I was brought up to be vocal. My Mom instilled in me a strong sense of justice and the courage to be vocal when I’m witness to an injustice. I was also taught to stand-up for myself, for those I love, and for those who don’t have the opportunity to do so themselves. This resulted in my being a spit-fire in high school when it came to politics or anything else I felt was wrong. My senior year boyfriend? The one with the picture of Ronald Reagan in his bedroom (I kid you not…but God love him it was part of his charm)? We went a few rounds because I was indignant anytime he gave me a hard time for my politics. In college I was up for a heated discussion any day of the week if it involved something about which I felt strongly.
Then something happened. In my mid-twenties I lost the energy for the fight. I was dealing with too many other challenges to have any left over for unnecessary confrontation. I never stopped believing in the things that are important to me, but it became easier to keep them to myself, unless I was preaching to the choir and knew I wouldn’t offend anyone or face debate.
When my husband and I first started dating, we were faced with significant challenges right off the bat, and confrontation became something we had to deal with pretty regularly (not by choice). Our lives were filled with sadness, anger, struggle, and it always felt like we were waiting for the next fight. In that time, anything that wasn’t an immediate fight that had to be dealt with, was tucked away and forgotten about. I got even more weary of confrontation, of being vocal, of standing up for anything that didn’t REALLY need my voice or support. There were enough OTHER people speaking out against things I felt were wrong. There were enough OTHER people posting about their (my) politics on Facebook. There were enough OTHER people fighting the good fights. I was happy to just stay home, keep my mouth shut, and enjoy some confrontation-free peace.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how much less vocal I am now than I used to be. And how it’s so out of character for who I actually am. I’ve been standing on the wall for years without speaking up and I think now, now that my life is in such a good place, it’s time to remember how important it is to be vocal and courageous. I’d been playing around with the idea of writing a post about this for a couple weeks. Yesterday two events pushed me to do so and reevaluate my keeping quiet.
As I mentioned yesterday, my husband has a trade show this weekend, and we had much to do to prepare. It meant Target runs, Office Max runs, stuffing folders, printing, copying, etc. We ran to a print shop to have 100 copies of my husband’s contract printed. The woman working printed a proof, I looked it over and approved it, and she began the job of making an additional 99. I shopped around for the other office supplies we needed, my husband met me at the store, we went to pick up the copies and they. Were. Awful. Our company logo was blurry and unreadable. This is NOT what the proof looked like but she didn’t keep the proof. We went back and forth with the woman. She would’t budge, wanted the $100 due, and we were going to be stuck with 100 copies of something we couldn’t use. My husband, angry and feeling the need to get out of there, said “FINE. I’ll pay for it but we’re never coming back and we aren’t buying all of this!” He waved a hand at the huge pile of supplies we had on the counter.
We walked outside and I said “yeah, but…umm…we actually NEED those supplies, we just paid $100 for NOTHING, and this is the printer we use every year at this time, and I’m not particularly fond of the idea of severing ties.” I went back in and said to the woman, who was now flushed with anger, “how about we try this again. I apologize for our anger but we have a trade show tomorrow for which we need 100 contracts. 100 contracts that are readable, crisp, and well-done. We have them printed here several times per year. What can we do about this.” Well of course, we were able to figure it out, she redid the job and we bought our supplies, and he is hopefully writing up all 100 contracts right this second at the trade show.
Maybe not a case of real injustice, maybe not something that’s life or death, but I was able to confront that woman and leave her on friendly terms with all of us getting what we needed out of the deal. I am telling you that even two years ago I would have eaten the cost and left the store frantically needing to figure out what to do next to get everything printed and purchased. I wouldn’t have been up for the confrontation.
Now let’s talk about last night, shall we? We had a long long day yesterday. Not a bad day, just the kind that requires a lot of running around, coordinating, futzy work, and four trips for Diet Coke. I received a comment from a reader last night, in response to Friday’s post, that stopped me in my tracks. She was telling me I should be ashamed of myself for the way I handled a situation on Friday with the little girls.
Let me give you a bit of background. As a step-Mom I came into this whole parenting thing rather suddenly. I spent the first couple years consumed with whether or not I was a good Mom and whether or not peoples’ perception was that I was a good Mom. I am long since past worrying about either but when I received the comment last night I was instantly brought back to that insecure place in my head. I couldn’t get home fast enough to respond because I felt like I had to better explain the day so she’d understand that her critiques may not be valid under the circumstances. I wracked my brain to determine if I’d written past posts that would better explain our situation. I thought of ways I should edit Friday’s post so that people would better understand. I was FREAKING. OUT.
I’ve been writing this blog under the assumption that either a) people have read every single one of the posts so they have background info to reference if things aren’t clear in a particular post, b) most of my readers know me already and know about my situation, or c) other readers know me in some capacity so they have a general knowledge of the kind of person I am. When I received the comment last night my mind was spinning and I just couldn’t understand why she would be so unkind if any of the above were true.
I responded to the comment and was initially trying to over explain so she’d understand. But then I started to get mad. Because the truth is, with the comment that was left, it’s apparent that she doesn’t know who I am, hasn’t read past posts, and isn’t actually qualified to make such a bold statement. Then my friends and family did something remarkable and stood up for me. Whether through FB or with additional blog comments it became clear that I wasn’t the only one who felt like it was a rush to judgement from someone who doesn’t know me or my situation.
Here’s the thing. That reader gets to have her own opinion, and she gets to post it here, because that’s the kind of forum that this is. If this were a hardcover book that you were all reading in your own homes at your leisure (#sayingitoutloudmakesitso), there wouldn’t be an opportunity for her voice to be heard, and this never would have happened. But I’m actually glad it did. Because it’s made me realize something that I think is important for me to remember.
Standing up for yourself is important. Confrontation is a part of life. But neither needs to be done in an unkind way. I can state my opinion, defend myself, confront something and/or someone without being an a-shole, or rude, or disrespectful. I have the power and the intelligence to do that. I also have the self-awareness to know that when someone is saying something that is uninformed, or untrue, or off the mark, that it really doesn’t matter. In the grand scheme of things, peoples’ opinions of me don’t affect my relationships or my life.
Yes, the comment felt like a kick in the gut, but at the end of the day I know how I parent (AND how I respond to criticism), and it has nothing to do with external influence and everything to do with what kind of woman I am, how I feel about myself, and the kind of energy I put out into the world.
TODAY: What if standing up for myself, standing up for things about which I’m passionate, and standing up for what I believe is right, is something I need to start doing again? What if it can be done WITHOUT being unkind or disrespectful? And what if we all take a step back before we rush to judgement and ask ourselves if it’s worth it, if we have enough information to make such a judgement, or if adding our own negativity to the mix is really what we want our contribution to be?
PS – Words can’t express how grateful I am to have such a strong and supportive group of friends and family…some of you I haven’t seen since high school or before…thank you from the bottom of my heart.