Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Really Slow Learner

My teacher, Jennifer Lauck, called me a good student on Sunday. Maybe. Maybe not. But I can tell you I am a slow learner. A very slow learner.

I've spent my life trying to please my mom, to make her proud of me, to be good enough for her. I'm 52 years old, and it hasn't happened yet. Why can't I figure out that it probably never will?

When I talked to her from Portland on Saturday, I told her it felt like Jennifer and Carrie and the women in the circle had handed me the keys to the Writing Universe. Typical me--so excited I could barely speak straight.

Then this morning I broke a cardinal rule of writing: I shared my work with my family. In his wonderful book On Writing, Stephen King says you write the first draft with the door shut (without showing it to anyone) and the second with the door open (showing it to a trusted circle when it's ready). My first draft of the piece I posted yesterday is long done. The second draft is the piece I workshopped on Sunday. The posted piece had been revised yet again, so I thought it was ready.

Again, maybe so, maybe not. Posting was fine—the blog world is full of trusted readers and I can delete comments if necessary. But by now, I should know better—far better—than to expect any validation from my mother. She's a wonderful woman in many, many ways, but praise does not rise naturally to her lips. Nor does objectivity. Criticism? Oh yeah, she can do criticism all day and into the night if you've got the stamina.

Over a cup of coffee at their house this morning, I read "Threadbare" to my mom and dad. When I finished, Dad asked if this was going to be part of a book, then assured it me it had the makings of a best seller. (Dad supplied the DNA for my natural optimism.)

Mom looked me straight in the eyes and asked, "Did you write this before or after you got the keys to the Universe?"

Still got that bullseye above my heart, I see.


Carrie Wilson Link said...

C'mon, that's FUNNY! It's so over-the-top ludicrous, it's histerical. Reminds me of a story about a worthless wasbund leaving a fabulous wife. So unbelievable and ridiculous, it's comical.

Suzy said...

Hmmm, I know my experiences are MUCH different than with your mother, but for me the words VALIDATION is was only used for tickets in a parking garage.
JUST KEEP WRITING!!!!!! Or we will lock you in a room!

Remiman said...

Ignor criticism when it's mean. (yes, it is hard, but try it).
Learn when offered constructively.

On her death bed a few years ago my mother said to me "you were a good son."
First time I'd heard that!

I think your mom's criticisms are a habit that you'll never break.

Prema said...

Isn't it just how it goes? There's always something to reflect back our worst fear, our most vulnerable worry....always someone to turn away from light.

Breathe and write. Write and breathe. Letting go, letting be. Trust yourself. Many many of us benefit from you speaking your truth.

tinker said...

I don't know if it's just sleep deprivation commenting to you write now, but this line (not my own - I think you're probably familiar with it) came to me and I hope it at least brings you a smile - anyway, someone much wiser than me once said:

Before enlightenment, carrying water and chopping wood.
After enlightenment, carrying water
and chopping wood.

Sounds like your mom must be pretty quick with the quips and one-liners. That's gotten me into some big trouble over the years, too. I'm always having to remind myself to walk softly and keep my big mouth shut


Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear this. I truely know how you feel. My Dad is the same way. Sometimes you just want them to listen but they always have something to say:)

BTW I thought you peice was awesome.

Amber said...

Oh, shit. MOM!

There is nothing as nurturing OR as debilitating as a family. Pft!

I loved that Stephan King book. And I think he is right. ;)


Mystic Wing said...

Can I come down, grab Nora by the nose, and twist to she yelps?

But hug your dad for us, okay?

Some old Romantic poet wrote something called "Work without HOpe," which I think was about trying to please a mother who refuses to be pleased.

The rest of us find you witty, entertaining, inspirational, helpful and enormously talented.

Write for us, yes?

ceanandjen said...

Sweet Jerri....despite the tug at your heart, keep going on this journey that you have longed for. Believe in yourself, and don't loose that excitement and wonder that you have been embracing. As the old saying goes, "you can not please all of the people all of the time." If you feel full, that is all that matters.

Michelle O'Neil said...

No keys to the Universe needed Jerri. It was never locked!

It is all yours.

Your writing is superb.

Mom is afraid of your light.

All her comment does is point out an area that still needs healing.

Be gentle with yourself! You are fully supported.

holly said...

Jerri, Jerri,

Put on the head phones and block out that noise!

Your words sing! Your courage soars!

Oh, parents.

Your mom makes me think of my dad ... reminds me of my dad who once looked at an nearly perfect spelling paper of my niece's on the fridge, picked out the one mispelled word and said "Oh, Erica! How could you misspell...?"

One error on a perfect page and he can't see anything else.

keep writing your beautiful truth. we love it.

liz elayne said...

oh goodness...mom's can be...well...if only they could realize that the way they invite us to feel is the same thing they think about with their own mother's. my mom just can't see it as the same. but it is. it repeats.

i love this advice from king (i think i need to add his book to my collection and READ IT!). so very true. (but so glad you choose to share here...)