This dream woke me up in the middle of night a week or so ago, heart pounding. For a minute I felt like that that cartoon woman who slaps her head and cries "Oh, no! I forgot to have a baby!" and wondered if it meant I really WAS supposed to have had another one, and now it's too late. Then, even half awake, I did a little self-applied spiritual direction. "Usually images in dreams are metaphorical, honey. You might want to think about what you are giving birth to right now." And then I relaxed and went back to sleep.
Then, a couple of a days ago, I heard a part of an interview with a woman who's written a book called The Curse of the Good Girl. I only heard part of the interview, but the messages were familiar - that girls grow up believing that if they are just good enough - nice enough, sweet enough, perfect enough- they can bring order to the chaos of daily living. I have had quite a lot of that good girl thing going on for most of my life but I have to say that now that I am
a) 40 and
b) holding a job which requires that I exercise more than a little authority
the good girl thing is just really not working for me anymore.
It will not shock you to learn that sometimes the response to constant sweetness and niceness and affirmation is not honey but, in fact, vinegar. Sometimes you must raise your voice to be heard. Sometimes you have to hold up your hand and interrupt and say "You may not speak to me that way." Sometimes you even have to say, wait for it, no.
So I've been practicing all these things, with - as they are rather new skills for me - sort of mixed success. Nobody thanks you for setting boundaries, it turns out. They dont gush, "Oh, that was so nice of you!" Instead, when I step out of the good girl thing, they look a little shocked and dismayed, like I've just handed them an ugly little pointy-toothed baby. I feel a little sad, too, because really I'd rather hand someone a tiny, sweet, pink bundle of cuddles any day.
But the flip side of all that nicey-nice stuff is a burning resentment that is not generative, but is in fact, death dealing. It's the poison you keep drinking hoping that other people will die from gratitude. But they never do. Thank you enough, I mean, or recognize enough all the very very very nice things you have done. And then you keep dying - little by little - inside.
So that ugly baby, even if it feels like an unwelcome intrusion, is at least the start of some new life. A new life that will grow big and tall and toothy, maybe even faster than I think is possible. Maybe even right before my very eyes.