Together

27 06 2011

It’s so funny how The Universe works. I’ve been living the same essential situation over and over again recently in various forms and events, each time with different people involved – sometimes just as a witness and not an active participant at all. But at the core, they have such striking similarities. One element involved is my own sense of self being nurtured (or, sometimes, simply shocked into awakeness) and guided through a period of growth. My sense of what is right and wrong. My sense of being able to see when I am less than in control of a situation I am involved in. My sense of gaining control in a firm and loving and open-minded way. And you know what? Growth hurts. It’s really damn painful.

But one thing that just keeps coming up over and over again is the tendency our society has to keep Ugly Shit private. I just can’t be so sure that’s the right thing to do. I feel like we are meant to be surrounded by our fellow women in times of trial. I feel like we need each other around for support, to offer guidance and advice and other points of view, to witness things that are being said. Guidance and support speak for themselves, but I want to add in that I think having a witness is so important to keeping people careful of the emotions involved, and also simply in keeping things moving along. A witness, even just sitting quietly, helps to keep Shit from getting stagnant.

Of course none of this flies because it makes people feel uncomfortable and we still have this leftover Victorian etiquette shit where we daren’t make people uncomfortable. The thing is, though, is that Life is often really fucking uncomfortable. Physically and emotionally. And so when people complain about things being said publicly making then feel uncomfortable, I kind of want to scream, “TOO DAMN BAD!”

Society has steered us so wrong in so many places, and I can’t help but wonder if this is one of those things. By shoving us into privacy we lose out on the chance to connect more fully with our fellow women. We miss out on the opportunity to LEARN from each other. We really, deeply hurt ourselves by not allowing ourselves to be that open in front of our friends, our sisters. It makes my heart ache for all the loss we bring upon ourselves.

I am curious to hear what you think on this. Is there an angle I’m not seeing here? I keep running this all through in my mind but I keep coming back to this: Working through Shit publicly, surrounded by loving people, seems so much more desirable to me, even if it is uncomfortable. The alternative, as far as I can see, is surface-comfort, but so much more loss at deeper levels.

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12 responses

27 06 2011
bethany actually

I think a lot of it depends on one’s personality. Of course personality is partly formed by one’s environment and upbringing. But as any parent knows, a good portion of one’s personality is not formed; it is THERE at birth and only grows stronger with time. I get what you are saying about Victorian tendencies and that Life is often just messy and uncomfortable and there’s no way around that. And to a point, I agree with you. I often find when I am open about what I’m struggling with or grieving over, I am lifted up by supporting hands and assured by friendly voices that I’m not alone, that others have been there, and even those who have not been there are sympathetic and want to help.

BUT. It’s in my nature to want to figure stuff out on my own before I bring it to other people. My mom says that from a very early age, when I was hurt physically or emotionally, she’d want to comfort me and I would insist on being left alone. I remember distinctly one time when I was about five years old, being upset over something and needing to cry, and being desperate to get to my bedroom so I could cry alone and get it out. I remember sitting under a table by my bedroom door, with my mom outside the closed door asking in a concerned if she could come in, and telling her angrily that I just needed to cry by myself. A few minutes later, I was done crying and I left my bedroom and went to talk to my mom about whatever was bothering me. To this day, that is how I prefer to deal with the crap Life sends my way. I rage/mourn/dither/cry about it in private before taking it to those I trust for guidance or sympathy. If I am denied that first crucial step, it’s intensely uncomfortable to me in a way that has nothing to do with manners or mores. I can deal with that discomfort if I have to, of course. But it’s like eating fries without ketchup: why would I want to, if I don’t have to?

27 06 2011
ZebraBelly

That’s beautiful, Bethany. And I completely understand and respect your need for alone-ness first. And I love that you know that and respect that about yourself.

But I think the difference between what you are describing and what I am thinking about is what the person in pain (for lack of a better word – pain’s a spectrum) what the person in pain WANTS. It’s completely fine if the person wants to be alone. But if they are craving support and not allowed that, it becomes a big problem. That’s really what I was getting at – when a person is FORCED into privacy despite privacy not being the best thing at that moment.

Does that make sense?

27 06 2011
bethany actually

p.s. I love you for writing posts like this and making me think. Thank you!

27 06 2011
ZebraBelly

β™₯ You, too! I love that you bring new ideas to the table and we can discuss them together. πŸ™‚

27 06 2011
clearheart

Well, I’m sure that’s exactly what the Victorian’s called it: Victorian etiquette shit. Probably just said “VES”. Or possibly it was “VESH”.
I think our society doesn’t want to be uncomfortable for long. The thrust is every upward, down is bad and scary and Hell-ish. But the descent is where the roots are, the crux, the humus (not the Middle Eastern dip). The potential for growth. We don’t want to see other people’s shit, we don’t want to feel our own come out of us. But to me, this winds up being a bunch of other people’s fermented shit all in nooks and crannies all over the place. Under a pile of leaves, not well hidden enough to avoid it totally, but if you happen to step on it, you are to pretend it never happened. It’s considered bad manners to bring up your issues in public, or God forbid (Goddess doesn’t forbid it) point out someone elses stink. We’d rather our shit come out wrapped in Saran so it can just rot far away from us.
Much easier to just medicate it away, either legally or not, or culturally accepted check-outs of all sorts.

27 06 2011
Summer

I feel Bethany. When my emotions take over, I want to be alone. But on the whole, I agree with you, too, Bonnie. I don’t think you can really work through something unless you can look it in the face (privately or publicly) and call a Spade a Spade. That’s where the problem comes in. It’s not the privacy. It’s the avoidance of it altogether. When my cousin committed suicide, so few of my family members would talk about her death in any way that didn’t make it seem like an accident. But you can’t talk about a suicide like it’s an accident because it IS THE OPPOSITE OF AN ACCIDENT. And when Sarah died, no one would address the drunk driving part of it all. And I do understand that desire, but I also just think it’s unhealthy. If you need to work it out and look it in the face alone under your table, cool. And if you need to do it surrounded by support, great. But don’t ignore it and pretend it isn’t there. Those elephants just get bigger.

27 06 2011
ZebraBelly

Well, and to be honest, I do a lot of my Shit in private, too. I think a valuable amount of Work needs to be done privately. I did not mean to sound like I didn’t find that aspect of Work valuable bc I absolutely do!

I’m just talking here about a different facet of this – the one where work DOES need to be done in public for whatever reason and it is not allowed to be for fear of that elephant. So, yes, Summer, EXACTLY like that Shit. You do some processing on your own, but when it comes time for the community processing it’s dangerous to pretend it’s not what it is.

30 06 2011
bethany actually

Wow. I cannot even fathom pretending someone didn’t commit suicide. I mean, I guess I can get why someone might be tempted to pretend it was an accident, because suicide is so painful for everyone else and it creates so many questions that can never be answered, but I can’t imagine *actually* doing so. I think what we are dealing with here is my constitutional inability to call a spade a spade, or as it is sometimes known to less forthright individuals, “total lack of tact.” πŸ™‚

I’m sorry about your cousin and Sarah, Summer.

30 06 2011
bethanyactually

Dammit! I did it again! That should have been, “constitutional inability to *NOT* call a spade a spade.”

30 06 2011
ZebraBelly

Heh. I figured that’s what you meant. And you know, I feel SO MUCH more comfortable with people who Name things for what they are. That’s exactly one of those things where I think “tact” hinders us as a society and personally. In some cases, anyway.

28 06 2011
Corey

“Growth hurts. It’s really damn painful.” Word. But! no pain, no gain. I love your post and agree with so much of it. There is a place for Shit out in the open. The broader POV you can get the better. It makes you think, and even if you come right back to your original POV you also have the added awareness and knowledge of others you maybe didn’t have before. It’s like treasure.

7 07 2011
Katie

I just read this today (I’m behind on my Internetz) and this resonated a lot in how my family deals with stuff. And by deals, I mean doesn’t deal with stuff. My immediate family is by no means as dysfunctional as many others (and my parents have worked incredibly hard to have it be that way) but there are still a handful of things that make living in my family not that peachy all the time. And though I, too, work through stuff on my own or through friends, some of the Ugly Shit in my family would be better off worked through as a family, either through just talking about it or through family therapy. But my mom embodies that Victorian-Hide-Your-Ugly-Shit idea: she tends to hand-wave issues off and heap them onto her shoulders and put off the discussions until people are less upset or until everyone can be there, or until such-and-such date/event/meeting/thing in time has passed. It’s intensely frustrating to want to confront Ugly Shit going on in my family and be told “this isn’t the time” or “we don’t really need to talk about this” or “You know how your dad is. That’s just the way it is.” Which I refuse to accept because I’m enough like him to know its not really ever going to be fun so just get it the eff over with. So I completely connect to the situations to which I presume you are referring: people attempting to work through their Ugly Shit and be waved off by loved ones (family or friends) because it isn’t comfortable or its too hard or they don’t want their dinner/coffee/gym time ruined by the emotional homework we sometimes just need to do. There are so many things I wish could be said in my family about the Ugly Shit but as a daughter, I feel like I have to respect my mom’s tendency to wait until the Perfect Moment to have these conversations, even though when things are sucking, there’s no such thing as a Perfect Moment. So I have to lean on my friends to work though the Ugly Shit, and I’m so, so, so lucky to have people in my life like Summer and Jack and Bri that know my family shit pretty well and help me through the times when the crap is too overwhelming, and though they are magical, wonderful people to help me do this, it never quite helps 100% because they aren’t the problems and aren’t part of the emotional mess being made.

We’re all works in progress, and screw those people who don’t want to let us continue the forward-moving progress. But families are weird and stupid sometimes; thank goodness for friends.

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