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Writing prompt from The Measure of a Book: I was always welcome at home, but I knew I didn’t belong there.


I was always welcome at home, but I knew I didn’t belong there. Why? Because after the birth of a brother and sister I very nearly ceased to exist for my parents. My brother became the heir-apparent, my sister the diva of the performing arts. And what was I? Babysitter. I had neither a gift for sports or fine arts. I was a chubby little girl whose one talent was that she talked and thought too much. So while my brother was playing competitive baseball and drums, and my sister was part of the exclusive drill team at school and an accomplished Hawaiian dancer, I just went to school and, at six years older, became a convenience to watch the other two.

What does one do when vying for their parents’ attention and they can’t get noticed? I tried being really smart. Got straight A’s in school, sang (adequately) in the choir, was a part of the pep club where I had to learn to dance the highland fling and was continually dropping my pom-poms… Instead of having dance lessons, when I asked for something special to do I got to take baton lessons. Well, ONE baton lesson. Wasn’t any good at that, either.

And when none of that worked out, I tried being a mouthy little bugger. If you can’t get attention in a positive way, you’ll act out and get in a negative way. Right? It didn’t get me anywhere either. I was a first child, and disinclined to get into any real trouble. In fact, the only time I was grounded was for riding around the block in my bff’s brother’s new car without telling my parents where I was going and that I’d be right back. I wasn’t even good at being bad. I finally gave up striving for their attention. And I think that’s when I began struggling with depression and managed to get a stomach ulcer at the ripe old age of 16.

Off I went to business school where I’d gotten a full-ride scholarship. Out from under my parents’ constant watchful eye, I started to come out of my shell. I met my husband, and jumped headlong into marriage. Meaning I went from my parents’ home to my own — without the advantage of growing up and learning to stand on my own two feet.

It took years for the lack of THAT part of my education to catch up with me, but it finally did. And to this day I’m an introvert who really only loves to work at things behind the scenes. Can’t stand to be noticed openly for accomplishments because I never felt I was good at anything, and I’d rather die than be embarrassed. And I’m terrified of driving in unfamiliar territory.

So here I am having raised two kids, with a hubby getting ready to retire, and I’m still wondering WHO THE HELL AM I? I’ve been a jackette of all trades: office manager for an RCA Warranty Division, Kindergarten teacher, counselor at a Crisis Pregnancy Center, tutor for the public school system, secretary for a university extension service, manager of a print shop, all the while holding down a second job as a church secretary for 22 years. I’ve worn a LOT of hats. But nothing fits.

rainer_maria_rilkeAnd it leaves me wondering if it wasn’t a matter of I just didn’t fit at home, maybe I just don’t fit in this life anywhere. Sometimes it sure feels that way. Like I’m a stranger in a strange land. This much I know. It wasn’t my folks’ fault. I came from a wonderful family who never knowingly made me feel any of that. But it’s confusing all the same. When I get to pondering on it these days I reread a quote I have on my desk by Ranier Maria Rilke:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”*

* from Letters to a Young Poet, Ranier Maria Rilke