Skating over surfaces

First, a little awareness.

There are two little-girl fears that drive me. In truth, you cannot understand the first thing about me as a human being without knowing these two fears. I don’t pretend that they are unique – far from it – but they are mine and I own them. They have much to do with the things that are not pretty in my internal landscape.

One is the fear of a little girl trying to please her perfectionist male parent, the underground fear of a little girl so used to performing perfection in the pursuit of love that she barely notices how afraid she feels every single day, afraid of being found out, afraid of falling down, afraid of being caught out in a mistake.

Another is a fear of conflict (as in war, not as in disagreement) – conflict to me is difficult, destructive, painful. If people must scream at one another, if people must hate one another, hurt one another, why must they draw me in? This is the pain and fear of a little girl hearing people scream through closed doors, out of control; of feeling responsible for the screaming and the loss of control; of knowing that it cannot be stopped and that it will be followed by days of silence and then – mysteriously, confusingly, mercifully – it will Not Have Happened.

Tears now for that little girl. She is still bleeding and confused, somewhere. In me.

Where does all that fear let itself out?

It keeps me tentative about what I do not understand, hesitant to step into the unknown, deeply wary of anything I cannot control, of anything that I fear may leave me in freefall. I stick to performances I can “do”, limit myself to roles and facades that I understand or feel at least capable of understanding – so I feel I can present myself and understand myself as competent. So I skirt around the edges, cherrypicking what I think I know about or can find out about or understand about – shying away from what is too difficult, too messy, too uncontrolled. I don’t forge ahead with things in the hope that they will come clear – I wait until they are already starting to come clear, I wait until my ability to understand has already at least begun to show itself. I skate over surfaces, celebrating that I can (sometimes anyway) see the surfaces, but avoiding the work of breaking through them, moving over and under and around them, to find out why they are there and what they are hiding.

It keeps me in a place of wanting and not wanting attention, popularity. I don’t want popularity. I assume that popular people experience it as validating, at least if they are popular through seeking and choice. For me, I see popularity as terrifying, as a whole lot of pressure / expectation that would require me to keep up performance at a level I could not bear – not here, not where for once in my life I am trying to be me. Not just that, but doesn’t popularity bring a whole lot of conflict risk?… hell yeah. Where are the blog wars slogged out? Between the popular blogs: the little fish like me are not worth flaming and this is the way I like it. Maybe some get a kick out of being at the centre of controversy, of other people’s blogosphere violence, but not me. For me it would be emotionally draining, soul-destroying, it would have me running for the hills.

It would be nice to be respected, perhaps it would be nice to be widely respected except that “widely” can never be wide enough to avoid conflict risk while at the same time being narrow enough to avoid bland universality of the kind that is Not A Compliment. But popularity is something else, isn’t it?

So when I get comments, links, hat-tips, traffic and all that on my personal blog – or when I don’t, which happens far more often – it is with mixed feelings. One feeling is “why do I bother if nobody will come and validate me by expressing their approval?” Another is “this is lonely, isn’t there anyone who wants to talk?” But when the people do come I feel – invaded. Exposed and vulnerable. When they come with unexamined privilege, reeking of entitlement, pouring themselves over my personal words, I fear that the doors between me and the screaming might open at any moment. I watch for the conflict, worried about what these people are bringing to my party.

Which all leads up to the following questions: why has this blog become a soft’n’cosy liberal white feminist place? Why am I performing nice white lady? Why am I avoiding the questions that implicate myself, the questions that implicate you?

Is it because I think that is what the other nice white ladies will like / respect / learn from / applaud / validate? Is it because this is easier and I am lazy? Is it because the superficial is something that seems much more within my sphere of (potential) competence, much less fraught with danger, than the complexity and depth of mess that I should have been bringing to this party? Is it because – setting out on a project that was always intended to be not a personal space (where the whole point is for me to be myself, where it’s supposed to be all about me) but a shared one – I fear the pain and exposure that real personal honesty might bring?

At various levels, all of those things.

I have been holding out and holding back here on white noise.
I apologise – not just to anyone who gives a damn, but to me, and to that little girl whose confusion I should be clearing, not perpetuating.

It’s not that I won’t be skating over surfaces, ever. Talking about what is basic and superficial is a way into what is deeper, more profound. Those of us still waking up need to do both. Talking about what is uncomplicated, writing the easy posts, is not radical but nevertheless I will still be doing it when I need to. I will still be grounding myself and taking rests by retreating back into what I already know I can do, to give myself the comfort and strength I need to walk out into what I fear I can’t.

I can promise that I will try hard to stop the holding-out and the holding-back.
Starting now.

Secondwaver and I are working on a joint post, a renewed commitment. Watch for that because once it’s done I think you are going to see the start of some real work.

This must be right because it feels like truth.


5 Responses

  1. Most of us are scared, mostly of the same stuff you are.
    It is rude of me to have been reading your work without at least saying thank you to you for making it available to read. So, thank you.

  2. Maia and Secondwaver, this is a powerful post.

    I am glad you are co-writing something, it sounds like it’s going to blow open the top of a container that needs clearing out.

    I appreciate and respect you opening up and letting those who read here in to your thought processes and fears, myself included.

    Looking to becoming a regular contributor here…just need to figure out the how. I want to be a part of the becoming, of the changing, of the work. I’m ready. 🙂

  3. […] Skating over surfaces […]

  4. I think you nailed it, Maia. I recognize so much of this from my own thoughts about why I go where I go and do what I do. Kudos for being brave enough to be public about this.

  5. Thanks everyone.
    I guess I am making progress, even if slow 😉

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