Monday, August 30, 2010

Unpacking my baggage

I don't share much about myself. Not just on this blog, but in life in general. A conversation with T this weekend got me thinking about that.

We were standing on a street corner waiting for a bus on Saturday night. I was in a rotten mood, stemming from some news I had received earlier in the day that triggered some difficult emotions. I've been struggling with this one particular problem (yes I am being purposefully vague again) for a while now, but I don't feel like I can talk to anyone about it. Which is what I said to T.

"The worst part is I can't talk to anybody about it." T nodded his head in supportive silence for a moment. But then I guess he thought about it. Because his next words were, "Have you talked about it with your mom?"

That was an easy question. "No!" I scoffed without missing a beat. "Of course not."

Apparently the answer wasn't so obvious to T, because he asked me why not, and wouldn't I feel better if I did.

And that's when I reconnected with an old issue. "No way," I said to him. "Anytime I really open up with her, I feel like I have a bad hangover the next day. Like I drank too much and embarassed myself the night before."

So there it was in all its warped beauty. My Baggage. I've been thinking about it today. Why I feel like I can't talk to people about the things that truly weigh on my mind. It's a problem, a road block to intimacy, if you'll pardon the cheesy self-help speak. Of course I do not count T in this equation. I've felt comfortable opening up to him for as long as I've known him. And my best friend since middle school is also excluded. But, see, that's all part of why I have these questions in my head.

Why can I talk about my problems to my BFF but not any other people I consider friends? And why did it take me so long, and do I continue to avoid, talking even to her about this issue? More to the point, I wonder: What am I afraid of?

I have a gutteral reaction to feeling like my emotions are on display. I'm far, far better at analyzing my feelings than displaying them. One of my strongest memories of this tendency is from when I was a teenager, feeling very hurt or upset by something my mom had done, and yelling at her when she came to talk to me about it: "Of course I feel sad. Who wouldn't feel upset about XYZ?! You did XYZ!" Not exactly opening up emotionally. I would just kind of describe the emotions and the reasons for it in a very detatched way, at the same time being very angry that I had to spell it out (and be vulnerable).

So is it vulnerability? I guess that's probably it. I don't like the idea of people knowing that I feel deeply disappointed, for example, about something that I didn't get that I really wanted. (To be honest, this doesn't happen often, though.) I don't want people to tell me why it doesn't matter, or why it'll work out. I don't want people to feel sorry for me, or to treat me as weak, fragile. I don't want people judging my feelings, my fears or my desires. So I keep them all to myself. Which isn't a very healthy way to go, nor does it help in building strong friendships.

I have to learn to let go of other people's reactions to the things I say and do, and see others' reactions as reflections of their experiences, fears, desires, lifeview; not as a reflection of the worthiness of mine, or anything about me. I already know I can't control other people's opinions. But I haven't learned to accept that, and instead try to keep everything cloistered and hid out of sight. And this blog post is a perfect example of everything I've talked about here.

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