Soft and Easily Flattened


marshmallowsIf I were a food I’d be a marshmallow. I’m soft and easily flattened. (Also white and spongy around the middle, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Today I gave a small wave of thanks to a lollipop lady who’d waved me through a lane of road cones. You know the lollipop people. They hold a lollipop-shaped sign with STOP on one side, GO on the other, and wield the power to dictate tonnes of moving steel.

Lollipop Lady let me though the cones, and I’d waved a ‘thanks’ as I exited. Seemed a polite thing to do. And on a cold wet day, when I wouldn’t like to be standing outside with a lollipop sign, I thought a little appreciation wouldn’t go amiss.

It went amiss. She frowned and impatiently flapped her hand again in the ‘Go on through, go on through,’ motion they use when you haven’t actually started moving yet.

My appreciative gesture was rebuffed.

And it ruined my morning. I drove home feeling embarrassed and humiliated, like I’d been caught with my pants down.

Already I hear the Unhelpful Voice in my head saying, ‘So your goal is to be popular? Ah, so you’re one of those superficial types…’

‘No! I’m not one of them!’ I retort, thinking of the gorgeous and popular girls in primary school who were more prone to ridicule me than to consider me one of their own. I like to think that, in adulthood, I have depths and facets of fascinating degrees to compensate for the miserable school experience.

Then why did the Lollipop Lady’s rebuff ruin my morning? Why should it matter how my gesture was received? Why do my feelings of worth depend on validation from everybody else?

Note that I speak of feelings, not of realities. I know realities of what’s important, on an intellectual level, but feelings often have little to do with intellect. It’s not my intellect that has me replaying disappointing events in a morose repetitive loop. (‘Just don’t think about them,’ says the Unhelpful Voice, as if being told not to think of chocolate will make one think of anything but chocolate.)

‘If you can’t handle someone not smiling or waving back at you,’ Unhelpful Voice pipes up again, ‘how can you hope to write books? Novels that other people will read—that some of them will not like, and will say so in theatrical embellishment?’

You need a thick skin to be an author, I’m told. (Do marshmallows even have skin?) I may appear to cope with criticism or insult well enough, but then I’ll make a coffee extra strong and cry into it. (Well, I’ll just feel embarrassment and regret over having tried the subject of criticism in the first place. Which, for the sake of metaphor, is just as repugnant as crying into a coffee.)

A book I’m reading at the moment, ‘Build Your Dreams,’ is about identifying your passion then making a career out of it. I’m considering a re-start of my freelancing, but since I hated it so much last time, I’d have to do something different in a second attempt. I’m still in Chapter One of the book, because I’m taking notes and doing all the exercises, which is taking longer than I’d anticipated. But I see later chapters about overcoming self-defeating fears and failures, and coping with criticism.

I wonder if there’s a magic personality-changing key unveiled in those chapters. Or maybe they teach you to lock away insecurity and other bad stuff in a dark recess of your brain, so they don’t have any material effect. Unhelpful Voice can go there, too.

Re-reading this post, I feel disgusted. Nobody likes a whimpering self-pitying bootlicker. Including me. I’d like to make mention of my redeeming qualities, but I can’t make them out behind the grumpy Lollipop Lady who gets surlier with every recollection.

I have felt confidence before though. I know what it is. So I’m not a hopeless case. Today’s miserable weather is probably a factor, here. I find optimism and confidence rely on heat and light. I wonder how differently things would have played out if I’d met Lollipop Lady on a sunny day. I wonder if I’d even be thinking of her by the time I’d reached the next block.

Throughout all this self-pitying soliloquy, you know what’s disgusts me most?

I don’t even like marshmallows. They taste like soap.


(4) Comments

  • Deborah Makarios
    15 Jul 2015

    Surly misanthropes should be debarred from any profession so cheerful-sounding as Lollipop Lady.
    So you are the person who actually does the exercises as she reads the book! The first time through! I always wondered who that was….
    On the subject of authorial self-doubt, I recommend Bird By Bird, by Anne Lamott. She practically considers it a sine qua non of the writing life, which made me feel a lot better.
    P.S. If I was a food, I’d be slightly undercooked bread with far too many nuts in it. Or heck, maybe just fruitcake. Old-fashioned fruitcake 🙂

    • Eve
      15 Jul 2015

      I now have Bird by Bird reserved—thanks, it looks intriguing! And ‘bird by bird’ sounds like a pithy quotable…
      I don’t usually do exercises the first time through the book (is there an unidentified person in the family who does?), but I’ve recently recongised that once I’ve finished reading the book on the first pass, I’m not longer inspired to go through it again doing the exercises. If I’ve already read it, I don’t credit it as having further use. And I don’t want to spoil this one so. The stakes feel too high.

  • Deborah Makarios
    15 Jul 2015

    There isn’t someone in the family, as far as I know (apart from you, evidently) – I just always ignore the bits where the authors desperately insist that you mustn’t read on until you’ve done the exercises, and I always wondered if anyone actually did give in to the pleading and do it properly!

    • Eve
      15 Jul 2015

      Ah, the importance of psychology! I defiantly refuse to do exercises if I’m told I mustn’t do this or that until I’ve done them. I’ll decide what I do, thank you very much. I’m a grownup. I eat my peas. (Sometimes.)
      But when a book respectfully suggests that I’ll experience compounded benefit if I do the exercises as I go along, I’ll be much more amenable.

Leave a reply so Eve's not talking to herself...