Why do our feelings make other people so uncomfortable?
Why can't other people just respect that we are entitled to feel however we feel about the things that happen in our lives?
Obviously, I don't have the answer to either one of those questions, but they have been frustrating me tremendously of late.
It seems like anytime someone expresses their emotions about something, whether in a blog post or a Facebook status or a tweet these days, someone has to come along and try and tell them that they are wrong.
Their feelings aren't justified.
It can't possibly be that bad.
You're being overly dramatic.
You're just wrong.
Here's the thing, people of the universe...none of us gets to dictate how someone else feels. We don't. We just don't.
None of us has ever walked in the shoes another person wears. We don't know what their experiences are. We don't know what they are dealing with. We don't know the back story. We don't know the details.
All we know is what we infer from whatever snippet of their lives they have chosen to share.
Without rehashing everything I've gone through (well, the portions of the stories I am comfortable with sharing), I wrote a post this week about love and loss and life going on and all that. I write these things primarily for myself, but also so that others out there in similar places to where I've been and where I am will see that they aren't alone.
What happened, what always seems to happen, is that someone has to come along and try to tell me that I'm just doing this wrong. That my perspective is wrong. That my interpretation is wrong.
I shouldn't feel what I feel because I just shouldn't, and I should stop doing that because things would be better if I did.
Except that it isn't exactly that simple. My emotions weren't installed with a shut off valve. Throw in some anxiety, some depression, some PTSD, and I start to wonder if there is even a dimmer switch some days.
And it isn't just me. In fact, this post isn't even prompted by something someone said to me.
The posts like this one rarely are.
They are far more often a reaction to the things said to people I love, the things said with (I assume) some intention to make it all better, to give them hope, to soothe their pain. The things said with good intention, but the things that don't actually help at all, but only make things worse.
You know they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions....
It's like when my husband was diagnosed with cancer and people would say things like, "well, at least it's a good kind of cancer to have". Um. What? It's cancer. It could have killed him. It could have left him with all kinds of other issues. It did change everything in our lives. It did change him. It did lead to an unscheduled pregnancy and loss of a child.
Or like when I lost that child I just mentioned up there and people would say things like, "well, at least it was early." Or, "at least you are young." Or, "you can always have more babies". Um. What? We lost a child. Period. How far along I was shouldn't be some gauge that determines how I get to feel about it. Once I was pregnant, we were immediately attached to that child. The comments about being young always boggled my mind a little bit, because really it just meant that we have that much longer in life to wonder how different things would be, that much longer to mourn. Oh, and the one about having more babies....oh, that was salt rubbed in an open wound for sure, because we didn't have any idea that we'd ever be able to have more kids at that point, in fact we were staring down an infertility diagnosis. These things said by well-intentioned people just made things worse.
Or like when my father died and I wrote about how this was the first day I would wake up in the world as a fatherless daughter and people said things like, "well, you aren't fatherless, he is still here with you". Um. No. No, he's not actually. I mean suuuuure in some ways there is that sense that the lessons he taught me will stay with me forever and all the warm fuzzy things that come from memories will exist for however long my brain retains them...but he's not here, here. I can't call him. I can't talk to him. I can't ask his advice. I can't go out to lunch with him. I can't lean on him when life gets complicated because physically, he's just gone.
Or like when my mother died and I expressed confused feelings about it and people said things like, "well, she loved you and she tried" as if "trying" is ever sufficient to repair damage. Or who don't understand that relief and grief can coexist and are not mutually exclusive, or that it was entirely appropriate for me to feel them both simultaneously. Or when they shamed me for having the audacity to say that I missed her. Or when they refused to believe that there was any merit at all to my side of the story and wrote me off without hesitation.
Or when I have written about how losing both parents translates to the reality that I'm now fully grown up, without a safety net anymore, not that she'd ever have been able to catch me if I'd needed her, and people placate me by saying things like, "you aren't alone". Well, yeah. I am. I have my brother and my extended family and my husband and my inlaws, but I don't actually have parents anymore. They aren't here. Let's not pretend that the idea of them or that the memory of them is the same as them actually being here, because it isn't at all.
I wonder, truly, how our society got to be this way. Why do we want so badly for other people to just feel better about things? Why can't we tolerate emotions? Why can't we allow for other people to have grief and loss? Why?
On the flip side, it seems like people get just as annoyed with you if you're too happy.
We can't win.
Life isn't always rainbows and puffy stickers. It just isn't. We can't will it to be that way by forcing a smile. Sometimes terrible things happen to us, to those we love, and living in a society that urges us to just hurry up and get over it is counterproductive.
It sure doesn't help when you're in the thick of it.
Instead of placating people, instead of saying these phrases filled with illusions and falsehoods, can't we just say, "I'm sorry that you're going through this"? Instead of urging them to get over something quicker so our discomfort will be eased, can't we ask them how we can help? Can't we just be there for each other?
Why is that so impossibly hard?
Part of the fault, for certain, rests at the feet of social media, in these falsely constructed shiny versions of ourselves that we project to others. We live in a world where every image is cropped and filtered and edited, where we deliberately choose what we roll out onto the stage. It's easy to see how quickly reality can get confused in a world where so much of our interactions with one another are contrived.
The challenge is to be real. To feel the feelings. To be happy and sad and motivated and complacent and joyful and bitter and angry and elated and all the things that we humans are in real life.
I promise to be as real online as I am in person. I try every day to make sure that the me you'll meet online is the same you'd meet on the street. And that girl, sometimes she's happy and sometimes she's sad...and that's okay.
She doesn't tell you these things because she wants or expects that you'll be able to remedy them. She doesn't want advice or cures or suggestions. She sure as hell doesn't want placated. She tells you these things because she wants to, because she wants to be real, because she wants other people out there to know that they aren't alone.
Feelings are what make us human.
Let's feel all the feelings. Let's let other people feel all the feelings.
We'll all be better for it.
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