So I’ve been thinking about participating in this “On becoming fearless” thing that inspired Julia to write a really beautiful post about fearing photos of herself, what this fear may have cost her, and how she’s overcoming it as she grieves for her A. The problem for me as I contemplate this is that I don’t understand the assignment. Because Mothertalk obviously involves a lot of mommy talk and some of us like to avoid that, I’ll summarize. Write about some way you’ve become empowered.
I want to do that. Really, I do. But at the moment I’m annoyed by prescriptive literature encouraging female empowerment. I think that if I did attribute my accomplishments with learning to be “fearless,” I’d be lying. I think much more of it has been luck.
I have a fine motor skills disability, which means a lot when you’re in elementary school and everything is judged for “neatness” and “speed” and when teachers put so much bloody emphasis on holding your pencil correctly. I struggled a lot – in fact I remember writing in my “Ramona Quimby” diary in fourth grade that my worst trait was being stupid. But then, suddenly, when those things mattered less (around middle school), it all changed. I was smart. Straight A’s from then on, high SAT’s scores, great college, great grad school. I didn’t do this for myself, certainly I worked hard, but structural elements fell into place. I finally had the kind of intelligence the educational system valued and it rewarded me. But I never forgot what it was like to be on the outside of that.
Being “fearless” (i.e., believing in yourself) isn’t enough to fix an inflexible curriculum, cure a clinical eating disorder, escape an abusive relationship, make your relationships more satisfying, get you out of poverty, help you overcome seriously sexist superiors or coworkers, cure cancer, or, as is most relevant to me at the moment, get you a live take-home baby. Structural problems, folks, are what I believe these to be and those are the problems I want solved – although I’d also like to permanently rid us of bourgeois prescriptive literature.
Some of the tools of positive thinking may help, really. I believe that. But I’m an incredibly positive thinker under normal conditions. I smile constantly. Smiling and not fearing, however, is not going to get me out of this pregnancy safely and successfully.
If you’ve guessed that this rant was only inspired by Huffington but is really about something else, you’re right. I feel like an outsider again. My body once again has revealed that it won’t fit a certain mold. My pregnancies won’t be normal and I can’t cooperate with the general rules of how it’s supposed to be. Other people, with absolutely no experience in this hell, are encouraging me to relax, to remember that stress isn’t good for the baby. Well, thank you, for trying to create yet a new source of fear. I already expend considerable psychic energy accepting my rational knowledge that I didn’t kill my son, because technically my body actually did. And then I wonder, are you trying to tell me something? Does someone out there think that I did this with my mind? Well, thank G-d, I can rely on my strong sense of self to know that’s bull. But does it help some people out there to think that it’s not, and that that’s yet another reason it won’t happen to them?