Sunday, September 9, 2012

Angela's word revisited (A guest post for Julia)

Julia asked me to do a guest post for her blog
She gave this post the title, "A Mouse Tells How She Found Her Voice".

When I was in high school, I had a violin teacher that told me at least once a week that I played like a mouse. He'd push me to play stronger. I wanted to please him, and I wanted to play better, but I could NOT figure out how to be less of a mouse.

When I started playing again (two years ago), I had no problem playing out. It seems that I found my voice, and my mousiness went away.

Here is the blogpost I wrote. 
Thanks for the invite Julia! I really appreciated revisiting this poem. It meant a lot to me before, and it meant something more this time.

A Mouse Tells How She Found Her Voice
Sometimes, I come across the writings of others, and I wonder how they could have put my thoughts and feelings so perfectly into words. This poem described my journey perfectly:
When Angela was very young
Age two or three or so,
Her mother and her father
Taught her never to say NO.
They taught her that she must agree
With everything they said,
And if she didn’t, she was spanked
And sent upstairs to bed.

So Angela grew up to be
A most agreeable child;
She was never angry
And she was never wild;
She always shared, she always cared,
She never picked a fight,
And no matter what her parents said,
She thought that they were right.

Angela the Angel did very well in school
And, as you might imagine, she followed every rule;
Her teachers said she was so well-bred,
So quiet and so good,
But how Angela felt inside, they never understood.

Angela had lots of friends
Who liked her for her smile;
They knew she was the kind of gal
Who’d go the extra mile;
And even when she had a cold
And really needed rest,
When someone asked her if she’d help
She always answered Yes.
When Angela was thirty-three, she was a lawyer’s wife.
She had a home and family, and a nice suburban life.
She had a little girl of four,
And a little boy of nine,
And if someone asked her how she felt
She always answered, “Fine.”

But one cold night near Christmastime
When her family was in bed,
She lay awake as awful thoughts went spinning through
her head;
She didn’t know why, and she didn’t know how,
But she wanted her life to end;
So she begged Whoever put her here
To take her back again.

And then she heard, from deep inside,
A voice that was soft and low;
It only said a single word
And the word it said was … NO.

From that moment on, Angela knew
Exactly what she had to do.
Her life depended on that word,
So this is what her loved ones heard:

NO, I just don’t want to;
NO, I don’t agree;
NO, I don't believe that;
NO, that’s wrong for me;
NO, I wanted something else;
NO, that hurt a lot!
NO, I’m tired, and NO I’m busy,
And NO, I’d rather not!

Well, her family found it shocking,
Her friends reacted with surprise;
But Angela was different, you could see it in her eyes;
For they’ve held no meek submission
Since that night three years ago
When Angela the Angel
Got permission to say NO.

Today Angela’s a person first, then a mother and a wife.
She knows where she begins and ends,
She has a separate life.
She has talents and ambitions,
She has feelings, needs and goals.
She has money in the bank and
An opinion at the polls.

And to her boy and girl she says,
“It’s nice when we agree;
But if you can’t say NO, you’ll never grow
To all you’re meant to be.
Because I know I’m sometimes wrong
And because I love you so,
You’ll always be my angels
Even when you tell me NO.” 

Barbara K. Bassett
Julia asked for my thoughts on the poem - what it meant to me in my life.
I don't have a lot to add. The poem says so much, so perfectly... I was an agreeable little girl. I was quiet. I was giving. I was obedient. I was an agreeable adult. I did what I thought I was supposed to. I never said no. I tried not to have wants or desires. If I did have a want or a need, I tried to put other people's wants ahead of my own. I tried to be good and nice and GOOD, and I was miserable. I wanted to die.

Angels came along. They took many different forms. Friends. Books. Horses. Family. Bloggers. Acquaintances. Support groups. Songs. Church leaders. Each one of them gave me little glimpses into what life could be.

I was afraid. I didn't know who I'd be if I wasn't agreeable Jen. The many different angels in their many different forms supported me as I found ME. There was always an angel to show me my next step. They taught me how to live and how to be happy. They were there with me when I was afraid, and reassured me there was nothing to be afraid of. (It turns out I can still be a nice person AND have wants and desires and thoughts of my own.)

Re-reading the poem tonight, this paragraph stuck out to me:

She has talents and ambitions,
She has feelings, needs and goals.
She has money in the bank and
An opinion at the polls.
That's ME! I have talents and ambitions, feelings, needs, and goals. There's money in the bank, and I most definitely have an opinion at the polls!

 It wasn't that long ago that I felt guilt for having ambitions, feelings, needs or goals. I was not allowed to have money in the bank, so IF I had anything extra, I gave it away.

And an opinion? Especially at the polls? NOT ALLOWED. Mostly because my political opinions are very different than the majority where I live. But... then again... since I now know that my opinions are different, that means I have them. And that feels kind of amazing - especially thinking about where I once was.


  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am always interested in submissions by poets, writers and artists who want to share part of themselves, whether they have a blog or not. I have had several poets make their debut on my blog, and on Tuesday I have Vi, who just started kindergarten, who wrote a prayer, perfect for 9/11.

    Feel free to submit things whenever you like, and keep an eye out for my first poetry contest, with prizes, coming in November!


  2. I hear ya. I can surely relate to that poem, but I am still just learning to say no. I am still afraid to feel much or to have strong emotions. or to disagree.

  3. That was a great post - I first read it on Julia's blog and really identified with it. Thanks so much for sharing (and I'm glad you've found your voice)

  4. Yes,I always loved this poem. Unfortunately the family and social upbringing of girls is always of the type that they have to be nice, obedient and agreeable to everything. However a day comes when the girl realises 'Me' in her and with the independence of thoughts and actions, she learns to disagree; when she really grows to live her own life. Let all the women in the world learn that trick of being assertive!