Since my mom died a few weeks ago, I’ve felt compelled to write and post here more than usual. Up until now, I’ve honored my pledge to “under-whelm” your inbox by posting a blogonly once a month. That goal was also self-serving in that I didn’t “have to” post here more often. (To clarify, I do write often, just not blogs for my website.)
Mom was one of the biggest supporters of my writing journey.
But here I am, my third post in less than a month. I hope you understand.
Mom was one of the biggest supporters of my writing journey and my goal of publishing my memoir. Before she died, I had told her about a big “first” for me: being interviewed about my memoir on the Midlife A-Go-Go podcast. Mom was excited, but she never got to listen.
I wish I could hear her voice.
When the interview first aired last week, I believe Mom heard it. I believe she knows all that goes on in my life, more so than she did while she was earthbound. But still, I find myself waiting for her call to tell me how proud she is. I wish I could hear her voice. I imagine it, I hear it in my head, but I ache for the real thing.
Since I won’t hear from Mom, maybe you can listen for a few minutes and tell me your thoughts. It would give me a smile. Mom, too.
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Being assertive is a challenge for me, but apparently not for my appendix, which choose Memorial Day to demand its freedom. That evening, I happily complied, and a surgeon put my appendix, and me, out of our misery.
(BTW, I’m perfectly happy without that little wormlike appendage to my colon. I’ve recovered quickly, thanks in part to the many doctors over the last century who contributed to the development of laparoscopic procedures.)
The day after my surgery, an interesting dilemma presented itself–to defend myself, and risk offending my surgeon, or to stay quiet. I chose a middle ground, and I’d love to know what you would have done.
To be assertive may risk causing offense.
In my memoir, which is written and soon to be agent-ready, I explore the roots, manifestation, and consequences of my excessive agreeableness. I own the sad truth that my inability to stand up for myself made it difficult to stand up for my son Matthew during his long rumble with a childhood brain tumor.
For many years, I was well aware of my reticence toward speaking up. There were times I tried to be assertive, but mostly I stayed in my comfort zone where others’ needs took priority over mine.
Being assertive is outside my comfort zone.
But with my uncomfortable truth ready to be laid bare to the world on the pages of my memoir, I’ve been making a concerted effort to be stronger, more assertive, to speak my truth.
Part of what makes it hard for me to speak openly is my fear that I’ll offend someone. That’s what happened with my surgeon.
The morning after my appendectomy, the diminutive man with thinning hair, square glasses, and nutmeg skin stopped in to check on me, and give me my discharge instructions. In a thick accent, he sped through the dos and don’ts. I caught a few snippets–showering was OK, swimming was not, no lifting, call his office if I had any problems.
“So I don’t need to schedule a follow-up appointment with you?” I asked when he finished.
“Yes, you do!” he said with a laugh, “I just told you that.” His laugh didn’t hide his derisive tone.
What I wanted to say, also with a laugh, was, Well, you have a very heavy accent and you talk too fast, so don’t blame me.
But that seemed rude. I was afraid I might offend him. I didn’t want to sound prejudiced.
So what I said, with a smile, was, “Well, you gave me a lot of information, and I’m just trying to take it all in.”
This was growth for me. In the past, I might have said, I’m sorry, I must have missed that. Or I might have been too embarrassed to say anything.
I took a step in the right direction by not taking the blame, and not feeling the shame. But I regret not being more assertive, and I don’t know how I could have responded without offending the person who had held my life–or at least the life of my inflamed appendix–in his hands.
I regret not being more assertive.
The dilemma is, when you want to stand up for yourself, but you don’t want to offend someone in a way that is antithetical to your beliefs, what do you do?
Since I’m learning to navigate these new waters of assertiveness, I’ll ask you–
When I was in Los Angeles recently to visit my elderly parents, one of the first things I did was work on a grocery list. I planned to go shopping later in the day.
Thick in the middle of peanut butter and canned pumpkin on my list, my dad sat down to give me directions to the supermarket. I couldn’t process what he was saying. At that moment, toilet paper and paper towels were my priority, not traffic lights and left turns.
“Dad, hold on, let me finish the list before you give me directions.” “Well, it’s simple, Karen, you just…” “Dad, give me a minute so I can pay attention.” “I’ll draw you a map, Karen. If you turn right on Esplanade…”
My brain is OK with incoming information from multiple sources if the info is easily understood, like writing a reminder note, or hearing a funny story, or being asked if I want my coffee warmed up.
I can multitask physically, like when I make coffee at home. With my right hand, I pull the kitchen faucet hose extension over to the coffee maker to fill it. At the same time, I can open the drawer to pull out a coffee filter with my left hand, and plop it in the basket, without accidentally redirecting the faucet hose to the floor or my pants. (Usually. )
My brain can’t do that. It has folders for important information, and if the folder is closed, new data doesn’t get in.
“DAD,” I finally said, “the folder in my head for directions is closed. Anything you tell me now has nowhere to go.”
Then he understood.
If your brain is unable to multitask, a closed folder is a great visual.
My brain’s inability to multitask is the reason I haven’t posted here in awhile. I’ve had my Memoir Manuscript folder open, and not much else.
Last week, after 20 years, I finished my manuscript.
My editor will have a red pen lollapalooza with it, I’m sure, but the bulk of the writing is done.
And now, I have to open some folders that have been lying dormant for too long.
The first folder, which I opened this morning, was Website Blogs. And here we are! I’ve been neglectful of this folder lately, so my very belated New Year’s Resolution is to open this folder and post monthly.
As soon as I hit “publish” here, another folder will open: Create and launch my quarterly Newsy Letter.
My Newsy Letter is how I’ll keep in touch with my email subscribers. Here’s what it will include:
One totally useless and possibly embarrassing fact about me.
A snippet from my memoir, and an update on my publishing journey. I want you to be the first to know when I get a book deal! (Notice I said “when,” not “if.” I’m working the positive thinking magic!)
Links to essays I’ve had published. Hopefully I’ll have some new ones out soon.
Books I’ve read, and upcoming authors to watch.
An inspirational quote.
My Newsy Letter will be a short page, four times per year. I promise it won’t overload your inbox. But if you don’t subscribe via email, you’ll miss out!
It’s so simple–just find the “Enter email” box, then, well, enter your email address. You don’t even need to have a brain folder open–it’s that simple. My 87-year-old dad has done it, and if he can, you can, too.
Speaking of my dad, once I opened the directions folder in my brain, he told me just how to get where I needed to go, and I didn’t get lost. One task completed at a time. That’s how I roll.
How do you roll? Can you multitask? If not, what folder do you have open today?