Who is the ‘top guy’ who understands?

February 10th, 2014
silk jeweled and backlit

silk jeweled and backlit

I hope never meet the ‘top guy’ in my life. I struggle with approval, and what if he didn’t like me?

I needed to make girly things after my second son was born, because I knew I wasn’t going to have a daughter. I compensated by creating sparkley, glittering coolness, and spent six months working on a silk piece in the ‘barrier reef ’ theme.

I paint-dyed a large piece of silk fabric in colorful reef shapes, like barnacles, large brown cucumber forests, and a sort of turtle. I stuffed the large brown cucumbers designs from behind, to bring up a 3-dimensional effect, and covered the whole thing with glued shiny jewels and multiple ropes of pearls. Making ‘barrier reef ’ was a gas, and it still makes me happy to look at it.

My work colleague, Bud, built a large frame for it, which I greatly appreciated, since I had no frame making skills. I found long plastic ropes of lighting, and set them behind the frame to backlight it, and when lights reflect the many jewels, it’s alive. ‘Barrier reef ’ made it to honorable mention level at the Marin County fair. Right on!

When the fair ended, ‘barrier reef ’ came home to the bedroom wall in our house.

My mother in-law came over and I showed it to her. She looked up at the lit-up glory with sincere reverence and asked me, “Who is the ‘top guy ’ who would understand this?”  I looked at her without saying a word.  I didn’t have an answer.

That’s still a great question. Who is the ‘top guy? ’  So many times we look for a ‘top guy ’ to explain. My mother in-law had no idea why I made that piece. I don’t know why I make most of the stuff I make. Clearly six months of effort shows in the making of ‘barrier reef.’  Why I would spend six months of my time making something that seemed nonsensical to her?

I made someone my ‘top guy ’ the first time an editor critiqued my book, “I don’t have good news, I couldn’t even finish it,” she said.  “Thanks for your time.” I paid that editor a hundred dollars for the torture of trying to read it.  I let her judge me, and put the manuscript in a drawer for SEVEN YEARS.  I didn’t deserve to be a writer.  I gave my power to the ‘top guy,’ didn’t I?

I know I’m not the only person who struggles with approval issues. I want people to like me and love what I make, even when they don’t understand what I’m doing.  I rarely understand myself.  That boils down to my desire for control. I expect others to agree with me, and feel disappointed when they don’t. But truthfully, it’s none of my business what other people think of my efforts, unless I’m getting  paid for work they want me to do. Then it’s fee for service. That’s not a ‘top guy ’ situation.

A journalist editor came into my life, and turned my thinking around, by encouraging me to not hide anymore. He asked to see the manuscript, and I was terrified to let him read it, convinced another ‘top guy ’ would judge and hate it. But that didn’t happen. He read it, said, “You can write.  He said my story was work in progress, but I needed to make the storyline move more clearly. I didn’t need to apologize for what I had written. My ego had to go away. I forgot, writing is a process and it’s not my identity.

Maybe my story can help a reader in similar circumstances.  No ‘top guy ’ authority judges, unless I let them. I cleaned up the writing, and my manuscript is stronger. The first editor was right, but my ego took her criticism in an unnecessary direction.  I took it too personally. I understand that now.

Finally. I  grew up, but it wasn’t easy.  I answered the ‘top guy ‘ question for myself. I don’t have to be paralized by criticism anymore.

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