On Being Heard

by anna on January 13, 2010

fork in the road

With writing, and everything else, some days are harder than others.

Some days the boundaries that I have willingly set about what I can and cannot write about here feel less like a generic challenge and more like a soul-leeching burden. On days like today, I try to remember how the sonneteers elevated their form by working within the strict constraints of their genre, pushing it well beyond what it would have been able to accomplish with a looser set of rules with which to work. I draw on all my experience to find the kinds of pretentious literary platitudes that will allow me to write something authentic about my experience, even if it is only in a tangential way, and even if I only barely scratch the surface of whatever it is I feel like I need to say. Sometimes this leads to my best work.

Other times, not so much.

The truth is that sometimes I feel stifled, tired, and resentful. It might be my condition. Or It might be hormonal, or the amount of sugar I eat. I’m not sure. I just know that when it hits, all I really want to think about is curling up in bed with a book and forgetting about the world for a few hours. On days like these, in the wake of the morning drama and chaos involved in getting everyone off to school and work, I just want to rest, and that want can easily overtake me if I let it. And even in the midst of feeling that need to rest, I feel ashamed of myself for it, shocked by my own laziness and lack of perspective. I feel guilty for not appreciating what I have and making the most of every second. Sometimes I will exercise to get my mind off it, hoping that the endorphins will kick in and leave me with something like inspiration. These are the days that it is so hard to be funny or even amusing. These are the days that I imagine most people see the title of my post in their readers and just decide not to click through, for fear of boredom or tedious analysis of social mores, or another list that falls flat. I hate that I cannot win them over on those days. The guilt over not having tried harder eats at me, and I feel like a failure again.

One thing about writing is that you need to keep doing it, even when you feel this way. If I were alone, single, unconcerned with my friendships and relationships in real life, I might not ever feel limited by why I could write. I might be writing with my whole heart at all times — consequences be damned — and what you would be reading might be a different blog entirely. You might be different readers entirely. But the truth is that when I was alone, single, and unconcerned, I didn’t write: something always got in the way. And now that I do, what I say here impacts more than just my own life, and maybe that is the thing that allows me to do it.

Mini has started this thing where he needs to be heard. So we’ll be driving in the car, and he’ll keep telling me about something that is bothering him, and I’ll try to fix it. Or I’ll say that I cannot fix it, because I’m driving. But he’ll keep saying it, over and over again, something like, “Mommy, I have an ouchy boo-boo! I have an ouchy boo-boo!” and I’ll keep saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, buddy, I’ll fix it when we pull over,” but he just keeps saying, “I have an ouchy boo-boo!” It used to really frustrate me, the constant noise, and then one day I said, out of frustration, kind of flippantly, “Mini, do you have an ouchy boo-boo?” with mock-surprise. And what Mini did was to relax, and say, “Yeah,” and then he sighed with relief, like that was all he wanted, to know that I had heard him. Ever since then, I’ve realized that this is the key to getting him to calm down in these moments: he does not always need for me to fix something. Sometimes he just needs to know that I’ve heard him.

I can learn a lot from a two-year-old.

{ 28 comments }

home and uncool January 13, 2010 at 7:44 am

We all want to be noticed even if we all don’t need to be cured.

anna January 13, 2010 at 8:40 am

Yes, though I wouldn’t mind the cure, either. I suppose that’s just my adult bias, though.

Jenni January 13, 2010 at 8:09 am

I like this post. I had a nearly identical epiphany with my two-year-old. I find these moments, when my toddler enlightens me, to be very comforting and satisfying. Well done.

anna January 13, 2010 at 8:40 am

Thanks, Jenni. Sometimes they are really much wiser than we are, huh?

Jackie January 13, 2010 at 8:32 am

Your post, I feel, is truly written from the heart. We all fear not being “good enough”. And we all forget that we need to give the true gift of acknowledging one another by being fully present. We don’t need to fix anything, listening is the gift.

anna January 13, 2010 at 8:41 am

Thanks, Jackie.

Kerry January 13, 2010 at 8:50 am

Write stuff and email it to people you don’t know in real life. I’ve found that tremendously helpful at times. That way you can say what needs to be said without worrying about the relatives reading it. Plus you can use CAPS LOCK and atrocious sentence structures and run-on sentences galore, and it’s totally okay.

Or…take a break. I am stunned at the difference my two weeks away from blogging have done.

But yeah…part of the reason I don’t want to blog anymore is that I can only talk about stuff that doesn’t matter. The stuff that matters most is the stuff it’s unwise to say on the internet. Then, when people act like the stuff that doesn’t matter is actually important, I get annoyed with them.

I do think your performance standards for yourself are WAY high though. Sometimes, “making the most of what you have” means getting in bed and reading a book. You don’t have to work every second…it’s okay to stop and recharge the batteries every so often.

anna January 13, 2010 at 2:25 pm

I think the caps lock and atrocious sentence structure, run-ons etc. are not always a stopping point for me, actually. :)

Sometimes I think that my standards for myself are too high, but then I think I’m just flattering myself. Or I think, “You just want to be somebody who pushes themselves too hard. You just like the idea of that.”

This is because I am crazy.

Karen Sugarpants January 13, 2010 at 8:55 am

So true. What a great post. Fear be damned though. I have been smashing out of my insecurities lately and just going for it, writing both online and off. I only share what I think people are marginally ready for. The rest? Well, it’s there, it’s out of my head and on paper, and that’s enough for me right now.

anna January 13, 2010 at 2:27 pm

@Karen, cool! Do you have any kind of agreement with your husband or family or anything? I have things I won’t write about just because I won’t, and then I have things I’ve agreed not to write about, and then there are things I’m scared to write about. The last one is the smallest group, though.

Velma January 13, 2010 at 9:04 am

You really hit a nerve with me on this post. I’ve been in a funk all week, but in my case it’s not the kids. I’m stewing and angry and stressed because I’m not feeling heard by my husband, and it is beyond frustrating. And the constraints on my writing are killing me, and I feel like writing is too hard and I’m not good enough at it to matter, and… yeah. I get it.

anna January 13, 2010 at 2:27 pm

@velma, keep writing! You never know what will come out of it.

Kristabella January 13, 2010 at 9:13 am

Excellent post!

I wrote something similar today, although of course yours was put much more eloquently. Lately I’ve had a hard time just forcing myself to sit down and write. There is always another TV show to watch that I’ve recorded or another thing I have to do off the computer. Most times I’m just so tired.

But I need to force myself to write, in those times especially, because it makes me feel better because, like you said, someone hears us.

anna January 13, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Kristabella, re the forcing yourself to write, I have trouble with this sometimes, which is why having a blog is good for me, because I feel obligated to write and publish at least three times a week whether I like what I’m producing or not. But one thing that I learned, also from dealing with my son, is that sometimes it’s not the actual writing that I dread, but the transition to work mode that I fear. Because my son sometimes struggles with this when I take him to school, he’ll get whiny when I’m going to leave, but once I’m gone, he’s totally happy. The teacher said, “Two year olds struggle with transitions,” and I thought, “Hey, I struggle with transitions, too.”

Kristabella January 13, 2010 at 3:46 pm

I couldn’t agree more. I tend to pull away from writing when it starts to feel too much like a chore or work, instead of something I enjoy. It is easy for me to just shut down and not write at all at those times.

But those I the times I probably should be writing.

beth aka confusedhomemaker January 13, 2010 at 10:07 am

Children reflect what we don’t always want to see or feel, that being heard matters even if it’s about nothing. Someone is there & you are not alone, we all need that comfort regardless of our age. Also, don’t discount the reality that we are heard also by not what we write or say, but by what we choose not to write or say as adults here writing in this medium. You express volumes in what you value by what you put as “off limits.”

You are heard Anna in all these ways.

anna January 13, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Aww, thanks Beth. Now I’m thinking, “Wow, I wonder what she thinks I value.”

this, also, is because I am crazy.

surcey January 14, 2010 at 2:52 am

I have always wondered why you don’t really write about Mr. Right Click, your family, or your struggles with alcoholism. But the family (as in from your childhood) sticks out the most to me.

Also, lady, I’m thinking you’re going to have to find a way to get it out.

I want you to know you are the one person in my reader I will click on first if I see you have a little something for us :)

anna January 14, 2010 at 11:36 am

Surcey, there is probably no good reason for me to leave some of those things out. I think there are blocks up of which I wasn’t even aware.

Thank you so much for that, too. It really means a lot.

Chibi Jeebs January 13, 2010 at 10:09 am

Excellent post and food for thought. It’s amazing the difference being *heard* can make.

P.S. I think your new header may qualify you for winning the internets. Love it. ;)

anna January 13, 2010 at 2:31 pm

@Chibi Jeebs, LOL. I was “heard” by somebody, and she offered me hugs! I WIN THE INTERNET!

foradifferentkindofgirl (fadkog) January 13, 2010 at 6:47 pm

I love this post and I love these comments and through a huge chunk of it all, I was nodding my head in agreement. I think I put too much pressure on myself when it comes to blogging, which, honestly, feels very silly. I used to write far more than I have been, and when I sit down to write now, I often end up shutting things down and walking away. When I am called upon to write outside of my comfort zone, as I have been doing – and purely voluntarily – I panic. I panic and I wish that spurred me to something far better than what I feel I’ve produced. Long story short, there’s a lot about me crashing around on my head that I sometimes wish came out in what I write, but it doesn’t, and sometimes I wonder if not just writing it is as silly as putting to much pressure on myself with this whole thing.

anna January 14, 2010 at 11:38 am

@FADKOG, it’s so weird how when we first start blogging we have such fewer constraints on ourselves about what is “worth” a post. I mean, who cares? Isn’t that the point of it anyway? Anything can be worth a post? Sometimes I wish that I knew nobody in my real life read this blog, though. I wonder how people like David Sedaris handle this kind of issue with writing about their own lives and the people in it. It’s kind of a problem.

Pamela January 14, 2010 at 7:22 am

Short-time reader, first time commenter…. Anyway, your post reminded me of the book “The Happiest Toddler on the Block” where he refers to this thing — where you repeat what the toddler says back to them — as the “fast food rule”. I think it’s also recommended in “How to talk so kids will listen, and listen so kids will talk.” I guess it works on adults, too!

anna January 14, 2010 at 11:40 am

@pamela, yeah it is actually a little like the Happiest Toddler. We tried those techniques on Mini when he was younger but they’re so much more exaggerated than what Mini likes. I think he found the techniques, as demonstrated in the video (we read the book AND watched the video, LOL) to be somewhat patronizing. I am probably reading too much into it.

Pamela January 14, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Yeah, what I took from those books was more general, like how it is important for kids (and everyone!) to understand they’re being heard. Just like you said in your post!! :-)

Susan Tiner January 14, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Maybe Mini is practicing to be a writer :-) . I was reading stuff by Kate Horsley today and came across this post on writing: http://www.sfwp.com/archives/19

lynn @ human, being January 17, 2010 at 9:02 am

I think the troll doll’s Tshirt in your header says it all: Witness.

It’s more than wanting to be heard: it’s about wanting someone else to be a witness to our lives, to really see US. I write my blog because I want to be seen and acknowledged, and because I have a deep compulsion to speak my truth and share it with the world.

I think it’s OK to hold yourself to high standards as long as you also can be easy on yourself when you don’t meet them. I’m still learning that part of the equation.

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