I’m thought of as headstrong.
People seem to say anything they want to me, assuming I can take it. Last week I met a work colleague for the first time, a man with whom I’ve corresponded professionally for six years. We ate a meal together and he said some things to me that were quite inappropriate for a man to say to a woman he doesn’t know very well; I took them in stride, though was a bit shocked that he’d be so foolish. I never let on that I was ruffled; I just accepted him as he was — expressive, emotional, and with little to no social filter — and, though I had been thinking of ways I could possibly give him more work of a slightly different nature than in the past, after that I realized he wouldn’t be diplomatic enough to do the job without compromising the public face of the company.
The other day I was talking to Dad on the phone when he said he doesn’t read my family blog every day because “All you do is talk about your dogs and your slough.” I laughed and replied, “That’s my life! What else am I going to write about?” and he agreed, remarking “Yeah, I guess if I had a blog it would be all about golf, and that wouldn’t interest everyone, either.” I acted like it was no big deal, like what he said was perfectly reasonable and even amusing — and it was — my laughter was genuine. But afterward I found myself thinking that was a bit of a prickish thing to say to me, even if it is the truth.
My life isn’t particularly exciting or dramatic most of the time, and I do wax poetic about the birds that come to my backyard slough, and my sweet little dog, and so on. It’s exactly the life I want, and I’m not likely to blog about politics or investment strategies or even world affairs, much as I hear about them on the radio.
Headstrong though I may be, his comment has thrown a clunker into the works because now I hesitate to post an entry. I know better: I know that I can only be who and what I am, and not anyone else, and that what I am is enough, thank you very much. No one is forced to read what I write; not everyone will; not everyone who does will be back; those who do appreciate a glimpse of my plain and contented life, they come back regularly.
But my own father thinks he can say something like that to me and it’s perfectly all right. He doesn’t mean to be rude or unkind or insensitive, yet he has been. I wonder whether he has always been this way, or if he’s becoming more this way as he ages, or if being “on the rocks” with his girlfriend lately has affected his general outlook. I have noticed in recent months that he is quick to take offence over small things that are not intended to damage; I wonder if he’s always been this way, or only now. As a matter of fact, I’ve responded, “You are getting old and crotchety, Dad!” Which goes to show, perhaps, that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to saying things that may upset others while thinking nothing of it, oneself.
One thing I learned from my father when I was a teenager was to speak the truth even if it creates conflict, because otherwise you are a coward, and some things need to be said and dealt with openly and honestly, and you have to force yourself to do it if you want to gain and maintain your self-respect.
Now in my fifties, I am learning that I don’t have to say everything just because I think it, and that there are some things that don’t need to be said at all, even if they are true. Sometimes there is no value in speaking them out loud. Sometimes other people’s feelings are more important than saying my piece.