Triticum Turgidum

Lying Dormant and Waiting to Bloom Since 2005

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Location: The Prairie, Illinois, United States

I am a beauty-loving ambidextrous higher-order primate who learned transcendental meditation at 7, statistical analysis at 23, tap dancing at 30, and piano at 35. I tolerate gluten, lactose, and differences of opinion, but not abuse. Or beets.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


We all have a personal life journey. Mine seems to be a continual struggle toward integrity. I don't mean integrity in the casual sense of respectability or righteousness; I mean it in the literal sense of being integrated, not fragmented into different personae for different audiences. Genuine integrity requires authenticity, the willingness to be honest about one's feelings or one's position on a particular issue. Don't get me wrong; I'm not celebrating the willingness to convey one's moment-to-moment state of mind with no effort to rein in its expression--in other words, I don't advocate smashing dishes (or people) to "authentically" convey one's anger. I support the use of situationally appropriate words and actions to convey inner states that may be much more intense than the words and actions let on. But to use words and actions that are the opposite of what one is feeling--well, that's the path to pathology. Smiling brightly and saying with a brittle voice, "Oh, nothing, honey, nothing at all!" when asked what's wrong is not a display of integrity. To say, "I'm upset, but not ready to talk about it yet," or "Yes, I'm angry about ____," or "I'm feeling a mix of things and need to sort them out," or even, "Yes, dammit, I'm angry!" is far preferable, integrity-wise.

Now, I realize this all seems like a condemnation of people who are not willing to be honest about their feelings. I don't mean it to be. Some people grow up thinking they cannot be honest because it's not safe. Honesty has gotten them into hot water. I learned this lesson early, hence my adult trek toward integrity. As a child I was not allowed to convey anger, indeed, to feel anger. It was unseemly, unfeminine, and worst of all, it was hurtful. My anger was actually interpreted as an assault, even if I did nothing with it. It's taken years and several therapists to convince me that feelings are neither good nor bad, they just are. It's what you do with them that counts. My mother, with whom I've experienced much conflict over many years, had it even worse than I did. She was profoundly abused and grew up with the crazymaking notion that she had to put on a different face for different people, and even different faces for the same person, just to survive. She brought that lesson to my childhood, and now I'm trying to find a way to override it.

Which is what brings me to the biggest emotional challenge I've experienced so far: keeping up what I call my Mommy Game Face. If an adult wakes me up four times in the night, I can express my anger and frustration in an appropriate way. But what do I do with a baby who's just being a baby? The desire to provide my daughter with a loving environment has led me to adopt this perpetually upbeat, validating game face that departs quite markedly (and frequently) from what I'm actually feeling. Moreover, I think this is the way it should be. I believe that parenting a very small child is one of the few life tasks that require occasional (okay, constant) inauthenticity, for the sake of the child. Nothing creepy and malicious like saying "You woke me up again, didn't you, Shithead?" with a syrupy voice and a big grin, just sighing and saying, "It's okay, everything's alright," when everything is most certainly not alright. Every kid knows how terrifying it is to see a parent sobbing or petrified with fear; it's like the whole world is falling apart. We need to believe that our parents are able to tap into a bottomless well of optimism and courage, especially when we're very little, and sad, and afraid. So I'm trying to create the impression that I have such a well, when the reality is, I don't. And let me tell you, even this minor league inauthenticity grows tiresome. It's like there's a tradeoff between my own neurosis and my daughter's: to preserve my sanity, I need to be authentic; to preserve hers, I need to be inauthentic. I feel as if I'm backsliding some days, like all this progress toward integrity is being undone by the requirement that I put on my Comedy mask when the Tragedy mask seems to fit much better.

As parents, when do we get to be ourselves again? When they're 10? 20? 30? And how do we model integrity for our children if we have to hide so much of who we are from them?


Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

No wisdom on this one, K.

I think each day, each stage of our lives presents us with new challenges and questions. When we have children, the equation multiplies.

That being said, I think you are an awesome person. I have watched your blog transform, and you too, since the birth of Fi. May your journey of discovery continue and may you be inspired along the way.


3:49 PM, December 21, 2006  
Blogger Anjali said...

K., what a tough idea and question this is. To some extent, I completely understand and empathize with what you are saying and trying to do; it is quite admirable actually , to try to refine yourself into a completely "authentic" person who never hides what she is or is feeling to fit certain situations. Repression, especially the mode that you were taught in your childhood, is never a healthy thing. And yet on the other hand, I think that it is impossible to have a truly cohesive identity to some extent. You are, and people are always going to treat you as, a different person depending on the context and circumstance, and that's nothing to do with inauthenticity, that's just a consequence of reality. I sense I am going to be really awful at explaining this -- if you've ever read any Luigi Pirandello, he explains the idea of "social masks" a lot better in his works ("Cosí é (se vi pare)"/"You're Right (If you think you are)" is a good, quick read that sort of encapsulates the idea if you haven't). We all feel tons of things at the same time, and if we do not express them all, its not necessarily that we're hiding our emotions...we instead decide on the context what's appropriate to express -- if not, it would life would be almost impossible, and one would try to explode from attempting to express that one is tired from lack of sleep/annoyed that you had to pay so much for coffee this morning/excited by an idea for your research/curious about something Fi did/dreading the commute back home..etc. When you have to wake up in the middle of the night to comfort Fi, I don't think you're being inauthentic by putting on a bright face for her -- you're tapping into your feelings of love, care and tenderness and expressing those to her. You honestly care about her, you want her to be comforted and feel better; you're willing to do what it takes to make her problems go away...none of that is inauthentic! Yes, you might be "censoring" your momentary irritation, but not in a deceitful way.

I don't know, you still may not agree, but just offering another perspective :) Just don't want you to feel guilty about this when I don't think it conflicts with your quest for integrity.

BTW, I checked out of MUA and the online world for so long due to craziness in my own life, and was so sad to discover I couldn't find your blog at its old address when I returned. Overjoyed that I tracked it down again; love reading your always intelligent, eloquent postings, and just generally being able to keep up with one of my favorite people :) Even more thrilled to learn of your beautiful baby girl. I am positive she will turn out wonderfully with a mother like you.



4:00 PM, December 21, 2006  
Blogger WinterWheat said...

Wow, what kind and encouraging comments. B, you know I think the world of you, your heart, and your mind. :-) And A -- so great to "see" you again! I'm SO glad you tracked me down. I felt the need to create a new blog that my family didn't know about, for obvious reasons. It's ironic that I've posted about integrity yet changed my makeupalley name and post-MUA blog address multiple times. *rolls eyes* Anyway, I think your comments are wonderful, and I do understand what you mean--channel the good feelings that are authentically there, but may not be at the surface at the moment. I think that's probably the best I can do. Tell me, how is someone so young so wise? :-)

7:39 PM, December 21, 2006  
Blogger Parisjasmal said...

Oh K--I can relate on so many levels. My heart aches for you. I cannot relate to the raising of a small child part, but I do relate to the Mother part. My mom did not allow me to feel anything either. If I cried AT ALL, I was in BIG TROUBLE which is why I think I am so drawm to humor and laughing and comedy. Comedy is light and safe and happy. Everything else is bad.

I try very hard to be authentic too. I cannot stand passive aggressive people who insult and criticize in that same syrupy voice you mentioned. These people are often broken themselves therefore insults are their way to feel better. I do not know how to deal with these people, and most of the time it leads to me just retreating from them all together--which I do not think is the adult way to handle things either. I NEVER want to be like that.

Ok--that was way more about me than about answering your question, and I have no answers, but I will say I adore how you are unabashadly honest on your blog about how difficult Motherhood is. Most women are not honest about it. Thanks for that, and I wish you much luck in finding your authentic self.

Fi is lucky to have you for a Mommy.

Happiest of Holidays to your beautiful family.


5:52 PM, December 22, 2006  
Blogger Bela said...

I believe in tact; I believe that a little white lie is sometimes necessary. I don't think my integrity is being compromised if, for instance, I'm being reassuring, even though I am myself scared for the other person. And how else can you behave with a baby or a small child? Until you can reason with that child, you have to - at least - seem in control.

9:47 PM, December 22, 2006  
Blogger ndnchick said...

Despite the parental game face, children are perceptive and can sense what we are really feeling deep down inside. So basically, we mask very little from our kiddies. You are obviously a very thoughtful, loving, kind, and warm parent and that, dear woman, is a beautiful thing. Your daughter is growing up in a richness not many children will experience. Kudos to you and your spouse!

9:21 AM, December 23, 2006  
Blogger katiedid said...

Merry Christmas, K - have a great holiday. Fi is just old enough now that she's going to have the most fantastic time with the wrapping paper. (Or maybe it was just my boys who found the paper the most fascinating thing about the whole presents thing.) I hope your Xmas Eve and Day are wonderful.

2:27 PM, December 24, 2006  
Blogger Urban Chick said...

this is a really thought-provoking post

for me, i've worried in the past about how different my friends are and i've wondered whether this is some sort of manifestation of my inability to be 'authentic' in the sense you mean and that i too often try to be all things to all people

i've also found it hard to contemplate assembling a number of these friends together, as i always imagine they won't get on

but i've begun to conclude that my differing friendships are more a manifestation of the different facets of my character/personality and, in fact, when two or more of my friends have met, they have usually got on well, which leads me to conclude that there is something at the core of ALL my friendships which is constant

but i also agree with anjali and bela that a heart on your sleeve approach isn't always best - i think you DO have to lie a little sometimes (not that i'd see interactions with one's childrens as 'lies' but i agree with you there too)

i think some place between the stereotypical english stiff upper lip and heart on your sleeve approaches is where i aspire to be (of course, exactly WHERE on the continuum is a matter for each and every one of us to decide!)

(belated yuletide greetings btw!)

5:27 AM, December 26, 2006  
Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

I have been thinking about this question, K. and perhaps the answer is never and always. Depends upon how we see the world, what are our expectations about self, others, etc.

This has been a brutal week, and I woke up with an ephanany (sp) today! It is all about perception!

Wishing you and yours a glorious year.

You are a great woman, and never forget it!

8:23 AM, December 28, 2006  
Blogger WinterWheat said...

J, J, K, B, and the Chicks:

Thank you all for your wise, kind, and supportive words. It's so nice to have connections with people like you.

11:45 AM, January 04, 2007  

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