So, long story short – in the last two years there have been two referendums and two elections. My Mum and I voted differently in all of them. It wasn’t always so, but over the last few years, I’ve settled into my political views. I recently found out, that my Mum thinks it’s funny to watch me get passionate about politics, so she says things to get me angry. Since I found out, I’ve not brought the topic up in her company. I think it’s mean. (Effectively, she’s silenced me. Not only does she not take my views seriously, she mocks me for them.)
A couple of days after the EU referendum I phoned her – just to check in and make sure she’s ok. She brought up the subject. After explaining what I voted and why (in all four of the above instances) and after making it clear that, while I don’t agree with her views, I totally respect her right to hold them, she responded. Almost angrily, she told me that she doesn’t know anyone who votes the way I do. I listed a few. She didn’t like that. She then brought up the Scottish Referendum – again, we voted differently. She doesn’t believe Scotland should be Independent because it’s “too wee”. After listing a few countries who are similar in size and population (and a few who are smaller) she still managed to find reasons why they are successful and Scotland wouldn’t be.
I came away from the call feeling good because I’d stood my ground and given her room to have views that were different to mine. But then I began to think.
Her words about no-one voting the same way as me seemed designed to hurt. To set me apart. To make me feel bad for being different. Then I remembered her tone. The words were said in the same way a child would say them when they feel like they’re being left out of something. Truculent. Defensive. Her words said more about the way she feels about herself than about how she feels about me. She felt like the outsider. She was struggling with the feelings of not being in control. She’s perfectly happy when things are going her way – and while things were (the votes all went the way she wanted them to), it feels like things are changing. I’m not sure if it’s the change itself she fears, or the loss of what she feels is ‘right’ – or even the feeling that she will be judged for believing differently to others, but I think it all takes her out of her comfort zone – and if she’s going to feel uncomfortable, then someone else sure as hell is too!
I also thought about what she said about Scotland being ‘too wee’ to be Independent. Scotland standing alone with all its resources would be economically more successful than England would. But our success would be about more than economics. It would be about our place in the world. It would be about how we value the people of our country. Our wealth would not only be financial wealth. The thing that struck me most though, was the concept of ‘too wee’. My gut reaction was to think ‘it’ll only be too wee if it believes it will. If it believes that it can be successful, then it will be’. I suddenly understood the concept of ‘what you believe is what you will be’. The attitude of smallness that my Mother has, is how I was brought up. To be safe in my smallness. I want Scotland to be big, bold and proud of itself. Why wouldn’t I want the same for myself? Revelations indeed.
I realised that my Mother fears change and that she has, throughout my life, encouraged me to do the same. I have believed that I should stay small to stay safe, fear the judgement of others, and that my voice, beliefs and opinions are unimportant. However, just because that seems to be what my Mother believes, doesn’t mean I have to believe it too. I’m not sure that I’ll ever lose my fear of judgement, but I don’t have to let it get in the way.
On top of all this, I’m reading a book within a reading group. It’s called Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and it’s about Creative Living. While there are revelations aplenty coming to me from this book, the one that is relevant here is that she writes just because she likes to write. Not because she expects to make her living from it, but because she enjoys putting pen to paper and producing words. She’s fortunate that she does make a living from it, but that’s not primarily why she does it. I like to write. But I mostly think ‘what’s the point?’ I don’t have the imagination to write a novel – even when I did English at school, I produced a discursive essay rather than a narrative one in my exam. Would anyone be interested in what I have to say anyway? The realisation that the ‘point’ is no more than to enjoy writing was yet another revelation to me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this, but for some reason, this time it resonated with me.
I can play safe and keep my words to myself. I can try and avoid judgement by keeping my words to myself. But my words have value. I must not diminish myself by feeling that I, or my words, are unimportant. I can choose whether to share them or not, but I need to accept that whether for my own eyes, or for the eyes of others, they are valuable. I am valuable.
So, with my new big writing pad (nothing fancy so I don’t worry about spoiling it with my poor handwriting) and my coloured pens, I’m going to write. It may be nonsense, but every now and again I might just come up with something that I think is important enough to share – and then I’ll do that. Here. And while I’ll hope that someone’s listening, it doesn’t matter if they’re not. I don’t think I want to play small any longer!