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Sifoddling Along

By Marilyn Carnell

A Serious Essay


      There is a little hard nut inside me that doesnít want to be explored. It is about the shape and size of a black walnut, with a hollow center that contains some secret knowledge about the real me. I donít know why it is so hard to crack, nor do I know for sure what it contains. It would be better if it were softer.


      Sometimes it is further protected by a layer of fat that I build over it. It seems to have a bristly outer cover that further resists any efforts to open it. It hurts.


      Since early childhood I have felt there was a little secret inside me. When did I get it and allow it to grow? I donít know. I want to blame my parents, but that isnít fair. I suspect it had to do with being a ďgood girlĒ on the surface. It wasnít acceptable to have a temper, to express anger. I was expected to be compliant, obedient and quiet. The anger of others terrified me. Still does. It is easy to cow me by being aggressive and threatening. I will hide, think later of all the things I could or should have done or said. I get sad and angry at myself for not standing up for what I believe. The resulting anxiety had to be held inside.


      Never courageous enough to rebel overtly, I chose to comfort and indulge myself as compensation for holding in feelings and not being honest about them. What would happen if I exposed those feelings to light? It is so scary, I can barely think about it. The little shell scrunches up and defies me to look and disarm it for once and for all.


      Logically, I know I havenít been all that bad a person during my lifetime. Yes, there are things I regret, shaming behaviors, but I was the one hurt in the long run. Maybe the little nut is scar tissue that has grown tight and strong over the years. It might have begun as a splinter that needed to be blunted, but instead of creating a little pearl, like an irritated oyster, I created something that pokes at me and reminds me that I must not be good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, neat enough, strong enough. Never enough. Always lacking in some small way.


      Seeking perfection is a foolís game. Have I spent my life caught up in something that can never be achieved? Why canít I be satisfied with my achievements? I have done many good things; accomplished things; competed against worthy opponents and won. Yet when it came to stepping up and going for broke, I have often backed away rather than risk rejection; it makes no sense.

###


      I decided to explore how the nut has benefitted me. It is an inner core that refuses to be defeated. Nothing can get to it to destroy the essential me. It has given me courage and resilience to come back from many difficult experiences.


      I wrote a premise for my memoir: I am like a ripe southern peach that rolls through life; easily bruised and hurt, yet keeps going because there is a wild and wooly interior and at the core, a rock-hard pit that hides a small kernel of bitterness.


      I think that is an accurate analogy for my life. I use fat to cushion my falls (literally and figuratively) and the core is tough and has value. The kernel of bitterness is nurtured anger.


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