When I set this Bite Size prompt I was feeling quite happy about having a light-hearted go at some of my abilities, but like so many others, ended up finding the task really quite tricky. I can easily reflect upon some things I know I excel at but there’s a sudden doubt that comes into play when you dare to put the words on paper. Suddenly even reflecting on my quirkier abilities was far from comfortable (would they be interesting enough..?) I was far from alone here and there are some beautiful explorations of this in other’s posts. I wonder what you think?
Perhaps it’s the permanence of commitment to the page that doesn’t allow for adjustment or clarification if the reader misinterprets – the way you can in a conversation, you know, check your listener’s face for understanding or gauge how something might have been received – and adjust and tweak with more words..
Is this, as others have previously suggested what makes memoir more difficult for some than others? With Bite Size Memoir I simply want to record an essence of me such that something of me remains long after the day I am gone. So far I have found recounting events and activities a cinch, but this was different..
I procrastinated magnificently.
I squirmed and agonised until I had a headache but being curator here, found no way out! No excuse – no cause to run away!
No skill was quite good enough to give 10 out of 10, not even the laughs at being ‘the mad chicken lady’ (present) or ‘cat girl’ (past – there seemed no stray cat in the school grounds I couldn’t tame). I ran well, I swam, I did D of E. I once got 97% for a chemistry exam and the second form prize for effort. I managed a distinction for an MSc in my 40s; I’ve faced many fears head on – I took up climbing to conquer vertigo; Hell! I’m an outlier when it comes to surviving cancer but still none of this seemed worthy of 150 words squirmy self-congratulation!
I feel I must come back to this and why this might be – it’ll be my next obsession – Mad Memoir Woman (future) – for what was my point with all this, if not to document some truths about me? All of us have our strengths so why after years of self reflection have I not conquered a horror of sharing out loud, what I’m better than average at.
Thankfully some others were able to set an example and I really enjoyed the extra understanding and insights into who they are as a result. However, I couldn’t quite do the same and others found it a near impossible task too, sliding sideways into obtuse topics that fit the theme but avoided self-examination! Some haven’t shown up at all, so I’m working hard at tomorrows prompt as a cool compress on a tetchy wound – forgive me. I hadn’t thought it through – if I’d attempted my own bite last week, we’d have done something entirely different, I can assure you!
So may I please award a 10/10 to each and every one who managed this one, when given chance I might have found I was ‘too busy’ this week. I wrote the prose in the main compilation here just a few minutes before tidying up this post. Proper procrastination had set in with a lot of stress! It feels a little too ‘out there’ but I can give myself 10 out of 10 for being an open person. You get what you see with me. Perhaps I’m happy to trumpet about that authenticity, now I think about it. (And having been working at my perfectionism with some success, am just going to hit the Publish button and move on..)
Thank you all
Oliver – UK – A perfect ten.
That’s what we aim for. From the moment we comprehend the meaning of the words that frame the expectations of our parents, peers, employers and even friends, we are being measured against some ideal where ten is perfect and zero becomes another word for loser. We are human. Each of us is unique and perfect at being who we are, what we are, at a point in time. Mr Gove and his ‘perfect ten’ team of androids may work hard to cram us all into a uniform standard of mechanistic perfection; where he himself is the only ‘ten’ score holder, where the world revolves around production units of numeralised perfection. But I refuse to be an android. I am a perfect ten at being me, myself and I. I tell this to my children. Be the best ‘you’ you possibly can be and you will get a ten from me every time.
The good of me
of what pray tell
is there to see
I squirm a bit
but shore myself
as I do sit
Wringing my hands
I begin to speak
my truth shall stand
Loving I am
as loving is
as loving can
Standing for mine
strong of courage
fear taps my spine
Live to create
beauty with words
Truth to be told
no gray in sight
writing is bold
I am strong yes
bending with wind
truly I’m blessed
When they were little enough to all kneel on the kitchen counter, the Thanksgiving turkey got a full-body massage. Three little hands rubbed room-temp butter onto the round, raw 20-pound tom. As the kids got older and our food interests matured, we introduced vices to the turkey–smoking, bourbon and Clean Slate Riesling. From this transition, the Mills Family Drunken Turkey rose to the ranks of near-legend. At least for three Mills offspring.
Three days before launching the inebriated turkey into the oven, I create a brine of alcohol, spices, water and Celtic Sea Salt. Sometimes he gets to smoke prior to sloshing in bourbon or wine. He’s the star of the dinner table but accompanied by the likes of: Exotic Vanilla-Bean Cranberries, Wild Rice with Butternut Squash, Jalapeno Cornbread, Camembert Mashed Yukons, Maple Orange Sweet Potatoes, Savory Mushroom Bread Pudding, Creamed Peas and Bourbon Pumpkin Pies.
My perfect 10.
It’s 19th May 1984. My hired morning suit itches my thighs; I have both relations and nearly in laws watching so I can’t scratch. Just bear it. My watch says three minutes past, an acceptable lateness but I’d rather she didn’t go for a new personal best. It’s sticky today – the day will be bookended by rain – and I’m sweating.
The organ groans into life; there’s a rustling and movement and a vision in white, silhouetted against the door.
I face front as I’ve been told to do; soon enough she slips to my side. ‘Sorry. Needed a pee.’ I nod. So do I.
Michael, the vicar steps forward. ‘Did you check for labels?’ The man is neurotic about the happy couple showing the soles of their shoes with price tags still attached when they kneel for the blessing; too much sniggering is a bad thing. I should have drawn a smiley face. It would reflect my own.
Y’all remember that time when we went to the dive karaoke bar? No, the other time. Nope, that other time. No, no, no…the time that I won the contest and collected a $50 bar tab that they wouldn’t let us use that night and then we never went back there to use it because the place was just that…skeevy? Yeah, that time. I can’t remember what song I sang to get me to the finals, but I sure do remember the one I sang to win. It was calculated and by design – with the Pussy Cat Song (warning – NSFW, although it’s innuendo), there was no way that any one in that crusty little dive bar was going to beat me.
I’ve scored excellent at choir competitions, sung “God Bless America” in front of 500 people two days after 9-11, rocked my wedding reception. But winning that karaoke contest was definitely the time when I was a 10 out of 10.
Ah, the elusive 10. It brings to mind struggle, jealousy, envy, perfectionism, and the word almost.
Instead of relishing such an achievement of purity, I see it as a grueling, stomach-tightening attempt to be something I am not. Perfect.
Luckily, I enjoy my less than perfectness. I revel in my nearly-but-not so-ness. It’s what makes me, me. Without this drive to be better, though, to be closer to perfect, I would also not be me. It’s this push to learn, grow, and improve that makes us the best of who we are.
If we each spent our days in complacency, we’d miss out on our very unique potential. We couldn’t simply be good; we couldn’t ignore attempts to be better.
We must be our best. Fortunately, our best is arbitrary. Our best fluctuates. Our best is forgiving.
So, on any given day, we are perfect. Like it or not.
I was an insecure and awkward child. Too tall, too shy, too quiet, and too many spots (I did so sympathise with Adrian Mole). The ensuing lack of self-esteem slowly decreased as I started to excel in small things. The first of these memorable moments was my French class, in the final year at Primary school.
My classmates were nervous, as a new teacher started using strange, incomprehensible sounds. We were taught the numbers and some words, and asked: ‘Combien de stylos y a-t-il sur la table?’, and we had to reply: ‘Il y en a dix.’ Everyone was amazed that Lucy, of all people, was the only pupil to understand and reply to all the questions with correct pronunciation.
My family used to visit relatives in Paris every summer, on the overland journey, on our way to Spain. I had picked up some French over the years, which I had never imagined would come in so useful!
Norah Colvin – Australia – 10/10 Family facts
I’m 1/10 – 6 boys and 4 girls: girl, boy, girl, boy, boy, girl, girl, boy, boy, boy; that’s 10/10
January: 1, February: 1, May: 1, June: 2, July: 2, August:3
1949, 1951, 1952, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1965
My parents married in 1948.
In just over 10 months their first child was born when Mum was aged 26 and Dad 28.
Another child was born, on average, every two years. The oldest child was almost 16 years of age when the youngest was born. Mum was 42.
For almost 17 years, for most of her life as a young woman, my mother was either pregnant or breastfeeding. She devoted her life to child-rearing and raised all to adulthood.
Sadly there are no longer 10/10. The first to pass was the 1958 girl who was taken by breast cancer in 1995.
Large families such as this were not uncommon when I was growing up. Now they are rare.
The little red engine that huffed and puffed was an early childhood story that was read to me until such time that I knew it by heart. I’ve lived the life of that engine often telling myself “I think I can, I think I can, I know I can, I know I can, I knew I could. One achievement where I got 10 out of 10 (so to speak) was obtaining my Queens Guide award. It was presented by the Queens representative with a reception in Government House. We had just move and I had decorated my room and decided to protect it with napthalene. The result was a severe allergy . My room was out of bounds and hair washing not allowed on doctors orders. I went to receive my award with my hair full of spray on hair wash foam that made it stringy and lank. I was too embarrassed to enjoy myself.
Sherri Matthews – UK – Welcome To Kindergarten
When my middle boy Nicky was due to start Kindergarten, he had to attend a brief assessment with his teacher.
I sat a little way behind him so as not to distract them and all went well. When it finished and before we left, the teacher then asked:
“Now Nicholas, I notice that your mom calls you Nicky. This year, we will have two Nicholas’s in your class, so what would you like to be called? Nicky or Nick?”
I watched my son as he fidgeted and then looked up at the ceiling as if for inspiration.
After a few moments, with me wondering what he was doing, he obviously had the answer he was looking for. With a flourish of determination, he looked straight at the teacher and without batting an eyelid answered:
“Just call me boss!”
I don’t know who was more shocked, me or the teacher.
Lisa Reiter – UK – Extremes
I’m a gemini mix of some apparently incompatible extremes. Perfectionism and a low scoring ‘completer-finisher’! According to others I excel at self-reflection and I prefer to work at my faults rather than just accept them. I I’m not very tolerant of the opposite in others! The double edged sword of self-awareness leads to an ever open-mind but ever more self-criticism. I’m easily bored, always seeking novelty and so might not always be very persistent. You might sum me up with Stop-Start Stop-Start but Never Give Up. I don’t panic ever in a crisis but can really fret the small stuff in between.
But when the chips are down, even when the perfectionism is shouting out to run away in case I fail – I drag myself to the plate and face my demons. I squirm like a pro but get the big stuff done.