Okay, so the title is tongue-in-cheek. I never learned how to communicate about feelings as a child. I recently learned that my siblings' code word for Father was "Baron". I was pretty much scared to approach him about anything. If I needed something, I'd cajole Mother into asking him. I certainly didn't have open conversations of any kind with him. While I was confident in Mother's love for me, maybe there just wasn't time for sharing for her, with all the responsibilities of a household. Or maybe it was something else.
Religion taught me that feelings are secondary to controlled impulses, that one should do what is right, whether it feels good or not. I still believe that. I believe that I should control my emotions, and edit them if necessary. I believe that I should mercilessly cull inappropriate feelings. Does this put me in control of myself, or does it simply serve to detach me from my true self? I can walk around all day thinking about how I feel about something without any threat. I can reason with myself about it, consider the facts, change my mind if I want.
I still remember the first time jc wheedled me into admitting that I loved him. It was certainly premature, maybe even on the phone before we'd actually met. Love takes many forms; and the love I confessed then, that barely formed feeling that I wanted to talk to him every day, share everything with him, knowing that he shone a bright spot on my busy life, is worlds different from the way I feel about him today. It was the seed of a tree that is still growing. I admitted it hesitantly, and it exposed a part of me that left me vulnerable. That exposed part of me has grown over the years. In a few weeks it will be 8 years. But jc has never made me sorry that I opened that spot to him. He's given me his own insecurity too, but that's another post, and one that will almost certainly never appear here.
The response to our childish game of, "loves you to deff, baby-baby" is often, "but, why?" There's no good answer to that. Your handsome face, pretty eyes, accepting heart? How nice it feels to hold your hand, to walk arm in arm down the street, to lie together in the afternoon? Presents you buy me, perhaps? That you don't criticize my slovenly housekeeping? Maybe it's still the reason that I actually fell in love with him in the first place, because I trusted him never to hurt me. My answer is often to stroke his lovely face and kiss him softly. I need no reason.
That often-unspoken simplicity of love has kept jc and I from ever needing many conversations about our feelings. There have been some hard times. In some of those times we've lost patience, raised our voices, but we're both careful not to utter words that are impossible to take back later. In the really hard times we've banded together more strongly, done what was needed, and come out on the other side. Certainly those interchanges have forged a love that talking could not do.
But none of that really helps me with anyone else, does it? My therapist is the least threatening person I've ever talked to, but I still can't meet her eyes when there's a really difficult subject to discuss. That's my tell. Avoiding the gaze. Recently I've had to grapple with the difficulty of discussing feelings that are unreasoned, unsummoned, unwelcome even. Feelings that rob me of power and make me vulnerable when revealed. The risk exists of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It would be too easy to discard the inconvenient feelings completely, with all that is connected to them, but how cowardly. How much better to follow the habit of a lifetime and do a revision.
Is it really like Voldemort?? Never saying the name makes him ever more frightening? Uttering the word is the first step, turning him from an otherwordly, all-powerful demon into a manageable, defeatable entity.
I am not bound by formless, volitionless impulses. I am bound neither to blindly accept their existence, nor to run wildly from the fear they invoke. There is middle ground. There can be first, second, third revisions, ad infinitum. The draft will never be ready for publishing. That's the way life goes when you're living it and not sitting on the sidelines watching.
Dispatch from Portland's March for Our Lives
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