Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Lies Beneath

Ma rarely takes anything at face value. Whenever someone—including her children—say something, she automatically dives into the murky depths below. 
I want to be aware of why I say and do the things I say and do. But I don't want the why to be an excuse. I want to deal with the why.

A true writer must construct a character, complete with teeming emotions, quirky rationale, and favorite defense mechanism. As Amy Shearn expressed in "A Writer's Mommy Guilt," the absorbing process of an author can make the artist less available to the real world as she attempts to create a fictional universe.

Which could result in the Jewish pastime of guilt. 

While Shearn initially confessed to her feelings of maternal inadequacy, she realized a mommy-edge that her novel has provided: 
Then one day, my 4-year-old was having one of her regularly scheduled Scarlett O’Hara-ish nervous breakdowns. I found myself watching her from a writerly distance, dissecting her motives the way I would a fictional character’s. What hidden desires and fears fueled this particular tantrum? She wanted to wear woolen tights even though it was 92 degrees out, sure, but what else?
The tights had to be symbolic. In a story, anyway, they would be. Of course they were. Everything with a 4-year-old is symbolic. Really, she didn’t want to go to school. And really, really, she’d gotten wind that I was going to do something fun with her little brother while she was at school. This quick character study dissolved my urge to yell; suddenly instead of irritation I felt sympathy, and we were able to defuse the fit and move on in a matter of seconds.
Cool, huh? 

I have tried that with my own kinfauna—remaining neutral, breaking down the behavior displayed, and then cutting the crap. 

I once observed a father wrestle to get his daughter dressed; impatient, the five-year-old casually flung, "I hate you." The dad fell for it hook, line, and sinker. He froze, her shoe dropping from his nerveless hand. "But I looooooove you!" he wailed. Amateur. It's not about love and hate. She just wants you to pay for daring to put on an itchy sweater. Plus she pushes off the inevitable for a few more minutes.

It's the same thing when adults are swamped by illogical passion, whether it be anger or sadness or joy. They say all sorts of stupid stuff then that they regret. 

Years ago I was watching an interview of a long-married celebrity couple, so of course they were asked their "secret." One of them said, "We're both allowed to be crazy, just not at the same time." 

Don't take the crazy seriously. The crux is what causes the crazy.    

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