myths

Pecos Bill rode a wild tornado!
Pecos Bill rode a wild tornado!

Living in a place like Texas, myths are all around. I think most Texans are in love with the myth of this state, even though they’ve never ridden a horse, known a cowboy, or even spent much time in the western part of the state. The myth is the rugged cowboy, the dusty plains, silent men who do what needs to be done. Big red suns setting on silhouetted horizons. Skies full of dust, tornadoes, Pecos Bill and Sweet Sue.

Texans aren’t the only people living with myths — New Yorkers certainly have myths of themselves. People in Beverly Hills have their own myths of themselves too, I learned. But the whole myth thing doesn’t have to be so large — a city, a state, a country. I think we have myths about ourselves too, and we believe them, and they organize so much of how we see ourselves.

Enter one myth about me, Queen of the PIllbugs. (Aside from the Queen of the Pillbugs myth, of course.) Through my young adult life I believed I was a maniac — boy, I’d better never smoke once, because I would be a chimney. Because you know how I am, I’m a maniac. I’d better never try drugs even once, because I would be an insane drug addict. Because you know how I am. Maniac. I’d better not do anything bad, because I will do. it. to. excess. See: Myth. I believed, with all my heart, that I was an out-of-control maniac and I’d better keep things tied down or else, sister.

When I was in graduate school, age ~42, I learned the term “feared self.” We all have feared selves; they are often our parents (as in, “Boy I don’t want to turn out like my mother!”). I realized all at once, when I learned that term, that I wasn’t an out-of-control maniac — oh the irony, I was actually an overly-controlled maniac about being controlled! Instead, I was just afraid of being like my dad. But that myth I carried around for so long was the most powerful thing I knew and shaped me more than anything else. We grow into these myths, sometimes, and make them deeply true.

Actually, it’s so funny what we do and don’t know about ourselves, and how much of what we ‘know’ is some kind of story, written by ourselves at times and by others, at times. How we take a thing that is true and craft a big, huge, “this is me” story. All my life, I’ve fought with people about whether I am an introvert or an extravert. {ahem, Sherlock….} The true facts are two: 1) I am anxious and scared about social events, and 2) I love doing things by myself, reading, writing, knitting, watching movies, thinking. But you know, and I say this grudgingly, I think social anxiety does not mean I am an introvert. I’ll probably never be the life of a party, I’ll probably never be energized by parties (or even seek them out), but I think, on that introvert<–>extravert line I’m probably a lot closer to the middle than I’ve told myself. My story was always that I was on the far far end, smack dab on the word ‘introvert.’ But that’s not true. It is true that when I need recharging, that needs to happen all by myself, doing things alone. Definition of introvert. But I think it’s time for that old myth to slip out of my fingers.

I’ve got a big bunch of tabs open, so I’m sharing them here in case you’re interested, and so I can find them again! Happy Thursday, y’all!

8 thoughts on “myths

  1. Oh! Thank you for that link about Gertrude Stein. I adore her. I did my senior English project on her in high school, reading and analyzing loads of her stuff, and she had a tremendous influence on my own writing. (I got an A on the project; whether because I nailed it or because I got credit for being ambitious enough to take her on in the first place, I’ll never know.)
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    1. I’m so glad I posted it, then! I usually love pieces from the New Yorker or the NYRB. If only there was enough time to read them all…..and that really was an ambitious high school project! Worthy of that A, no doubt.

  2. Lori, thanks so much for sharing yourself with us. Your latest writing hits so close to home (as most of your words do) and helps me put things in perspective. I have always wished I was smart. I certainly come from “smart” stock, even “genius” stock, but I have never felt like I had much intelligence. Mama certainly never gave herself credit for the amazing talents she had, but was always quick to be in awe of Daddy’s abilities (and he was pretty danged talented). You know what kind of mother she was and never let us forget how loved we were or how wonderful we were. But she could not see that God had blessed her with abundant gifts, i.e. talents. Mama was a wonderful writer, she could play the piano beautifully (although most of the Peyton children had no idea she could), she was a poet, her vocabulary was astounding, she was an amazing cook, she made the most magnificent baptismal gown for her children and every stitch was by hand (I’m going to show it to you when I see you next), etc., etc. Anyway, I guess that I should be thankful that I can read and write and cook and love and quit worrying about the gray matter – because in the end it ought not to matter. I sure do love you.

    1. Oh FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE did you miss the point, you brilliant thing! That’s your little crazy myth about you, and it’s about as wacky as mine was — and maybe just as polar opposite of the truth as mine was, too. I’ll say to you what my friend Janet said to me, and maybe you’ll take it to heart as I did, from her: Can’t you see who you are??? It’s OK, we’ll all know just how screaming smart you are, just how much like your mother you are, all the things you are so loud and clear. But now and then, maybe I’ll just sidle up next to you and whisper, “Myth, Dixie. Myth.” And you’ll know what I’m referring to. xoxoxo

      and p.s. You are such a humble soul, and you’d never say out loud anything good about yourself, but you at least don’t have to believe something that’s so wrong. You are so so so so smart…..

  3. I did get your point; I just didn’t get my thoughts across too plainly. I have enough brains to get by and that’s really all that matters, but I have always wished for more – I think I do realize my limitations and maybe that’s not all bad. I have my whole life wished that I was more than I am – I’ve always kiddingly said that I’m adopted because of the 7 children, I’m the only one without a raw talent. On the other hand, the older I get and the more I’m around people I admire (you are way at the top of that list), I realize that I do have a pretty great capacity to love (you’ve told me that time and again) and I should be plenty proud of that – that came directly from Mama. I would appreciate a “Myth, Dixie. Myth” from you any old time. You precious thing you. You have single handedly enhanced my my feelings about myself.

    1. *shaking my head in wonder at you* — you are brilliant, and that’s the end of that. “Smart enough,” HA. You remind me of me, Dixie. I went to college at 36, made all those hard hard sacrifices, because I thought maybe if I got a piece of paper it would mean I was smart. SILLY. Like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, I was smart all along. (Although how smart was I, going $50K into debt for that PhD!) You and I are so much alike. You do have all those other deep gifts you mentioned, but in addition you are smart. If I have to be the one who knows that for you, so be it.

      whispering: myth myth myth Dixie….. xoxoxox

  4. And, by the way, I loved the other readings – you could have written the “being liberal in Texas” article and the Stephen Fry writing was gut wrenching. I shared the Mister Rogers one – what a beautiful person he was – much like Mama. I hope you have a peaceful evening, you darling thing.

    1. Poor Stephen Fry, such a lovely man and so much suffering. Depression is so cruel. He always moves me. And oh, Mister Rogers, my true and eternal hero. He was my dad in a true way, and beautiful in the same way as sweet Oopie, you’re so right.

      And a peaceful evening to you too, you darling thing. Which is such a phrase Oopie would use. I love that. <3

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