My refrigerator is nearly empty, aside from the Sarabeth jams, the Land O Lakes sweet butter, and the baking soda. 2 eggs. Blackberry sodas, and I don’t even drink soda unless I’m at the movies or a Jewish Deli where they sell Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry. I ate bagel crisps for breakfast, smeared with goat cheese and topped with tangy strips of roasted red peppers. But they’re all gone. Tonight, I chose to stay home and make a grocery shopping list. Afterward, I’d write the final two chapters of my book. I still haven’t begun the list. I have consumed black champagne… or rather, Australian red sparkling wine!!! I did the whole shower thing, too. The Wicked Soundtrack is on repeat. Lotion. Hair conditioner. Socks. Popular.
I thought of you as I was cleaning, how you ate cucumbers and cheese for breakfast, at 6am. We watched It’s A Wonderful Life when I couldn’t sleep. You told me bedtime stories when I still couldn’t sleep. You loved doing things for me, being such a force in my life, and the thing I don’t get is, well, why? I worry I didn’t see past me with you. I worry I do it now, every day, still. Mostly because I’m reminded. Loudly.
Today I mentioned a list of moments. THINK back to the happiest MOMENTS in your life. Close your eyes, and feel your face smile. Some people remember their wedding day, the faces of loved ones around them. The birth of their children. My list was a series of moments that recognized what I thought to be accomplishments. I squealed when thick college acceptance envelopes began to arrive under my parent’s door, when I saw my name on a bulletin board announcing I landed the lead in the school play, when I got the promotion. When I shared my list aloud with a friend, I was told, yelled at, actually, that I was self-centered and should add "looking at my red hair in the mirror" to the list. WTF is that?
But this is what made me happy! These were things I’d striven for, things that meant something to me. Those were honestly my happy moments. Things I’d achieved. Things, yes, where I was given some small validation. Is that so horrible? "Yeah, but all you care about is the gold star!"
I thought it over as I cleaned my counter tops, after I’d heated the last of the Italian Wedding soup. I thought of you as I rubbed out a ring stain my wine glass had made near the stove. I blew my soup cool in short Lamaze breaths and wondered what was so horrible about enjoying validation. I enjoy writing, on its own, without validation. Just as I enjoyed learning, school, working hard, practicing my solo, swimming laps. But my happiest MOMENT isn’t the struggle of it. It’s arriving. It’s validation for doing what you love. Would I stop if I didn’t get the validation? If I loved it enough, as I do with writing, NO CHANCE. Why does that make me so self-everything? Yes, peppered throughout my achievement list, there were other loves… Linus mostly. That’s not the point.
The point is being made to feel small for wanting, for hoping, for enjoying validation. That’s one of my least favorite moments.
I still don’t see what’s wrong with reveling and enjoying the moments where I’ve been praised or validated for my accomplishments. "You’re like The Bad Seed," I was told. "All you care about is getting the medal." No. I care about doing something worthy of a medal, but yes, what I remember is the medal. Why is that so wrong? I really want to know… because this is my wiring. Growing up, achievement was praised. Hard work. Good grades.
In psychology class, I learned when children love to color, they do it. As soon as you begin to give them stars or medals for it, they stop doing it unless the medal is given as a reward… rendering their joy into a reward system. I’m not living that life… I’m not motivated by reward. I do what I love, and the moments I love are those which validate my efforts.