“The late evening is the time of times. Then with that unearthly beauty before one it is not hard to realise how far one has to go. To write something that will be worthy of that rising moon, that pale light.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, from Notebooks

Horse at Porth Cwyfan, Anglesey, Wales by Karen Ann Jones Telegraph Big Picture

Horse at Porth Cwyfan, Anglesey, Wales
by Karen Ann Jones, Telegraph Big Picture

                   

“As I loosen up and begin to surrender in a sleepy dreaminess I am suddenly experiencing clarity; I perhaps want to exist in a place where there is no dimension of existence.” ~ Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals Of Sylvia Plath

Friday afternoon. Sunny and cold, 40 degrees.

The strange dreams continue unabated; granted, I tend to have strange dreams most of the time, but the latest crop is intensely strange. I need to ponder them before discussing them.

A stormy day at Jökulsárlón, Iceland by Adrian Metzelaar Telegraph Big Picture

A Stormy Day at Jökulsárlón, Iceland
by Adrian Metzelaar, Telegraph Big Picture

Anyway, I awoke this morning with a migraine, which has slowly eased. The past few days I have not felt quite right, unsettled and achy. Nothing specific, but puny is the best way to describe it. I hope that I’m not getting ready to have one of those weak periods, the kind that forces me to bed for days. I really hate that.

However, taking to bed does allow me more time for reading, that is when I can concentrate. I decided against writing yesterday and sat down with a book, but then I kept finding my concentration slipping, my mind racing, and I was unable to read more than a few chapters. I ended up watching television. I don’t pretend not to watch television, but I have kind of an unwritten rule that I don’t turn the television on until after 8 p.m. Part of my reason for doing so is that my mother has the television on from the moment she awakens until the moment she falls asleep. I always told myself that I would not allow the TV to serve as my primary means of getting through my days; although immediately after Caitlin died I did nothing but watch soap operas for a year, another reason that I do not allow myself to turn on the television during the day.

“And language, drowned somewhere
at the endless bottom of senses, dictates
an underground flow of images to the tongue” ~ Boris A. Novak,  from “A Dream is Snowing”

So I’ve been thinking about the concept of false modesty. Let me explain:

We all know individuals who are self-deprecating, but only in the hopes that their assertions about their negativity will be rebuffed by the listener and replaced by a compliment. My mother used to call this fishing for compliments.

Winter Day at Beachy Head by Jackie Watson Telegraph Big Picture

Winter Day at Beachy Head, UK
by Jackie Watson, Telegraph Big Picture

I am not in this category. When I say that I think that I am X, I truly mean that I am X. I am not trying to get anyone to say, “Oh no. That’s not you. You are so Y. How can you say that?”

Corey and I were talking yesterday about my poor self-image, and he said that he just doesn’t understand how someone can live in a state of constantly chipping away at themselves. It’s hard to explain to someone who does not suffer from this, hard to make someone who is relatively self-assured understand that feelings of inadequacy are very real and not some attempt to garner compliments. In fact, I have never known how to accept compliments gracefully, so adept am I at believing only the worst of myself that to hear anything else just doesn’t seem realistic.

But the truth is that I cannot lay all of the blame for this on my mother, as much as I would like to do so. Yes, my mother has spent most of my life pointing out my flaws, patting my belly, telling me that I need to do neck exercises, etcetera ad nauseam. But, and this is a big but, I have listened to her. I did not have to listen, did I? But I did listen, and I heard, and I believed.

“—Our words, like blown kisses, are swallowed by ghosts
Along the way,
their destinations bereft
In a rub of brightness unending:
How distant everything always is,
and yet how close” ~ Charles Wright, from “Night Journal”

True story: When Olivia was just a few months old, my mother was holding her, and she looked down at this new baby, this wonderful, happy baby, and commented on her double chin, saying something along the lines of “You’ll have to watch that.”

What happened to my mother to make her so completely obsessed with the physical? Is she a product of her times, the decades in which women were valued not by what they knew but how they looked? Okay, those decades have not disappeared completely, but you know what I mean here.

Sunset at Reynisdrangar, Iceland by Phil MacDonald Telegraph Big Picture

Sunset at Reynisdrangar, Iceland
by Phil MacDonald, Telegraph Big Picture

Or is my mother’s seeming obsession with the brutal cut a result of her unhappiness in her marriage, her way of coping with a man who had affair after affair, quite probably leaving her completely insecure and wondering what was wrong with her that he could never be happy?

I have no answers to these questions. I only know that as an educated adult woman who has seen a measure of success that I should not be so self-loathing, and truly, truly, I wish that I were not. There have been periods in my life in which I was riding high, feeling quite self-assured, quite happy with the way that I looked, happy with how I was being received by people, but those periods were fleeting, completely dependent upon how much I weighed, which clothes I could wear, how my hair looked.

“I looked up at the mass of signs and stars in the night sky and laid myself open for the first time to the benign indifference of the world.” ~ Albert Camus, from The Stranger

I fear that I’m not doing a very good job of explaining what it is exactly that is bothering me. Let me back up:

When it comes to my brains, I am probably more than arrogant. I know how smart I am, and I also know in which categories I am deficient. But when it comes to the physical . . . I am still that young girl on the playground in elementary school who looked around and didn’t see anyone who looked remotely similar. Surrounded by blond, blue-eyed girls named Kim and Brooke, I felt sorely out of place.

Dusk at the Giant's Causeway, County Antrim by Dacian Tiberius Telegraph Big Picture

Dusk at the Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim
by Dacian Tiberius, Telegraph Big Picture

Some women would delight in their differences from the mainstream, and at times, I have been quite happy to have someone tell me that I am exotic looking, that they liked my looks precisely because I did not look like everyone else. But more often than not I have felt like the outsider.

Another true story: When I worked as a sales manager for that major retailer I was among a management staff that was, on the whole, quite attractive. There was the woman of Greek heritage who was gorgeous. There was the perky blond with the big chest. There was the brunette with the big beautiful eyes and ready smile. And then there was me.

“The heart, being full of blood, casts a shadow.” ~ Henry Gray, from Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body

Okay, what is it I’m saying here? Hell if I know. I only know that Corey is relentlessly frustrated by my self-denigration, that he wishes that I could like myself more. I wish that I could like myself more, too.

Lindisfarne Castle, Northumberland, UK by Richard Hayward Telegraph Big Picture

Lindisfarne Castle, Northumberland, UK
by Richard Hayward, Telegraph Big Picture

It’s no picnic being this wracked with insecurity, and in fact, I’m quite sure that this shroud of insecurity is one of the main reasons I do not do more with my writing, that I am terrified of being rejected for my words, having felt rejected for my difference for so long.

You are probably sitting there thinking to yourself, “Sheesh. Get a life already.” And you would be correct. I should be more grateful for what I have and less worried about what I feel I lack. I should focus more on the things at which I feel I excel and focus less on the skin around my neck or the flab on my upper arms.

I should do these things. I know this. But should and can are a world apart in the universe that is me, a seemingly unbreachable chasm. And I make myself tired all over when I do this.

Enough.

More later. Peace.

(All images are taken from the Telegraph’s Big Picture series)

Music by Aidan Hawken and Carina Round, “Walking Blind”

                   

I’m trying something new today: So that you can see the poem with the breaks and indents as the poet intended, I have snipped the original and inserted as two jpegs, still working out the kinks. HTML does not allow (or I don’t know how in HTML) to place indents within consecutive lines. Let me know what you think. The following poem is taken from The Poetry Foundation:

Evie Shockley part 1Evie Shockley part 2

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6 thoughts on ““The late evening is the time of times. Then with that unearthly beauty before one it is not hard to realise how far one has to go. To write something that will be worthy of that rising moon, that pale light.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, from Notebooks

  1. you are much too talented to worry about such silly things. I always envied you-especially during summer. I wished I could tan like you and not be the pale little white girl. Very jealous when the boys looked at YOU in your white bikini! And there I sat, a nice crispy red! I have always loved the color red – lipstick,clothes. You could wear it well, I could not. My Dad (like your Mom) was on my ass constantly about my weight,hair, etc etc. I finally decided that I was not going to spend the rest of my life measuring every morsal of food to maintain my weight, worry that my hair was acceptable, I was just going to- BE. Yes, I could lose a bunch of pounds, I don’t always have the perfect hair and I could use some assistance in the clothes/accessory dept. At this stage in my life, I don’t give a damn what anybody thinks of my looks. Your mom was a victim of her generation. You went to high school, maybe college, but the main objective was to marry and have kids. Divorce was not an option. Which left so many of our moms, granny’s, aunts in misery for years. My dad had a sharp tongue, mostly because his father was a real SOB and my grandmother’s only defense was being sharp with words. My dad learned from his mother. I loved him and miss him, but something he said are still with me. As I get older, I realize that his nastiness was a defense mechanism.

    Write the book. Yes, you may get rejected but as Edison said, I haven’t failed, I just figured out 2,000 ways how NOT to make a lightbulb. Sometimes I read your blogs and cry, sometimes I laugh, sometimes I reminsce (sp) and sometimes I get upset. I think your blogs would make an excellent book.

    • Sarah,
      It’s always so good to hear from you as you were there during all of it. Yes, your dad and my mom–quite a pair. I know that a lot of it was generational, what was available to them, how they were raised.

      Oh, the white bikinis . . . had completely forgotten about those. I guess we all want to be a little different somehow. I still remember that photograph of you in your bikini in your backyard, I think it was the picnic table bench. Ha.

  2. I wish I didn’t understand what you are talking about.

    I suppose there are people on the self-esteem scale from nil to narcissism, and we just needle somewhere in the middle, perhaps being better some years or worse some years depending on what’s happening in our lives… My mother had a sharp tongue and her mother was even worse. I could see some of what shaped my parents… and I tried to drop what I viewed as damaging when I raised my children. I hope I did okay. I think you did. I think I did.

    Do you think this has to do with “power” at all? I read something in Tiny, Beautiful Thingsby Cheryl Strayed where a young woman said that her parents hadn’t let her choose anything. She was not allowed to make any of her own choices. It seems like that might have something to do with how a woman might view herself – how one might feel she had no power.

    I feel like I’m getting to an age where I just have to say, “Oh well.” People are just going to have to accept the curmudgeon side of me, or not.

    I had a migraine today, too. But, I think it was from glare – from driving downtown and having all the glare from windshields reflect into my eyes. I’d have to keep a detailed diary, I guess, in order to make sure, but sometimes I think I have migraines more on sunny days after a row of cloudy days… I need to get new lenses in my sunglasses…

    I hope you have a good weekend…

    • Definitely has something to do with power. I think that my mother, who had no power in her relationship with my father, used her biting tongue as her weapon of choice.

      Too sunny definitely affects my migraines. I wear my prescription sunglasses even on overcast days, which amuses my sons.

      • I was there, when you was growing up! I know what was said. As I look back I remember. In our eyes, You got everything! You was the princess, that is what your mom called you. Your grades was always better than ours. We never could compeat. Your mom instilled this in us continually. I’m sorry, your mom, never saw good in anything, anyone did. No, your dad was not the only one, she was no angel with men. Ive heard that from my mom. I do not know how your dad stood All her bitching. He and I was talking last I saw him, Just a nice conservation and she had a fit. He was a good man. I am so sorry you carry this on your shoulders. I hate you feel the way you do. You shouldn’t. Quit beating up on my child hood friend, that I thought had the world. Don’t let the sarcasm you heard as you was growing up steal your life today, from your yourself, family or friends. You still have everything! You don’t need to hear those words of sarcasm any more.You are not and never will be the words you hear in your thoughts. Your dreams, your headaches are all from these words. Listen to them no more and be the person that I know that you are. Your all grown up now. No longer that child that could not never measure up to her moms expectations. You was just a child. Learning from a sarcastic woman. Be not that child no more but be what you want your family to see and be. Expecially for the wonderful husband that you now have. Live for today, because you don’t need yesterday and you might not have tomorrow. Make today your good memories! With love suzann

      • Suzann,
        I don’t remember the princess comment, but I don’t doubt that it was said. Funny how my mom had good words about me to other people. I’m sorry that she made you feel inadequate. Her sarcasm has only gotten worse now that her memory is failing.

        Isn’t it funny how our memories of growing up are colored by different lenses? I always saw your family as the happy family. I know that I need to get over a lot of things, but I have such a hard time sometimes.

        Thanks for chiming in. It’s always such a nice surprise when your name shows up in my comments box. Take care.

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