After the weekend I had - a weird conglomeration of awesome greatness and fun along with moments of soul-crushing self-depreciation and assorted human rudeness - I feel tempted to write a personal post. But on what? How not getting into grad school might have emotionally caught up with me on the sadness spectrometer? How no matter what I do, I still feel angry and Hulkish at people who behave in ways I struggle to deal with and am losing the ability to put up with people who say things I find rude (if I ever had the ability to put up with this in the first place)?
The struggle I face is this - we live in a world where it seems cynicism is becoming more and more valued, a world that sees it as productive and positive and makes people cleverer and stronger. I don't entirely disagree with this - a skeptical attitude and certain cynicism is necessary and can work towards positivity. What bothers me is how much cynicism is being dwelled in, prized, and used against others.
I was sketching down some thoughts the other night and wrote something along the lines of this:
We are not in a world that appreciates softness. We admire hard bodies, fierce intellects, strong beliefs, and rigid logic. The softer side is left to die out or be hidden firmly beneath this harder, molded side.
People like me, people who are soft with hearts of butter, are not meant for this world. We often lose and must change to a rigid, plasticy surface that does not betray what lies beneath. For beneath, we cry when someone sharply criticizes. We weep often over small things.
Sensitive, they call me. Thin-skinned. As if I am somehow wrong and they are right. I am not wrong. I am a different way of being.
College was another change. I found a way to better balance my emotions, to focus more on the positive and avoid situations that caused stress and hurt and turmoil. Of course, those situations can't always be avoided, but I felt by the time I'd graduated that I'd somehow better balanced things. I was not so soft that the slightest thing would make me cry, but I was not so hard and bitter that I was a super-cynic who thought them superior to all others.
And then I started working in retail. As a person who has now cried several times in front of my co-workers, this Saturday being the most recent when I tried to get myself together in the backroom only to be found (and fortunately comforted) by one of our team leads, I'm having flashbacks to my weepy elementary school days and am worried about it. I am not the balanced happy skeptic that I thought I was - I am a fluffy buttery bunny-loving fool who can't deal with harsh critique and the fact that not everyone expresses themselves the way I do. I no longer find crying negative - it's cathartic and I generally feel better after a good sob. However, I'm still stigmatized by other people's reactions to it. I worry now that crying at customers' unnecessary rudeness will be problematic. It doesn't happen often, but it's been enough to make me worry.
So what then of the argument that I see on the internet, that people want to act with rudeness because people are rude to them and no one deserves politeness because they don't act polite? What about those that react with extreme, violent anger because that's how they feel and that's how they instinctively react? This is a caveat of a different nature, but related all the same. Because I'm more of a nurture over nature psychological supporter, I think that a lot of emotional reactions are cultivated by our society, rather than "natural behaviors." I mean, yes, obviously crying and getting angry are natural, but acting in a way that certain incidents only end in anger or violence are not positive. Unfortunately, behavioral therapy sometimes focuses too much on "normalizing" emotional outbursts into a certain way of acting, when I think expanding and focusing and exploring emotions might be more useful. Because repression sure as hell isn't it.
There was one extra little bit in the emotional meanderings I wrote over the weekend:
But there is also something strong and steely in the center that believes in me, that believes that I know what I want that that my emotions are my own and that, ultimately, I am the one who gets to decide what I feel.
And now I'm totally that girl from Mean Girls. (And maybe a tiny bit of Elsa from Frozen. After she realizes feeling is good (which I which had been elucidated a little more from the film, but whatever.))
One more thought on all of this emotional jabber. I came across this quote when I was in the process of starting this post and once again thanked the powers that are for throwing me something exactly when I needed it:
“Being tender and open is beautiful. As a woman, I feel continually shhh’ed. Too sensitive. Too mushy. Too wishy washy. Blah blah. Don’t let someone steal your tenderness. Don’t allow the coldness and fear of others to tarnish your perfectly vulnerable beating heart. Nothing is more powerful than allowing yourself to truly be affected by things. Whether it’s a song, a stranger, a mountain, a rain drop, a tea kettle, an article, a sentence, a footstep, feel it all – look around you. All of this is for you. Take it and have gratitude. Give it and feel love.” - Zooey Deschanel
So, to sum up, I'm an emotional ricocheting mess of humany-wumanyness. Being this way isn't better; it's just different and another equally awesome way of being. Maybe I don't always understand people who don't react the way I do, but if we can at least recognize our confusion, we can work through it, rather than not caring. Don't conceal, feel - that, I think, is a better focus.