Today 300 people gave me a standing ovation at the end of my lecture day. Person after person came up and said nice things to me. My whole experience with people here in Nova Scotia has been one of constant affirmation for what I've done, the work I've accomplished and the ideas I have generated. All day today I felt in complete sync with 300 people. It's an awesome experience.
Why isn't it enough?
Spending a childhood being called 'stupid,' 'clumbsy,' inadequate,' 'unfortuate,' and 'ugly' ... having to answer the question 'Who do you think you are ..." at least twice a day ... with 'nothing, no-one' has left me unable to really believe that people are being anything but nice. Instead of feeling 'full' of the praise of others I feel like I've somehow cheated them, fooled them, tricked them into seeing something in me that doesn't exist.
A woman came and held on to my hand and cried saying that the two days had changed her. She thanked me deeply. It seemed like she was telling the truth.
Why isn't it enough?
"He'll never amount to much."
"I don't know what we did to deserve a kid like that."
"Even the dog doesn't like him."
Old news. Heard often in the past, never in the present, the words still stay with me.
The power of words. Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will really hurt m. The roar of past criticism drowns out present acknowledgement. It's not fair. For heaven's sake, I'm over 50, shouldn't I also be over those first few years of assault and abuse?
I understand all those people with intellectual disabilities that I meet that are praise dependant. The guys who ask all the time, "I did a good job, right?" and then look desperately for approval. The women who search your eyes as they ask, "Friends, right?" I know that desperation. Years of failure to please, years without parental pride, years lived with shame of not being quite good enough, each day of each of those years digs a deeper hole of need. For affirmation. For confirmation. For validation. I understand.
Maybe next time, I'll hear the praise.
Maybe next time, I'll believe it.
Maybe next time, it will be enough.