A few weeks ago my fabulous sidekick Ms. Marsue asked me what my new blog was about. She didn’t ask me to summarize it. But I felt the need and was unable to do it. I couldn’t not add all the funny, odd and biting lines I could remember. She could have read it quicker than it took me to summarize it. I hated the idea of leaving out the funny parts, of truncating its goodness, or making it less. Part of that resistance to edit was that I was proud of the piece and knew it would make her laugh; the other part was that it worked as is, in whole. To make it less, bugged me. The more I thought about it the more I realized I was a little nutty in a new way. Fascinating…ok for me yes, for others not so much. I found that when I create something, express thought or emotion to its fullest where I am satisfied and happy with its outcome it is pure. That purity was what I struggled to achieve, to translate from amorphous free-floating crazy to thought, word and sometimes Crayola. The resistance to summarize for Marsue reminded me of the first time I bumped up against this type of situation.
I was young, really little, maybe 5-6 years old. I didn’t know much but I knew what was good, what was true and what was art. That seemed enough to get me into a whole lot of trouble. At some point on a Sunday afternoon I remember passing my parents’ bedroom door thinking it needed something, a little sparkle, a little tszuj, which is pronounced “zjug,” (see Carson Kressly from “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”), but I digress. So the door was bare and I had a crayon, a blue one. I drew the perfect tugboat in navy blue Crayola on the bottom third of my parent’s door and walked away satisfied. Even at 5 years old I knew a job well done.
Sometime later my parents called my sisters and I together in the dining room and sat us down around the dinner table. I had an inkling what this was about but kept mum. At this point there were only four Freeburg girls; Amy was an eggy-weggy back then. My mother passed around pieces of blank paper and crayons to each of us. My father asked us to draw a boat the best we could. If I was 5 or 6 years old, then Susan, whose 18 months younger, would have been 3.5 or 4.5, Chris 8 or 9, and Marguerite 9 or 10. We were all in grade school. I remember thinking that this was a trick and I knew that I should draw a different boat. I knew this trap was going to get me in trouble. Unfortunately, I also knew I could draw an amazing tugboat and was hard pressed to draw something less than spectacular. I was torn between not getting in trouble and drawing what I knew to be good and true. I finally acquiesced and left out one small detail on the portholes on my drawing—a detail that was very insignificant to the casual viewer. And it made me crazy to even give in that small bit. I knew by drawing it the way I did I would be caught but I could not bring myself to do less than what I believed to be great. There was little to no compromise.
My parents of course could see by my drawing that it was my artwork on the door and I got my punishment. My sisters and my parents could not believe that I was stupid enough to draw the same picture or close to the same. I tried to explain why I did it but they just smiled and shrugged thinking me not too bright. But I knew better. I knew the truth: that I am not motivated by the same things most are. People don’t always understand that. What it was is they were looking at conventional cause and effect relationships: Kids don’t want to get into trouble therefore they will lie to not get caught. When I didn’t follow that route it was deemed I was not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
The truth however was that by doing less than my best, by not honoring what my vision was would have been the bigger punishment. Not being true to myself is always the bigger punishment. I would think that is true for most of us. I think in relationships, jobs and social situations we trade away bits of ourselves and wonder why we are depressed, angry or just plain ragged. When we diminish our gifts, skills and what we bring to the table we do the world and ourselves a disservice.
I used an example of art here because it is a clear and concrete example of my voice, but this happens in all arenas. There are times when we all want to do something but resist because what others might think. I hate to pull a Tinkerbelle on you but every time you choose others as a reason to do, or not do, something rather than yourself, you let that spark inside go out. Every time you feel compelled but don’t express how you think or feel, you abandon yourself.
So here is what I am proposing: rather than using “Tinkerbelle” as point of reference you use “tugboat”. Every time you do something creative, brave and/or wonderful that you are proud of, that you put out there and stand by you’ve “tugboated” it. When you stand for what you believe to be good and true, even if it leaves you standing alone, you’ve “tugboated” it. Each and every time you put your voice, your needs, your well being at the top of the list you are “tugboating”. This may lead to people using the words eccentric, quirky, unique, or even odd when describing you. But at least when they see you, they are really seeing you as you are being the fullest expression of who you are. Being seen, heard and acknowledged for who we are instead of for whom people want us to be is a powerful thing. So gas up your tugboats and get to work—there’s lots of crayons for everyone and millions of doors that need tszujing!