This topic had been on my "list of things to write about" for awhile now, but this morning I saw something on Jonsi's blog about why she choose her name and I felt compelled to do the Post now. Thanks Jonsi for the inspiration!
Choosing my "pen name" for this Blog was surprisingly emotional for me. It took me days. I struggled with the courage to even do it. It was like the first step in this process and it scared the crap out of me. I can remember shaking as I punched things into Google, looking for the right name. I somehow knew that once I made that choice I would be committed. Something in me would be reborn. I can only imagine how many other people would find this truely ridiculous. But for me, it was about finding my identity.
I wanted a name that describe what I was trying to accomplish. When I came across the name Sheridan, I found that it meant "seeker". I had been seeking the truth, seeking me, seeking a way out of this hell hole, so this seemed perfect. (Side note, as I google it today, I find it means "life long treasure". Hmm. Interesting). Jesse (I changed it to the -ie) meant gift, offering to God, and one who is. Perfect. This blog was my prayer to God, my offering for change, and my attempt to just be. I liked how the two names sounded together, as it implied a bit of the location that I'm in (my identity does have lots of influence from where I'm from). I also liked that it sounded a bit like an outlaw. Some gunslinger from the West. I felt like an outlaw. But one of those who steals from the rich and gives to the poor.
And just a random thought on the issue of names. I spent a lot of time finding the perfect names for my sons. I wanted them to have names with limitless possibilites. It was important to me that they have names which grounded them in a sense of family, provided them a foundation (we gave them each a family members name whom we loved), but also a name that would allow them to be whomever they chose to be. A name that sounded good on a toddler but wouldn't embarrass a grown man. A name that could be for a lawyer or an artist. A name unique enough to not be "one of the herd" but not so crazy that they stood out like a freak. Of course, NM suggested variants of her name if the babies had been girls. I thought, how weird. I NEVER would've suggested or implied that someone name a baby after me. Besides the obvious that I didn't like her name, nor did she deserve this honor, but that she would even have the arrogance to suggest it blew me away. NMIL had the middle name of my first born son all picked out already. It was a "tradition" and it never occured to her that we wouldn't use it. I remember her telling us that she had paperwork for us to give the baby on why we gave it this "tradtional" name. I remember being blown away that she would just make this assumption. This story is such a hallmark of my NMIL. Most of the time, it NEVER OCCURS to her that someone would have other ideas, thoughts, or opinions. I think having so many sons, she just herded them around and they followed her like mindless robots. She just the expectation that everyone will fall in line. Maybe that's why she's not more underhanded. She's never really had to use such tactics to keep the troops in line. They've been so brainwashed, they do it naturally. Until now.
Anyway, sorry for my rambling. I tend to get off track. But back to the thoughts on identity. I don't remember my parents allowing me hardly any opportunity to develop one as a kid. Maybe not that they didn't allow it, but they certainly didn't encourage it. Like NMIL, I don't think it occurred to them to cultivate my own personal sense of identity. I just was to be what they had been. This was how it was, how it'd always been, and how it would always be. Little clones producing more little clones. It's not that they stifled my "other" interests. They just didn't acknowledge them. They went through the motions, but never encouraged them. They didn't really pay any attention to them at all, beside the obligatory parental requirements.
My family did have labels for me. I was "smart". I was thinking the other day that this was one of the positive things I took from my childhood. At least I knew I was smart. I had the achievement tests to prove it. But as I really thought about how my parents viewed my intelligence, it was never as a credit to my character. First and foremost, my intelligence shackled me to expectations of perfection. I was not allowed to get anything but As. I was better than that. I didn't matter that I really did struggle in some subjects. I was too intelligent for that (and not that they helped me, or asked about school, or knew what in the hell I was doing beyond the end result). I could bring home straight As forever, but man, that one B...well, that would be the end of the world. Dad also used to say that I was book smart, but naive. "Some of the people who are the smartest with books, are the dumbest in the real world." While this may be true, he always used it to take me down a peg. My mother was jealous of my intelligence. She still is. My intelligence was a direct insult to her. As if I did it to her on purpose. She liked to throw it in my face that I somehow had something she didn't and I should feel sorry for her for it. Still to this day, she likes to "correct" me (although she's usually wrong) and when backed into a corner, she'll pull the whole "you're calling me stupid" card out. I don't remember ever being told I was pretty. I did get compliments for my outfits (usually one that NM picked out or if my hair looked nice. But I always got the distinct impression that I was not the pretty sister. Good behavior, good grades, basically anything beyond perfection were critized and judged. However, when I attained these goals, they were treated as if I'd just done what any kid would be expected to do. My opinion was rarely asked, by parents never knew what I thought, and I get the distinct impression that I annoyed them more than anything.
Today, I'm often labeled my family as controlling, anxious, oversensitive (I got this ALL the time as a kid too. I was not allowed to be upset about anything), inflexiable, anal, a worry wort, and compulsive. They see me as an organizational freak who must control everything and won't allow any dissension (projecting much?). I am the "bad" family member. They one who isn't there enough, doesn't call enough, doesn't do enough. The laughable part is that I AM that family member. I always call, check in, send cards, remember birthdays, acknowledge accomplishments, put thought into gifts, send thank you cards. I get the distinct feeling that with them, I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't. My dad likes to see my efforts at being a good hostess (providing dinner at a good time, showing were things are, providing entertainment) as controlling. I'm anal if I announce that we should head to dinner by a particular time. I'm anal because I planned the friggin meals (someone has to buy all the groceries for 10 people, so yeah, I had to plan it.) Here I think I'm being thoughtful and making things easy, but no, I'm anal and a control freak. Any advice that I won't take is because I'm a control freak. NM's husband loves to point out that he thinks I'm a compulsively anal control freak. If I state that my son likes something a certain way, he'll say "I wonder who he gets THAT from".
My in-laws also have labels for me. I'm rigid, inflexible, organized (this is one they actually admire, except when it puts them at a disadvantage or makes them feel jealous), stuck-up, snobby, and just plain odd. They have no idea who the real me is, other than what they've decided me to be. They very rarely ask my opinion, unless they already know it will be similar to theirs. They fully ignore any topics in which I'd have a differing thought. In the early days, anything I brought up about myself was turned back to them. I'd tell NMIL that I had danced as a kid. "OH, you did. Well (DH) won a dance contest once!" And then on and on about the dance contest...once...that she didn't even go to. And for the record, husband is a good dancer, but not a dance contest winner. I used to write and was in speech, well hubby was a speaker at a state contest. I used to think she was just trying to connect. Now, I think she had to one-up me. The things she does take an interest in, she covets. I like to wrap Christmas gifts. I like to take a glass of wine, watch a Christmas movie, and layer ribbons, wrapping, etc. I find it relaxing (I'm fully aware most people don't). Kind of like arts and crafts. NMIL's packages always looked like they'd been through the garbage disposal. But what do you know, now she spends all this time on her gifts. They still look like they've been through the garbage disposal, but it looks like she did it on purpose. Anything that I do well, she has to do to. If I have a nice pair of earrings, she exclaims that she wants them too. She's always asking where I bought stuff. I know, imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Except when you feel like someone's trying to steal any sense of identity away. And if she can't compete directly, she just figures out a way to minimize what I do. She can't ever just thank me for the damn Christmas card. She has to comment on how she simply just didn't have time (the woman who is retired, has no kids at home, no hobbies, didn't have time.) My favorite was when she heard through friends that I make a good lasagna. So, I made it for her once. I thought I was being NICE. Her comment: "Well, you make a good lasagna...BUT I MAKE REALLY GOOD SPAGHETTI". WTF is that? I'm still trying to explain to husband why this comment irritated me so bad, and continues to irritate me. Needless to say, I haven't cooked for her since.
But I think the worse for me with the in-laws (and my family in general) that they don't know me at all. With the in-laws I feel like a bunch of "tags" (I think Jonsi referred to it this way). Mom of their grandkids, wife of their son. I'm a label. I fill the slot (not that I fill it well, and in fact, I often feel like the round peg in the square hole). Anything that they don't like about me, they simply ignore. I'm a 2-dimensional character that they don't give a crap to really know. I am not appreciated, loved, or accepted for me. My family doesn't know who the hell I am. Again, labels, projections, images in their head, is all I am. I can't be me, I can't share me, because they'll use it against me. Use it to hurt me. Use it to further their own little agendas.
So, I'm searching. Who the fuck am I? What is my identity? What can I live with in myself? It's weird to be 30-something and finally trying to decide what I am. To quit being the labels and just be human.