If you have spent at least five minutes with me then you’ve heard me say “I’m a words of affirmation person.” If I haven’t said it to you yet, just give me another five minutes.
You see, I’m very big on personality assessments and understanding myself better so I can better understand others. So it was a revelation for me when I took the Love Languages test and discovered that the number one way I receive affirmation is through words. I crave sincere words of gratitude, praise, or affirmation. This doesn’t mean I beg for compliments. It just means that I am motivated and feel loved when people verbally affirm me.
This is great in a lot of ways because I am easily motivated by notes of encouragement and little things like being told by a teacher that they think I’m smart or the “chips” affirmation program at my office. But it is also a big reason that I am a Pathological People Pleaser.
People Pleasing is basically constructing your life around what others think. Although I am very independent and don’t really care what people think about my personality, I can care so much about what others think of my competence, intelligence, achievements, or niceness that I am often paralyzed by even the possibility of receiving negative words – or no words at all. But I want to change that. And I know where to start.
Last year, I had moderate success with my Daily Doodle. I got lots of compliments and “likes” and requests. So I began to shape my doodles around what I thought people would like to see. Obviously, the words of affirmation I received grew. That isn’t inherently bad. It’s a smart way to generate content. But now I’m working on my 2014 project: a 365-sentence story created by writing one sentence a day for a year. And you know what? It’s not always the most interesting to read. It can be slow for people who are used to constant information – or who like to read stories more than a sentence at a time. I’ve also discovered that a sentence isn’t as fun to look at as a doodle. Am I right?
So for the past five months I have struggled with contributing to a project with almost no words of affirmation accompanying it (Note: I am truly thankful for my friends who are following along!). But then I realized something important. Like this blog, I didn’t start this project to get attention or get famous or have people hang on my every word. I started it because I wanted to stretch myself as a writer. I wanted to see if I could create a full story with living characters while being shackled with intense time and creative restrictions. I wanted to test my patience.
I’ve decided to stop caring about what people think. My story could be the worst story in the history of stories, but as long as I complete it I will consider it a success. I’m doing it for me, and that’s all that should matter.
I had an assignment for my Intermediate Fiction Writing Class to experiment with writing a lyrical plot structure. Below is my attempt. Let me know what y’all think:
I Didn’t Want To
I didn’t want it to happen. I found out at school in the middle of recess. I was playing tag and I tripped and fell in the gravel next to the big swing set. I stared at the pieces of rock that stuck to my skin and watched as little spots of blood pooled around them. I didn’t cry until Jack punched me in the arm and ran away yelling, “you’re it!” I think that was the last time I cried.
I didn’t want to go inside. Mrs. Lewis called my name from the back porch that overlooked the playground. She was wearing that sweater she always wears with the little kittens playing with a ball of string on it. I always liked that sweater. It reminded me of a coloring book Lucy used to have, but I don’t think she has it anymore. I picked myself up from the ground and brushed off the rest of the dirt. My knee stung so I let the dirt stay there. Mrs. Lewis called me over again. It was important, she said. In the third grade, everything was important. Math was important. Spelling was important. Crafts were important and you shouldn’t eat the glue. I took my time getting to her, it was my recess after all. She told me that my recess was over and took me inside.
I didn’t want to sit in that room. The walls were too blue and the pictures were too ugly. There was a small couch in front of the desk where the man sat. He told me that I could make myself comfortable but the couch was itchy and smelled like Funions. I don’t like Funions. He looked like one of the men you see on the news when they talk about the boring stuff. He wore a brown suit and a bright red tie. I had to look up at him when he talked because his chair was too tall. He looked down at me and told me that sometimes bad things happen. There was a fish in a bowl on his desk. It went round and round in circles like it wanted to get out but it couldn’t.
I didn’t want to go home. Before recess we had been watching a movie about sharks and I wanted to finish it. Did you know that sharks grow over 20,000 teeth in their lifetime? A woman I didn’t know took me to my classroom. It was empty because they gave the other kids more time at recess which wasn’t fair. The woman helped me pack up my Spiderman backpack. She was really nice and wore a blue dress with little flowers all over and didn’t smell like Funions. I asked her what about my homework and she said that I didn’t have to worry about that. She told me that everything was going to be okay and not to worry. How come everyone knows everything is going to be okay but you? I forgot to bring my lunch home with me. It was peanut butter jelly sandwich with the crusts cut off like always.
I didn’t want to wear the suit Grandma bought for me. That morning I stood in front of the mirror in the back room while she tugged and straightened and smoothed it out. She said I looked like a little man. I felt like my GI Joe when I tried to sneak him into school by shoving him inside my thermos. No matter how hard I pushed he wouldn’t fit. There were flowers everywhere but not the good kinds. They all looked the same and smelled like where you get your hair cut. The tall man in black talked a long time about love and life and God. We sung a song that I didn’t like. Afterward I had to stand next to Grandma while people kept coming up to me. The ladies hugged me and cried, the men put their hands on my shoulders and told me that I was the man of the house now.
I didn’t want to say goodbye. They put you in a shiny big box and I could see my reflection in the side. They say I look like you. I hope so. We walked outside in a line, like a parade, and we passed a lot of other people who had boxes just like yours. I wonder if any of them were Daddys, too. It was sunny and I watched a bird eating a worm in a tree next to where they put you in the ground. It hopped around with the worm in its mouth. He looked happy. They said that the grass would grow again and it would be green and I could bring flowers if I wanted. I hope it isn’t too dark for you down there. Grandma told me that you could hear me. I hope you can.
I just want you to come back.
I’m currently enrolled in a Fiction Writing class this semester. For the class we are required to produce two original short stories and workshop them in class. For my first story I got to use the idea I had blogged about in June (see “Return to Sender”). I have attached my story below:
I haven’t done the rewrite yet, so there are things I’d like to change and some small errors here and there. Let me know if anyone out there has any suggestions or comments to make it better.
Oh, and be nice, please.