“She kept trying to get it right.”

That could be the epitaph of my life.  Write it on my tombstone. I kept trying, against all odds: genetics, background, raising, and education–to get it “right”.  Whatever that means.

I spent the 80’s reading “great books”, the 90’s reading self-help, writing, and decorating books, and the 2000’s reading psychology books, trying to figure out who I was and where I belonged.  I longed to be like Alexandra Stoddard, who wrote about living life imperfectly but beautifully.  But something in me rejected the imperfect part–yearning for the Martha Stewart standard instead.

I could chalk to up to my mom and  her mother-who kept perfect houses despite being poor.  Nothing was ever left out of place for very long–if you drank out of a glass in my grandmother’s kitchen, as soon as you finished it, she had it out of your hand and was squirting Dawn dishwashing liquid into it and rinsing it our in the sink.

I wanted so much growing up to be out of my childhood life–away from what I perceived as small-town small-mindedness, concerned with keeping up appearances despite us all being various degrees of broke, poor, or destitute.

But suddenly I’ve become obsessed with the thought that keeping up appearances might not be such a bad idea.  It certainly kept me out of a lot of trouble in school when peer pressure hit to drink or be “loose” became apparent among my friends.  I was more afraid of my parents’ wrath then the  opprobrium of “not fitting in” with my peers.

I sought out the other “church kids” and tried to hang out with them, knowing I might be teased but wouldn’t be expected to be sexually available or open to drinking.   But I was only playacting at being saved.  I stole money from my parents’ billfolds for the vending machine and borrowed change from people with no means or  intention of paying it back.

I tried to escape by being hyper intellectual–living in my head instead of my body.  My English teacher gave me the aforementioned list of “great books” to read and I did–all the thick  Russian books, Shakespearean plays, and  great American novels.   I graduated salutatorian and the smartest girl in my class, but that didn’t bring lasting satisfaction either.

To be continued. . .


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