Sunday, April 13, 2008

In which the navel, it is gazed upon. Feel free to wait for light tales of amusing children if you'd rather.

So two things.

Thing One.

A's birthmother was coming for a visit last weekend.

"So how do you feel about that?", my friend T asked.

I launched into a long, glowing speech about how good it is for A to see her birthmother and how happy I am for her that this is happening and how good I think it is for A.

T was unimpressed. "I didn't ask about A," she said. "I asked about you. How do YOU feel about it?"

Well huh. That took some thought. Fine. I'm fine. I'm just fine with it, I told her. There was another thought lurking in the way back of my mind, but I didn't look at it, because I was too fine.

Fast forward to the Day of the Visit. A and I get into a stupid spiralling argument about something so trivial it makes my skin itch, and I try to stop it and we just can't seem to get past it and I find myself bursting into tears. As I am trying to work on my novel at the time, I manage to make it seem like the novel is making me cry. This is so close to a lie, it's splitting hairs to say it's not a lie.

What I really crying about is I am having a fight with A on the day her birthmother is coming to visit and MAYBE SHE WILL LIKE HER MORE THAN SHE LIKES ME, just for today.

Here's the thing. A doesn't owe me anything, allegiance, love - nothing. She's made my life amazing. She's filled an empty space in my heart that was exactly the shape she is. She (together with her brother) has made me happier, as a mother, than I ever dreamed possible. Figuring out that you don't have to have a favourite between the woman who gave birth to you and the woman who is raising you, when you're kinda fond of them both, is hard work, and I don't need to put any pressure on her to make me feel good. She'll work it out someday. I can wait.

But just for that moment, I was insecure.

I mentionned this to T on Monday, driving home from work.

"Yeah," she said, "I figured it wouldn't hurt to remind you that you're allowed to have feelings around this too."

Thanks T.

Thing Two.

I went to a poetry workshop/par-tay this weekend. First of all, WOW, but also ...yikes.

Part of the weekend was The Announcement of the Prize Winners for the recent contest at There were several hundred entrants in this contest, and I placed 19th. 19th out of 100 would have been stellar. I was 19th out of several hundred. Fantastic, right?

Brace yourself.

I was disappointed. Also rather annoyed at myself for being disappointed, but disappointed nonetheless. And frustrated. I think that I can see the difference between my poetry and the top prizewinners but I don't know how to bridge that gap. As I was hiding in the bathroom trying to figure out what was SO WRONG with just wanting to be the BEST, this question slipped quietly into my mind.

"Why do you want to be the best?"

I'm a Christian. I know all the right answers. To give glory to God. To use the gift I've been given. To strive for excellence. "We are called to excellence", I have spouted many many times.

Those weren't my answers. They weren't even on my list of answers. The answers rose like monsters from the murk. Because I am smart. I am not as good looking as my brother or as funny as my brother but I am smart. Because my dad won't mind that I'm fat if I'm the best in the class. Smart is who I am, and if I'm first, I'm the smartest.

Yow. Za.

Here's the awesome thing.

That is answer enough for me. I don't feel guilty about wanting a good thing for the wrong reasons. Almost instantly, I was happy with 19th place, and so very happy not to have gotten 1st or 2nd or 3rd when my motivation to do that well was coming from a wounded place. I've known for a long time that I have this crushing need to be the best in the class - I fight against it in workshops and 8 week courses I've taken. I've tried to wrestle it to the ground.

High time I asked for Help.


ccap said...

Wow. Your honesty has made me cry. Thank you for this one.

P.S. I love you. Because you're smart AND good looking AND funny. (and a bunch of other things too)

Heather said...

Wow. A bold and beautiful post. Thank you.

Trish said... never cease to amaze me with your honesty. Love you!!!

Jen said...

Of all the posts I read that you've written, this is the best.

I think those two thoughts are things that we all struggle with in relationships and in ourselves.

Thank you for saying it so simply and poignantly (sp?).

Kay said...

Good for you!
I would have had the same struggles, but not sure I would have come around to victory so quickly.

The Koala Bear Writer said...

Hmmm... good post. Could totally relate to the disappointment of 19th. And your analysis of why you felt that way. Thanks for sharing. (And man, if I could write like you... :)

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Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Think of the 500+ of us who didn't place at all.

That's why we take poetry classes from people who place 19th.