Monday, April 28, 2014

Advice From Old Alanis Morissette Albums (I Changed My Mind)

Much of my young adulthood and womanhood was accompanied and impacted by female musical artists.  Alanis Morissette was key among these as I drove around my tiny town aggressively singing along to “You Oughta Know.”  When I walked away from my first marriage, I sat in my friend’s car listening to Alanis once again and realized how sorry I was that I had lost my identity to that relationship, relating far too much to the lyrics of “That Particular Time.”   I also felt assurance that my current relationship would endure as he was and is the man Alanis describes in “Everything.”

This past weekend, as I traveled across the state solo, I first loaded up my disc changer with that identifying music of my youth.  Without the children along, I would not be required to listen to The Fresh Beat Band and I could once again enjoy my favorite musical women – Alanis, Tori, Fiona, Dar, Aimee, and their kin.  Thanks to Alanis, I realized that I was making “Excuses” in regards to my writing.  If you are not already aware, I recently decided and announced that I would be taking a possibly permanent hiatus from this blog.  This decision was made due to the discovery of, and response to, this blog by an unintended audience of younger viewers over whom I have some influence.  I want that influence to be positive, and it was suggested to me by individuals of elevated position that perhaps some of the content, particularly the cursing, portrayed me in a negative light, devastatingly disabling my ability to be a positive influence. 

My desire to be a positive role model is absolutely sincere and it largely impacted my recent (clearly reversed) decision.  However, that wasn’t the only reason I made that decision.  I was annoyed, and frustrated, and scared.  I was sick of listening to the snarky comments made at barely audible levels when my back was turned.  I was sick of the disapproving looks by individuals who clearly had not taken the time to read the whole of my work, and understand all that I truly represent.  I was worried about my reputation and quitting was easy; it was safe and soft and I wouldn’t have to be strong and bursting with courage and conviction.  Alanis reminded me however, that while my excuses and my abandonment of my passion might have kept me safe, it would also keep me stuck.  I’m tired of being scared.  I’m tired of being so damn good at sabotaging my fantasies.  I could teach that skill in fewer than Alanis’ “Eight Easy Steps.”   

I know it’s going to be difficult and sometimes terrifying to remain exposed through my writing.  I know the whispers and glances will remain, but they were likely to persist regardless.  I cannot control how others will react to my words, and I know this now (thanks, Maggie).  What I do know, and have struggled with for some time (evidence abounds), is that my blog title has become an absolute misrepresentation of myself and my work, and it falsely steers folks toward negative judgment.  This blog will change its title and appearance, but I will not change. When friends and followers responded to my announcement, it was with disappointment and acknowledgment that I have been an inspiration by being authentic and unapologetic.  In my mind, the ability to know one self, and own every success and struggle, is the mark of an upright role model.  The fact that I curse on my blog need not necessarily make me a negative influence.  I’m not promoting rampant foul language; I still cringe when my husband mumbles “shit” in front of our kids when he trips on the rug (he does this a lot – why is he so clumsy?). 

I do promote courage in the face of outstanding struggle, forgiveness of one’s self for  past lapses, the ability to stand up when everyone else is sitting down, the passion and will to follow your dreams despite failure or judgment, and the will to rise and be resolute repeatedly. 
When I led my own classroom, in addition to knowledge of allusions, iambic pentameter, post-modernism, literary analysis, and the like, I am certain I also instilled lessons of empowerment and passion.  I led my students to be true to themselves, to stand up for what they believe in, and to be brave in the face of hardship.  If I were to silence my own voice, those lessons would now ring false.  I know I am not a perfect role model; I don’t know anyone who meets that definition.  However, I know myself and I am going to continue to represent every aspect of that self.  I am a positive inspiration, and I know this as my truth even if other vistas are in opposition.   I’m cheerful, impassioned, and kind.  I can also be angry, bitter, and enraged.  Sometimes I speak sweet poetry and sometimes I spew outrageous curses.  These elements are not mutually exclusive.  The most beautiful and fascinating people are a tapestry of roles and adjectives.  I am a mother, a sister, a best friend, a teacher, a smart-ass, a bitch.  I am strong sometimes and I am scared others.  I am also willing to let my readers see all these sides of me because words can make a difference.  They have the power to inspire and comfort.  I want the world to know that we don’t need to hide our ugly parts and we don’t need to pretend.  I write to connect and relate, and I strongly believe that’s why most individuals read this blog.  Therefore, in a reversal of my previous decision, my voice will not be muted and I won’t just walk away from my writing.

Alanis is also correct when she sings “you live you learn; you love you learn; you cry you learn.”  This blog is an expression of that learning.  I may have done as Alanis advised at some times by “sticking your foot in your mouth at any time,”  but I’m not really sorry.  Alanis also told me “we could just hide our heads in the sand, just call it quits.”  I won’t be that women though.  I might become temporarily entangled in struggle and doubt, but I will get back up.  The mistake is not in the falling down.  Failure only comes in the staying down.  My head is out of the sand.  I know who I am, and that woman is genuine and good, so she won’t be silenced and ashamed. 


  1. Yes! I agree wholeheartedly. You have inspired my lazy ass to write something. It's not going to be perfect and that doesn't matter. It's about our experiences living with a child who literally never sleeps. I believe in you as a writer and it doesn't matter if your dynamic self allows rage and incredible sweetness. Regardless of everything that has happened you ARE a teacher, mentor and role model. I say keep on rocking that and keep writing. Also, Alanis. Morrisette is awesome.

    1. Thank you so much. Further, I doubt you can truly be a lazy ass and do all you do for your children. And ... thank you, thank you, thank you again.

  2. Good for you. It's a brave decision when thinking about a job at the same time. But I agree with you fully and think you should unapologetically be yourself. As I read through your blogs, I think that everything you have to say is a completely positive influence to young minds. I wish I had the chance read a blog like yours when I was in high school. I think you encourage free thought, open mindedness, seeing through bullshit in society, and being yourself.

    1. Thanks so much! This kind of feedback means so much to me and is so affirming. It truly, truly makes a difference to receive these comments. Thanks!