I am shy. Painfully shy. Always have been; probably always will be. When I was little, it was a “problem”; something I had to “work on.” So I tried. And I tried. But quiet was always safe. And polite was always comfortable. It was (and remains) easier – much easier – to hide behind my books; to stand back; smiling (or sometimes not), but (mostly) quiet and reserved.
To me, any conversation could lead to confrontation. And I hate (underline, hate) confrontation – even when it’s only imagined. I simply don’t want to offend or slight or anger anyone. Ever. When I do (or when I think I do), my worry and guilt overcome me, weighing so heavily that it becomes a physical pain. I find myself replaying the situation over and over again in my head, agonizing every little word and sigh and sound.
When I need something, or want some help, I try to ask in the most delicate way possible, reassuring whoever it is that, “Really, it’s not a big deal. If you can’t do it, do NOT worry. You really don’t have to. I’m sure I can do it myself. I promise no bad feelings! Here are 5 reasons why you really don’t have to! Please, feel free to say no!” Because – you know – asking someone for a favor is pretty offensive stuff. Or so I seem to think.
My shyness – and hesitance to speak – can be so bad that even when something is bothering me, or worse, actually physically hurting me, I still keep quiet. For example, when I get my hair cut and the hair dresser washes my hair and asks if the water is too hot, I always say no. Even if it’s scalding my brain. Because, again, if you tell the lady that she accidentally turned the knob too far, or that my scalp is a little sensitive, she’ll probably hate me. Or slap me. Or turn the knob even further to the right.
Hell, when I was 17+ hours into labor, a labor in which the epidural “did not take” (what the hell, how does that happen?!) I was too nervous to tell the nurse that I was in pain and instead, tried to carry on a polite conversation with my doctor, mid-contraction. “Yes, it does hurt a little bit, but please, don’t worry. Are you feeling okay?…”
It’s so bad that when my husband and I watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I saw myself in the guy running for his life. Despite knowing that (spoiler alert!) Stellan Skarsgard is the murderer, Daniel Craig – not wanting to tip his hand, or turn down a drink, or, most importantly, offend the psychopath – somehow says yes when asked if he wants to come in, alone, to the crazy person’s torture palace. Not to get too weird, but I would be that person. Better to accept the invitation, and keep my mouth shut, than to disappoint the murderer.
Look, I’m not saying I haven’t had my moments. There are plenty of times (many of which I regret – and many of which my husband can attest to) that I’ve been mean, or hurt someones feelings or just been a downright bitch. But as good as that sometimes feels, when it comes down to it, speaking up is never as good, or comfortable, as silence.
Or at least, it never was … until I had a baby – a beautiful, curious, amazing daughter; a daughter I love so much I often fear my heart might explode. She brings me so much happiness, so much joy, so much love, that tears sometimes come to my eyes just at the thought of her. A perfect (if occasionally stinky) angel, barely 30 inches tall and 20 lbs small, with the unique ability to make my heart stop … and my mouth open.
Motherhood really is amazing. The shift in my priorities, the ability for my body to function on 3 hours of sleep 6 days in a row, the natural instincts that just kick in and tell me what to do in specific situations in which I have zero knowledge and zero experience; it truly is amazing. When a helpless, little baby is put into your arms, a small innocent child that you’ve barely known for 5 seconds, the universe shifts and all the things you believed to be true, all the things you thought you knew about the world, about people, about yourself, they all fall away. Instantaneously. Because at that moment, nothing else matters. Not how you look, or how your clothes (don’t) fit, or how you feel like you’ll never, ever, again run a mile without collapsing in pain. Or that you will never sleep soundly again, or that your social life will be, well, nonexistent for the foreseeable future; that showering will become optional; that sitting down to eat a meal with your spouse, without spilled milk, screaming, or a stinky diaper, will quickly become a thing of the past; that your long-held fear of confrontation can suddenly and involuntarily be overcome. None of it matters. There’s your baby, and keeping her safe from harm, and fear, and disappointment, … and then there’s everything else.
She is not even 16 months old, and yet I am already trying to tame my mother bear instincts. When a little boy pushes her over at Gymboree, I have to stop myself. I have to force myself to wait just one second and not rush over and take charge. To see how she’ll handle the situation, to see if she really needs me. More times than not, she bounces right up, no tears, no problem. Or when another mom says something like “She hasn’t said elephant yet?” with a shocked expression and an annoying flip of the hair, I resist the urge to roll my eyes, keep my hands in my pocket, and just smile, as politely as possible. Yeah, I could – and I want to – roll down the extensive list of words she does say, the signs she uses and the mind-blowingly cool things she does every single day (like mimicking what an elephant says). But I just smile, breathe, and walk away. For the moment.
But when the time comes, I will be there to wipe away tears, to kiss every bump and bruise, to hug away fears, to comfort her through every insecurity and reassure her after failures. To tell her she is beautiful even when she doesn’t realize it, to encourage her to think bigger, and to love her when some stupid boy doesn’t. I will be there. Always. And I will do my very best to pause when necessary. To let her handle her own situations and learn to believe and trust in herself.
But you better believe when bad moments do come, when she does need me, when someone hurts her, threatens her, causes her pain, I will NOT be shy. I will not be afraid of offending anyone, of hurting someone’s feelings or of raising hell. Because when you’re a Mom, and your little baby is in distress, shyness is no longer acceptable.
(End rant. I promise my next post will be food related.)