Have you ever been told that you are “too much”? Well, I have. The word TOO has played a predominant role in my life. I’ve been labeled “too emotional”, “too sensitive”, “too big”, “too much”, “too creative”. Now I understand some of those toos but how can one be “too creative”? That one I never understood. If you have ever been the victim of a purposefully negative “too” or even a casual drive by “too”, I feel your pain. This little essay is about my various responses to the toos. Maybe we can work through our toos together.
My first “toos” happened bright and early in life. I remember my mother telling me multiple times that I was “too emotional” and “too high strung” and “too sensitive”. When I yowled over a bloody knee, cried over hurt feelings, wailed about a punishment, she hit me with a “too”.
Let me clarify that my mother was not abusive. She was a single parent of two children and she loved us very much. She worked full time, had limited local family support, and I honestly believe she did her best at raising us. Often, we were just “too much” for her to handle alone. I recently figured out that my mother had been a victim of the “not enoughs”. She did great in school, was pretty and popular and kind but unfortunately, her mother was mentally ill and verbally abusive so what she did was just “not enough” no matter how hard she tried. I’m pretty sure her therapist (or mine) would say that her response to the “not enoughs” was the vile “toos”.
My mother wanted me to fit in and conform to groups so that my life would be easier. She told me that when I came out as a lesbian. She wanted my life to be easy and happy and I wouldn’t have the easy happy life as a lesbian. She failed to notice that due to a life time of being “too much”; my life had not actually been all that easy as a straight chick.
I was in the third grade when it was brought to my attention that I was “too big”. I look back now at pictures and see a large boned kid with dorky pink glasses and slightly round cheeks but that kid was active and healthy. Maybe not as healthy as she could have been, but I remember playing and riding my bike and feeling good in my body. This was the year I started my “dieting journey” as I lovingly refer to it in bitter moments. The DSM-V would call it my eating disorder.
My dad would love me with food on the random weekends we visited him and my mother would love me with Diet Shasta and horribly embarrassing tiny school lunches the rest of the time. The more she asked him to watch what we ate, the more he fed me. My brother and I would leave his house on Sundays cranked up on caffeine, with distended bellies and sugar highs. By Sunday night, we had crashed and were wailing and in probable Dr. Pepper detox.
I tried every fad diet I have ever heard of by the time I was in college. “Too big” finally reached critical mass in my thirties and when I had gastric bypass, I weighed 326 pounds. Since then, I still struggle with weighing ‘too much” but I have tried to be healthier and more aware of what I’m doing to my body. I try very hard to not call her “too” anything.
The thing with the “toos” is that it’s all a matter of perception. Maybe I’m curvy, theatrical, gregarious, compassionate, and intuitive rather than “too big”, “too sensitive”,” too emotional”, “too much”. I have spent so much time either rebelling against the “toos” in my life or pondering how to be less i.e. less large, less demonstrative, less emotional. What I know for a fact is that I’ve wasted TOO much time worrying about it instead of just trying to figure out how to be me.
I have always been great at reminding other people who have been dealt a “too” that everyone won’t like them, everyone won’t find them attractive and some will think they are weird AND THAT”S OKAY!!! I just haven’t been good at believing it myself.
And then came my daughter. My second daughter could very easily be labeled “too”. She is 3 years old and she is smart, funny, loving, mischievous, rebellious, devious, selfish, and busy as hell. She was born this way. She goes wide open from early morning until I finally sing our 17th song and read our 10th book and leave the room while she wails “don’t LEAB me. I NEED you!!!” Her energy sometimes makes my hair stand on end and I have to work day and night to control my urge to yell at her or attempt force her to bend to my will. I have had to learn entirely new ways of parenting and I’m exhausted from the self help and parenting blogs I read on a daily basis. I am becoming a master of what I have coined as “subterfuge parenting”. This style of parenting takes more time and patience but pays off in the end because she actually thinks it was her idea to behave instead of me forcing her to be “less”.
I never want to label my children” too much” or “not enough”. Not even in my private thoughts. The thing about “too” is that it can come across even when not said aloud. It’s insidious.
I cannot change my “toos”. I am learning to own them, go with them, nurture them and understand them. I am trying to better nourish my “too big”. I now listen to my “too sensitive” because I have learned that she often catches things that might be important. I make art when my “too creative” feels the need and I have learned that “too much” actually is too damned much when she drinks heavily. This is really all we can do. Accept our “toos” the way we accept our crazy aunt who rocks in the corner and grins vacantly at everyone, or our forgetful spouse, or our neurotic best friend. If we can offer this type of acceptance to our family, then I am quite sure we owe it to our “toos” to let them know that they are…just enough.