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Tori Amos, "Then and Now"

from Upside Down (Tori Amos Fan Club magazine) - August 1993

When I was five years old, my folks went to this pot luck dinner at a friend's house. They were all church members, maybe ten families total. All of their kids were there, although I don't remember any boys being there. I was really very aware of boys, even in the womb. So I think no boys, because I would have remembered that. For some reason there were loads of daughters with these families, and my sister was friends with many of them. It was just this other girl and I who were very young. All of the other girls were teenagers.

Everybody was doing like a little talent show after dinner. The girls had gotten together and worked something up, you know... singing, dancing, what ever their talent was. So this other girl, 2 years older than I, was always getting some kind of approval. She was kind of a brat, of course this is only my opinion... my side of the story. She was taking piano lessons, too, and played this song. You have to remember that I was already in the Peabody Conservatory by this time, so obviously I was already a good piano player. It is very sad what I did... instead of going out there and playing what I knew, I heard her play, heard the parents clapping and adoring her, and I said to myself "well, maybe that's what they want." I went out and played the same song, a song I had never played before. It was pretty good, but she had practiced this song for weeks and weeks. I had only heard it behind doors, through a crack in the wall, and gone out cold and tried to play this song.

My parents, I'll never forget... I looked over and their jaws were on the floor, horrified, everybody was horrified. They were so embarrassed for me. They knew why I was doing it. I didn't know why I was doing it, but they did, and I was stumbling. They were just looking at me going... why? Everybody has that in them and it was painful for them that I couldn't recognize my abilities, trust it, and share it. I needed them to like me so badly, as they approved of her, that I was willing to do anything to get it. You know when somebody is like that, how we react to them... We go "oh my God" and we hide our head in our hands and put spaghetti in our mouth. At a restaurant somebody comes up to your table and you just go "oh my God, oh my God," and you are so embarrassed because they are so needy. We don't want to deal with needy people... This song was a very sad moment in my life. My mother was just like... play Oklahoma, play West Side Story, play Mozart. What are you doing? Tears started rolling down my face and I ran out of the room. I ran all the way home, because I knew what I had done. I had sold myself out to try to get approval. I did it again and again and again... Until the last time was Y Kant Tori Read. Well, actually, the Details magazine photo shoot, but that wasn't music.

It's funny how I choose things in the moment, then start asking myself "why am I doing this?" and you go "am I doing this because it really feels right, or am I convincing myself that it feels right so that I don't have to confront it." Sometimes it's easier, you think, to make excuses. To say that this is just what's happening around me, and maybe I'm the one that is seeing it all wrong instead of feeling inside that no matter what people are saying about me, this just doesn't feel right. I haven't listened to myself a lot of my life. I've heard those voices going "Hello? Hello?" You know, that echo way back in you head going "wait! wait! wait!" like that little guy I love in Lethal Weapon III. I can't think of his name [Joe Pesci as Leo Goetz], but I hear him in my head all the time, going "wait! wait! wait! wait a minute! wait a minute!" Sometimes I sit there and go "no, just do it, stop holding up the train," that kind of thing, and yet I do things for the wrong reasons sometimes. Instead of dealing with the issue that's really bugging me, I'll take it out on someone else. I think we all do that.

You know, how sometimes you are in a relationship and you might need to deal with that, but you take it out on a friend instead. A person that has nothing to do with the fact that you are not standing up in your relationship, or drawing boundaries, or whatever. So, you take it out on other people. I think it is the same thing with making choices, or relationship choices. If you don't stand up and say ‘hey, this doesn't feel right,' no matter what the consequences are, I can't do it. Now there are some things obviously we have to compromise on, like maybe I shouldn't tell the guy that's writing my paycheck what a dickhead he is today. Maybe I can phrase it a little differently, maybe I can say "I'm uncomfortable with this, but I would be comfortable with that." What ever it is, if you are not ready to get fired that week. Sometimes there is no way around it. I mean there have been times that I have to go head to head with people, one of those shoot out kinda things. Definitely a high noon situation. Sometimes the relationship has just fallen apart because you have drawn your line. I am getting better a bit at that, drawing my line. I will go this far, but I cannot compromise what I really feel. You know how when you do something that goes against honoring yourself, it makes you feel sick in your stomach. You get heartburn. It's like if you had green chili, sausage, eggs, catsup, and Doritos on white Wonder Bread. Yeah, it feels like that.

The other thing is, we've been taught to be afraid of standing up for ourselves. Which is the Inquisition, having your skin ripped from your body. It wasn't fun back then, "we have ways to make you talk," that kind of thing. Well, they exercised it back then, they do it with television now. This ties in with what is said in the book Bringers of the Dawn by Barbara Marciniak, how we are taught not to think for ourselves, to be our own sovereign. All of us are a part of this, so how do we shake ourselves out of this? I can only speak for myself, but I am being challenged every day to have to say, "wait a minute, something feels weird, something's not right." If anybody is trying to control you, something is wrong. That little guy in your head should be shouting "wait a minute! wait! wait! wait a minute!" Put him in your head, because anytime somebody is trying to make you feel bad about yourself, something is wrong.

You know, all of us dump some of our garbage in other people's yards and that is not right. This is not fair, and we need to go and take all our trash back, but that's all. We don't have to mow their lawns. That's crossing their boundaries, that is guilt. It's like, "okay I did this, let me go make amends and take responsibility for what I've done," but then we can get into this thing of feeling guilty. Feeling really guilty that we made a mistake. We have to work through this guilt, own up to something, and then go "okay, so I yelled at you. I told you that I didn't mean to yell at you." At the same time let's look at what was behind it. I'm not going to crawl to give blood because I yelled at you. So there is a real balance of owning up to when we know we are trying to take another person's choices away. I just try to be more aware of it. When do I put a vibe out on somebody? When am I not understanding? When am I not loving?

And yet, I still have boundaries. When someone isn't respecting me, then it's over, we have no relationship. I used to need them to like me. I had this codependent relationship with every waiter on the planet. You know that one... Here you are in Wal-mart and you are trying to make friends with strangers. Well hang on a minute, you don't have to make friends with everyone. It's respecting that they have a job to do, and respecting that I have a job to do. Then, if you make friends in the process, that's fine.

Now there is all this psycho war going on and it keeps us from being objective and it keeps us from feeling good about ourselves. I know I'm feeling good about myself because I don't need someone else to feel good about me. It's okay if they don't feel good about me. I've had some painful fallings out with friends over the years, because sometimes I've really been out of line. I wasn't capable of honoring them like I am now, and they weren't capable of honoring me either. It worked both ways. When it came down to dealing with it, I've chosen to have joy in my life. It's a choice, you can either be a victim forever or be an abuser. We all swing back and forth at times. We kinda choose to hang out on one side of the ship more than the other. The point is I've tried to get out of that pattern and so, very close friends of mine who haven't been able to take responsibility for what has happened in their life, blame people. I got tired of being part of the blame. You will find once you choose truth and light, love and responsibility, then you are in command and control of your life. You still have a polarity when one of you chooses to still be a victim and allow other people to control and blame you. Or, you can choose to take control. To control what is going to happen now as far as if I'm not happy here... I can leave. If I'm not being respected here, I can leave, but I have to respect myself first. Only you can do that for yourself. No matter how much you love another person, they are the only ones who can respect themselves.

Respecting yourself does not mean disrespecting others. This can be tricky. When we are working through this it can be easy to say "I have always appreciated what everybody else has done, but not what I have done. So now I'm going to just appreciate what I have done and not appreciate what others have done." If that is a phase we have to go through, let's hope it is a short one because we won't have many friends left at the end of it. It's being able to appreciate what we give and what others give to us. It's all about respecting each other. We are not encouraged by the institutions - religion, government, educational, whatever - to respect each other. They push the competition thing on us. This is where we are really getting brain washed. The real power is in honoring ourselves and each other. Now if someone isn't ready to do that, then you can't have a relationship with them. It's not our job to dictate to them what their choice should be. If somebody doesn't want to respect you, then it's about boundaries, saying how far you are going to go, and probably move on. I really believe that there isn't a resolve with everybody on the planet. Not all of us could sit down at the table and work stuff out today, because not everybody wants to honor each other. We can't be hurt by this, we have to accept it. Still, it's challenging when relationships don't work out, it can be painful. I mean there is a sense of loss, and I've had to move through that. Still sometimes you love certain people very much, but you just aren't ready to work things through. You have to go away from each other, maybe for a long time, and take your own road.


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