In the weeks leading up to this year’s midterm election, I served as a support volunteer for one of the many organizations that focus on getting out the vote on Election Day. Our callers were calling registered voters who hadn’t voted in the last midterm — 2010 — to encourage them to vote.
My job was to fix problems from those volunteer callers (calling from home through the use of a whiz bang new computer program). When one had a problem, he or she was directed to send an email or call a phone number. Either way, they often got me.
It was not a difficult job, as volunteer jobs go. The organization was particularly well organized. They offered a list of recommended answers I could pull from: a simple copy and paste, personalize the response, and send it off if an email. And a similar set up with the phone calls.
Of the many templates, I particularly liked one entitled, “Can I deviate from the script?” It was written, as most were, in response to a caller who had asked this exact question.
“Can I deviate from the script?”
How often in my life, have I wanted to “deviate from the script” of my life?
In a word: many.
Early on, as children do, I followed the script that was given me in blind obedience. As I grew older I continued to follow the same one, rigidly even, certainly without thinking.
I grew up in the 1950s when a woman’s place was “in the home.” Here’s a paragraph from a Singer Sewing Machine manual from 1949, just a year after I was born.
It’s hard to read, I know. Here’s what it says:
Prepare yourself mentally for sewing. Thing about what you are going to do… Never approach sewing with a sigh or lackadaisically. Good results are difficult when indifference predominates.
Never try to sew with a sink full of dirty dishes or beds unmade. When there are urgent housekeeping chores, do those first so your mind is free to enjoy your sewing. When you sew, make yourself as attractive as possible. Put on a clean dress. Keep a little bag full of French chalk near your sewing machine to dust your fingers at intervals. Have your hair in order, powder and lipstick put on. If you are constantly fearful that a visitor will drop in or your husband will come home, and you will not look neatly put together, you will not enjoy your sewing. Tater Patch Quilts Merrill, Oregon
Really. That’s what it says.
I remember when this would not have been considered outrageous.
Of course, different scripts appear at different times of life.
There was the script of being the good girl. That was followed by the script of being the good wife, the good mother, the good citizen. “Good.”
And, I remember when I tried out “Bad.” Now there’s a story worth sharing. Someday I shall.
As I remember the many life stages I’ve had, I’m aware that the older I get, the more I claim that the script I’m using is mine. I loudly proclaim, for all to hear, “I wrote this one. Finally.”
Then, I stop and realize that, much as I’d like to have penned the script that guides my life today, I probably didn’t. That one, like all the others before it, was written by a world larger than I can see, a culture with a powerful pull on me, and an evolutionary link that makes being accepted, fitting in, mandatory for my mental health.
Here’s one of those funny posters that float around Facebook from time to time.
So, as I bring this “deviating from the script” post to a close, I’ll end with this one:
HOW about you? What are the scripts that govern your life? Who wrote them? Your family? Your culture? Your church? Your neighborhood? The law? Your children? Your spouse? Your former spouse?
Are you waiting for permission before deviating from them? Or, do you like your script just fine, and it doesn’t matter to you who wrote it?
I’d love to hear your story.
Interested in reading At Home on the Kazakh Steppe? I hope so.
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Your two little plaques at the end made me laugh. My wife leaps out of bed in the morning and is immediately in top gear with full revs on the engine. It’s exhausting just to see this through my bleary eyes that take at least half an hour and two mugs of tea to wake up. She’d like to write her own script in which everything is perfect and lovely, but gets upset when t doesn’t work out like that. As a result most of her time is spent worrying. She’s truly a gold medal worryist.
My, I’m more laid back. Too often I find myself thinking: “Been there, done that,” so I don’t need repeats. That doesn’t mean I just go with the flow. Not at all; I plough my own furrow and enjoy what life has to offer, even the surprises. I’ve seen enough life seldom to be disappointed and if I’m going against the stream, so what?
Yes, Ian. Your script was fine tuned in the wilds of Africa. I’ve often thought as I read your books, how much I’d like to know more about that transition from one continent to another. I thought my transition back to the US was hard; I can’t fathom the bumps you found as you resettled yourself in the UK. Any chance you’re working on something along these lines?
Transition certainly has its problems and even today there is so much about western society that I find off and difficult to fathom. It sometimes leads to people getting upset because of a casual remark that upsets their sensibilities or suggests that their pets are inappropriately valued. It’s not intended to, but people can sometimes be incredibly narrow minded and not look beyond their own limited horizons, so how can they be expected to understand something with its roots in another culture. It’s no wonder there is so much misunderstanding in the world toady.
Janet, I just have to copy your “Be the kind of woman …” meme and send it to my two granddaughters and daughter-in-law! 🙂
Yes indeed, Frank. Let’s have it go viral.
Thanks, btw, for putting me in touch with your neighbor Jan. We’ll be having supper one night next week when I’m down in your neighborhood. Cheers.
The Singer Sewing Machine Manual advice is hilarious, echoing the mores of late 1940s. The plaques are spot on too, especially the one about the round earth, a quote new to me.
I deviated from the script of my life when I left my Mennonite culture and married an artist. No one in particular gave me permission. I saw moving on as a matter of survival.
You will notice that my “Play Tag” post as published today. It has sent at least one one my followers to your site according to my comments. Full speed ahead for both of us!
I love that Singer Sewing Machine poster too, Marian. I’ve hung onto it for a few years (virtually) and can’t recall now where I first saw it. Wish I could; I’d like to offer a credit for it.
Nice Play Tag post today. While I’ve never been one to participate in chain letters (not even as a teen) I love these opportunities to support other bloggers. There are so many now, as a reader I’m often overwhelmed, never mind as a blogger.
Ian, I remember a communication professor of mine decades ago now saying that misunderstanding was the norm; that we shouldn’t be so surprised when misunderstandings happen. Still, they aren’t always easy to weather, are they. One thing I hope to have happen with this blog is to discover ways to keep curiosity alive, to help each other maintain an ability (when faced with some anomaly) to want to understand rather than judge. It’s not always easy, is it?
Congratulations, btw, on having your latest book, Sorcerers and Orange Peel named to BookBag’s Best Autobiographies of 2014.