those are traits that can be learned outside this structure.

Look, this is a great gig. I’m so grateful it worked out for me to be a mom. My kid is hilarious and I genuinely enjoy having him in my life. I want to do this well. I want to have a good relationship with my son, both now and when he’s an adult. But it’s also a temp gig. And when he moves out, I suspect I will be conflicted again about how much I love my new freedom and how much I miss having that kid bumping around my house, driving me crazy, demanding to be fed every.ten.minutes.

Motherhood has taught me a lot about myself and others. But it’s doesn’t make me special.

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This life isn’t perfect {Things You’re Not Supposed to Say}

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across this TED talk by Babble.com publishers Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman. Sorry, but you’re just going to have to take a few minutes and watch it too, so you can know where I’m going with the rest of this.

It struck me so profoundly about all the things you’re not supposed to say about being human… about living a life as a flawed, human person in relationships with other flawed, human people.

  • Sometimes, I don’t like my kid.
  • There are days I actually drive around the block to avoid going home for just a few more minutes because the peace of my car is really nice.
  • My husband had been known to make me so mad my head could explode.
  • I have more than once considered packing my bags and just leaving and never telling anyone where I’m going.
  • I have no idea what I’m doing.
  • I hate our dogs.

I come from good people – crazy people to be sure, but good people. I have always been loved. I have never known hunger that was not self-imposed. No one has ever abused me. I live in a nice home. I have wonderful friends. Absolutely no one wants to hear a woman in my shoes complain. It’s tacky. It’s ungrateful. It’s ridiculous.

But life is not perfect. There are legitimately tough things that happen to all us, even when things look super from the outside. And I think we would all be served to talk about them a little bit. I think if we all had a better idea of what was real and what was a big, fat lie in domestic life, then maybe we wouldn’t feel like something was wrong with specifically us because we’re not blissfully happy every moment of the day. Because you’re supposed to be happy dammit! You have this great life and kid and house and friends!

Every Tuesday in March, I’m going to write the things you’re not supposed to say… or at least out loud. I’ve always been the person who says things she wasn’t supposed to anyway. This will just be a little more formalized way of doing it.

They Babble publishers got us off to a good start. What’s on your list? What are the things you’re not supposed to say but really wish someone would?

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