I don't know why it is, but often times what one really wants to do runs contrary to what everyone really wants to do. —Mojo Shivers, california is a recipe for a black hole
Mary Mary quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row.
Painfully shy isn’t a euphemism. Anyone who has ever been knows. I was painfully shy. I know. I've seen half-pictures of me as a tiny child peeking out from behind my mother. I didn’t want people looking at me, not for any reason. There wasn't a why. Nothing caused it. I came that way. It had to do with picking up information from the air, being able to take in more than I could comprehend.
I grew up being told I was too sensitive, that I had too many feelings, that the world was going to eat me up. I saw too much. I thought too much. I over-analyzed, and I was contrary. I knew those things before I could read, and I could read early. I wasn’t contrary. I was just scared of everything. My computer sensors could pick up the slightest twitch. That didn't mean my mind knew what to do with it.
My mother used to sing to me, “I’m just a little petunia in an onion patch.” I didn’t know why I so much liked that silly song. How I still remember it. It made nice pictures in my head.
People who understood called me “Bashful” and “Mushy.” Those names brought out the best in me. Those names told me what being a three- or four-year-old was supposed to be about. The folks who said them were like magic friends. I’d find myself inside my skin when they were around. I have such memories of playing, giggling, making faces that would get them to laugh.
But grown-ups with no patience were like the witch in any fairy tale. They would find me difficult, and turn away from me. Truth is I learned to expect that bad response. It was the one more usual. It was the one that took less effort on their part.
The response I hated most of all came from adults I didn’t know. It happened when my mother introduced me, and I hid instead of saying the expected polite hello. Adults—people who should know better, people who shouldn’t be thrown by slip of a child who’s too afraid to say hello—would answer by chanting that nursery rhyme at me, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary . . .” Thinking on it now, I see they acted like they were still in junior high.
I didn’t know what that little rhyme meant. I was small, but I was smart enough to know their tone, to know that it was not a nice one. How could a garden with silver bells and pretty maids make me feel bad? I didn’t want to be contrary—I didn't even know that word. Obviously I must be though. So many strangers thought I was. They were grown-ups too. So they must be right.
Now I’m a grown-up. I know I’m not contrary. I can tell that little girl so, and sometimes I do. Contrary means that you choose the other thing.
I didn’t choose. I came this way.
I wouldn’t wish it any other way either.
—me strauss Letting me be