I’ve gotten a few comments of “thank you for coming back, we think you are so totally awesome that our lives were made dull and lifeless without your words in them.” Well, OK, that’s an exaggeration, whatever, and it also illustrates my point that I don’t take compliments well.

With criticism (which is vastly different from evaluation or critiquing), I’m all over the place in my responses. I might consider the words and learn the lessons either implied or stated despite the manner in which said lessons were delivered. I might get hysterically angry or neurotic in my brain, which manifests itself as no verbal response at all. Or I might coldly, impartially or hotly dismiss the criticism in some way mentally, verbally or physically that says some version of “fuck off.” Any further words would be heavily profanity-laced. It’s like a Tourette’s disorder, don’t judge me.

Compliments, though, I’m pretty consistent in my flat out denial. “Ha ha ha, get real.” “Don’t let rumors like that get around.” “Oh, yeah, I’m so awesome you can’t hardly contain your desire to genuflect in my presence. Whatever.” If I get a compliment and say thank you without some verbal slight of tongue to deflect the praise or a joke, preferably a self-deprecating one, to soften the blow, then you know that I’m quietly writhing with internal agony as I fight to contain the sudden urge to say: “No! Take that back, I’m not awesome. Shut your mouth you dumb dummy!”

I don’t know why. I would need to win multi-millions in the lottery to have enough money for the therapy to get that answer worked out.

So all that said, I was endlessly fascinated by mini-namesake K-Pam when I saw her at Christmastime. At nearly 4 years old, she is a highly energetic, supremely opinionated and forthrightly self-assured little wisp of a child.

At one point, a bunch of us adults were sitting at the table chatting, letting our latest heaping of holiday food digest (and by that I mean we were complaining about being stuffed while mindlessly eating snacks), and K-Pam was stacking some variously shaped wood blocks and pegs into formations. Each time she announced that her creation was complete, we would tell her how awesome it was or how brilliant she is. “I know,” she would say offhandedly, while dismantling the formation and laying the groundwork for her next display of brilliance. What?!

I kept complimenting, with outrageous abandon, her every effort — just to watch her calmly accept the praise. Once, I told her that her creation was boring, and she assured me that “no, it’s not.” And she didn’t say it, but you could see from the slight shift of her shoulders she was really thinking, “no, it’s not, dumbass.” But she was too nice to say it out loud. My laughter ensued.

I felt like a scientist running tests on the mind of an alien creature of unknown origins, from a new world farther away than far, far.

I can’t say “I know” to a compliment, as much as I admired the response and the attitude, but perhaps I can get better at a simple “Thank you.” That will be a future/ongoing/lifelong project. But for now,

it’s a pretty big two-word leap for a dumbass at pam(at)viewfromthenorth40.com

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