Sunday, September 25, 2011


We long for their approval.

That is what it comes down to. That is why we are who we become. Our parent's approval, or in my case, a grandparent, my grandmother. It was always impossible to make her proud. So now, as an adult I make sure that my achievements continue that pattern. I write sex because this is something she will never approve of. No matter how well I succeed in this I will underline my failure in her eyes. Even my mother who makes some attempt at being proud, can barely look at the book. There is no, congratulations, no, it looks beautiful. I mention my book tour vaguely and she skips away and starts a different topic. No matter how successful I become I will not gain their approval. I praise her successes, her story published, a draft of her kids book successfully completed. I listen to her stories about the writers group but she will never listen to my stories of publication or a book tour. There is no point mentioning these things to my grandmother at all. She is frail now and any stress or anger about my work will be damaging to her already poorly health. It has always been like this for me. My support of them has been constant and clear. Despite her clear insanities I have praised my grandmother's work and supported her idea that her crazy tourist attraction is a success despite any evidence otherwise. Writing about sex is my way of confirming that I will never be as good as they are. Being kicked out of my PHD was so traumatic for me because it seemed like my grandmother's hand shooting out to smack me firmly. Putting me in my place.

The woman is old now, sometimes confused, unable to even lift a spoon to feed herself at times. I am not sure how reconcile this reality for how I have shaped my life, reacting to her disappointment of me, setting myself up to fail in her eyes.

When she is dead will I perhaps be free to see my successes for what they are? It is too late I think. This is the shape of my life now. I live out her regrets and I am now unable to live for myself alone.


Anonymous said...

It's nice to have family approval but what I have learned myself as I navigate life is that you really should approve of yourself. It's nice to have the approval of others but not if it means that you lose yourself in the process. Your braveness to follow your dreams & to write as honestly and as candidly as you do amazes me. Kath

Ira McGuire said...

approval. such a thorny thing. which is why, when people don't give it, it holds so much power.
one thing I've learnt this past year - others approval/disapproval is about them - not me.
BUT - I've always had my parents support, so perhaps what you're expressing is more hurtful.
In any case, I feel for ya.