I grew up with amazing parents and an amazing brother. No complaints. No comma but. No whining girl-child, “Woe is me” statements.
I grew up with amazing parents and an amazing brother.
Who are classic Type-A personalities.
Not a big deal. Unless you happen to be a lot like me. A classic Type0-B personality. I’m so Type-B in comparison to my excellent family that I might as well be classified as a C- personality.
I’m a “go with the flow” kind of girl. I’m happy with seeing the boundaries that are supposed to surround me and pushing, pulling at the edges, see how far they move, how far until the collapse.
I lived and grew up with intense left-brained people. I’m so right-brained, I’m rather surprised I even have a left lobe. I’m content with no plans. I’m content with a hair-schemed lack of organization until I can’t find anything because it’s buried under piles of other things that I thought had some semblance of logic.
But, no. It’s just piles of stuff on top of piles of stuff.
My mother can not understand how my eyes can skip over what would be glaring issues to the regular world. I don’t notice that the slip cover on my sofa really has slipped off the corners and sags in the middle. I don’t notice the socks stuck under the cushions and are likely covered in a patina of pen caps and dog hair. I just don’t see it anymore. I have so many other things demanding my attention, it’s just kind of easy not to see the tumble-dog-hair anymore.
Yeah, I’m making my house sound gross. Likely, to people who are germaphobes and have an amazing spidey-sense-of-neatness, my house is disgusting. I wouldn’t eat off my house’s floor. But then, I wouldn’t eat off of anyone else’s floor.
Growing up with Type-A personalities certainly presented unique sets of issues, though. My parents and brother are perfectionists, at least, in my eyes, they are. They are brilliant people who tackle any issue that comes their way with absolute calmness and absolute passion.
And then there’s me. A frantic, frenetic mess of hair and limbs and clumsiness. I am not unlike the Tasmanian Devil from Loony Tunes. A whirling vortex of energy and flailing hands that will knock precious, expensive decorations off tables and say the most horrible things while trying to compliment the person.
I’m imaginative. My mom still remembers the legions of imaginary friends who traveled with me everywhere, who served as stand-ins when my real friends were absent. I created stories using the water droplets on the car window. Even now, I am content creating stories that will find their ways to novels that may or may not ever be written.
But they’re all up here, I say, tapping my temple.
I started writing poetry at my father’s encouragement when I was in ninth grade, a piece about “Three Fresh, Young Soldiers.” It was published which rather shocked me. I didn’t think it was good then. I certainly don’t see any promise within it now. But it was published and I still feel that rush of pride when I think back to the day when I signed the publication agreement, asserting that I had truly written the poem.
Mrs. Harding, my creative writing teacher, irrevocably and wonderfully helped me crawl out of my preformed poetry shell. I, like most young writers, thought poetry had to rhyme, had to follow a certain set of iambic beats and have commas or periods at the end of every line.
Mrs. Harding pulled me out of shadows created by form and format and just released me. It’s not that she encouraged me to stop writing rhyming poetry. It’s just that she let me explore different paths, walk down stained glass footpaths lined with imagery and metaphors. She kind of freed me from all the false edges I thrust around myself.
It’s not that rhyming poetry is bad. But I continually explored the same rhymes: light to night, heart to part, day to blah blah blah.
Moving to free verse, though, was hard on my poor Type-A father. He would look at my poetry and stare at my lines. He might have shaken his head, confused. I know that at one point, he woefully expressed that my lines “don’t rhyme.”
“Of course they don’t rhyme,” I replied, snatching away my poems. “Not all poetry has to rhyme.”
I stopped letting my father see my poetry at that point. Soon as well, my mother was excluded. She would give suggestions that I couldn’t marry to my original lines. I was the right-brained. My mother was the intrusive left-brained.
And the distance sort of grew, sort of settled into a quietly infected but non-festering wound.
I didn’t feel like I was part of my family. I am so completely different from them. Everything about me is so different from my parents, my brother, that I sometimes dreamt that I was adopted. Certainly I could not be biologically connected to them. I was such a shattered part of their cookie cuttered images (I’m not bashing them), that I couldn’t reconcile myself to the fact that I really was that different.
I remember many nights of tears, long screaming matches with them in which I begged them to just accept me for who I was. I can’t even begin to narrate the origins of those fights. I just remember begging them to tell me that they loved me for who I was, for who I wanted to be. I wanted to be a fantasy writer. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be a poet who didn’t rhyme.
The decades have fallen apart. Peace treaties were drawn and I became an English teacher, abandoned the dream of being a fantasy novel writer. And then, slowly, I started writing again. First thanks to Lauren and Hayley. And then, the uncontrollable need to feel words pouring out of my fingertips.
Yes, I don’t write as often as I should. I’m a horrible person.
I have begged my mother to read my blog. I feel like it’s the closest thing I can give to her that would function as an apology for all the ugly things I have said to her. But she respects my need to write unapologetically. She wants me to have a place where I can write without worrying that I have to make her happy.
“But you see, Mom, you reading my writing still makes me happy. I stopped writing for you all those many years ago. But I’m writing for you now. And my poetry still doesn’t rhyme.”
What is funny is that I have started writing villanelles which means that I am writing rhyming poetry again. And I love how those tight three lines feel against my poet’s skin.
Recently, my mother heard an interview on National Public Radio’s show, Fresh Aire; during the report, the journalist interviewed a director/poet regarding the new film, Paterson. A short clip was played, the main character (a poet) meeting and chatting with a ten year-old girl. She pulls out her notebook and confesses to writing poetry. The main character asks to read the poem.
The little girl, somewhat ashamedly, admits that “It doesn’t rhyme.”
It doesn’t rhyme. It doesn’t rhyme.
Mom could hear my voice admonishing my father that not all poetry has to rhyme. Mom could hear my voice begging to be accepted.
Two weeks ago, perhaps more, my mother called me and begged me to research Paterson, to listen to the interview, to see the movie.
Two weeks ago, my mother told me that she finally understood me, that she finally understood what it meant to grow up as a C- personality surrounded by Type A+++ personalities. She described her friends commiserating with me because I am so different from my family.
And yet, because of my family, I thrived. My father gave me my voice and then challenged me when my voice changed. My sister-in-law gave me my first journal. My parents gave me a beautiful pen, an acknowledgment of my love affair with words.
Even now, my family (including my husband’s family) have become a part of my literary skeleton, bending my hands into words, giving me a spine strong enough to hold me erect when the pressures of the world makes me want to fold like an old origami crane.
My parents love me, are proud of me. They understand that my poetry really doesn’t rhyme, that my life doesn’t follow the neat paths their lives have taken.
And they love me. They love me for me. And that internal rhyme scheme is enough to give me peace.