Opinion fact and doubt – a personal issue

We don’t go out much anymore but did last night. It was lovely. The hosts are terrific cooks (always such a treat!) and another neighbor couple that we enjoy attended. We used to see these people more. There is abiding affection and we really welcomed the chance to catch up.

But here’s the thing. Self-doubt mucks up the works for me.

I rocket between bombast and feeling silenced. I interrupt. I’m curious but impatient. I want to know what people really think but I don’t want it to take forever. I want them to know what I think but sometimes have trouble inserting myself. So I launch grenades. Abbreviate myself to the point of inscrutability.

ADD has a role in this. Irish word drama, too. But self-doubt might be the MOST operative factor.

I want to be believed and failing that, I want to believe myself. At least, when I’m pretty certain of a thing. Instead, I reflexively grant my questioner more authority than I grant myself.

I do excruciating post-mortems. Just ask K. Or, read on.

There I was in bed last night ranting and googling. Googling and ranting. SEE? Roxane Gay DOES live in LA! Of course I know this. I’ve followed her forever on Instagram and am a little star struck, and so why did I question myself? Why?

SEE? It says right there: Ayanna Pressley co-chair of Warren’s campaign. I’ve been carefully following how Warren is trying redress her “lack of receipts” in the black community, so of course I know this, knew it in real time, celebrated it, so why did I question myself.

Soon after the appointment, I took the time to watch a fraught moment of EW’s at an arena in Atlanta and scanned enough black Twitter to get a sense of why it was controversial (Pressley took the mic when black protestors interrupted — EW using a black woman as a shield?!) Seen challenges at how the three co-chairs were depicted in the announcing photo (racial stereotype much?) I mean, we’re talking a granular level of attention here. So why didn’t my assertion carry more weight?

Did it carry weight?

(On the point of close attention, I was the only one at the table who’d listened to EW’s New Year’s Day address and noted with approval, therefore, her use of the term “enslaved” when referring to our first black poet, Phyllis Wheatley. Applauded out loud how artfully EW wove facts about the poet’s life into her remarks. Not at all facile. It’s an inspiring speech not just because of how thoroughly EW seems to be integrating lessons about race, but for everything else she says, too).

What’s with all the doubt?

(Another relevant example: how the #KHive on twitter practically ruined Warren for me. Together with the whole “unelectable” thing, I’ve been in pretty full retreat. Is this realism or doubt?)

Gay and Pressley were the easy issues. Verifiable.

But what about Bernies’s terrible record on guns or his faux “outsider status” and what exactly is black opinion on Kamala’s prosecutorial record?

So yes I misspoke (for effect!?) about sex trafficking and Robert Kraft, but immediately joined in the correction because of course I knew that the questionable trumpian Chinese proprietor no longer owned the place at the time of the incident.

Oh, do you see?

I want to occupy my sit bones and speak from a place of quiet authority. To listen better, too.

To end, let me reference a very upsetting dream from last night (talk about doubt!)

I am being questioned by a black woman about what I have actually done to promote justice or to inform my writing about black characters and slavery. I lamely answer, “I read a lot?” She nods as if to say ‘that’s not nothing,’ but… Another black woman has stolen ALL my sewing needles. I take some of them back. Somewhere on the wall, a quote of mine is posted. It’s old and unevolved and embarrassing. I can’t remember now what it said.

9 thoughts on “Opinion fact and doubt – a personal issue

  1. ravenandsparrow

    Oh boy. The difficulties of articulating one’s position even when others are in essential agreement can be paralyzing. When they aren’t in agreement it just seems impossible. I have a friend with whom I agree almost completely, but for her I am never vehement enough and she rushes in with anger to shore up what she sees as my weak or equivocal statements. We no longer talk about politics. I also must avoid the subject with my brothers and sisters who oppose everything I firmly believe (how did that come about?) Your discomfort with your friends seems like an echo of the distress we are all feeling in this bifurcated time. It seems so important to get it right, but also hard to assimilate all the emotional undercurrents that swirl beneath any position or statement. You, who are particularly and commendably attuned to the rage of black people, will of course be sensitive to their dismissal of anything you say as a privileged white woman, and may question yourself to the point of silence, but you must pluck something out of the morass and vote accordingly, even if you can’t persuade others to join you. Elizabeth Warren tells the truth as I see it and I will vote for her in the primary. If she is not the general Democratic candidate I will vote for whoever is.

  2. Michelle Slater

    Listening (reading) you is like being there. I too dreamed…lost my glasses…I hadn’t but it was a metaphor worth exploring. I won’t. Your ADD serves to spin you wild and there’s plenty to be wild about. I think this is the main reason we blog. We want to talk and be heard, to ruminate and be accepted and most, to understand ourselves, the ongoing process. Seems to me that whenever I hit the wall of self doubt, I choose silence. As for Elizabeth…worthy and the videos most effective. Yet, my feeling that Democracy is a done deal persists. However, I can’t expound on that. I’m still home sick from the Christmas cold and laying low.

  3. Marti

    To occupy your sit bones you must make full use of your ears; in other words, listen first, speak second. I know this because for many years, I brayed into conversations, so sure that my position, my voice was the true one until quietly, very quietly, a dear friend took me aside. She said that I didn’t need to prove anything to anyone by being louder, by being a know it all. (She too was the first born of immigrants so she got how I was behaving.) Well that pissed me off and I walked away in a huff…how dare she! Didn’t she get how hard it was for us to be heard yet deep down inside a nagging little voice spoke to me in Spanish. It said, “callate” quiet yourself…so gradually I did.

    Called her up after a few weeks and we talked, I listened she talked, she listened, I talked. Never forgot this because over time, when I did have conversations, they held so much more and they did so because the loudness, the need to prove myself wasn’t there and what was there was a depth of conversation, not always agreeable, not always on the same side but always, an exchange…

    1. deemallon

      This comment articulates my aspiration. I have been thinking about this for waaaay longer than there has been this degree of political strife. Thanks for taking the time to share, Marti. Always.

    2. deemallon

      As for birth order: I am a middle child and accustomed to trying to broker conflicts, not necessarily understanding my own point of view. Maybe that’s why the issue has a bit of an edge for me, even now.

  4. nancy

    I could have sworn I left a comment here. Mmmm…
    Anyway, new thought: I was recently at a work-related workshop and the presenter set her ground rules etc. One of them was to to NOT be Ned Flanders (from The Simpsons). In other words, don’t be a know it all, give others time to speak, learn and grow as they will. When one person keeps speaking up, others can’t. Wow. Okay.
    After 40+ years in the field, even with a love of learning, I feel like ‘I know’ or I ask questions that not only gather more info, but show I know. I once had an old director tell a group of us teachers that we were frustrated at conferences because we should be presenting! In other words, we’d all been in the field for a long time and had a lot to ‘give’ (probably more than ‘get’ at that point). That was super interesting to me at that time, as I didn’t see myself that way. Now, I do know that I have a lot to offer, but I try to keep my mouth shut more! haha I will add that the presenter who gave the Ned Flanders statement is interesting in her own right. She has mostly struck me as someone with a ‘chip on her shoulder’ and that she Likes being ‘the one who knows’. Even so, Ned annoys people and I don’t want to do that. Really a pause for thought.

    1. deemallon

      Ned Flanders. Good shorthand. I must be coming across as someone who needs to be right. Maybe that’s true but I think what I was trying to get at is something a little different which is to say, I want to have the authority to assert something and BELIEVe myself. I think when you feel secure and heard, it’s a LOT easier to sit back and listen.


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