01 December 2010

Seeking constructive authenticity

Sometimes people insist happiness is found in putting on a smiling face even when things suck and just fakin' it 'til you make it. I used to reject that for different reasons than I do now. It was hard to fake it. It wasn't natural, and it took effort, and I wanted to be mad, dammit!

Then I discovered that my heart was calmer when I decided consciously to not get upset or annoyed at things which were upsetting or annoying. I learned very quickly that people like being around smiley people, and they struggle to be around grumpy people. It became more important to be pleasant and lift others than to stew and fester. And I truly thought this was a better way, and I scoffed at people who implied I was being dishonest. I was just choosing to react in constructive ways rather than playing the victim or letting my circumstances control me. What was productive about bemoaning my fate and whining? Nothing. I only saw a dichotomy of that vs. choosing to believe everything was hunky dory.

Then I started realizing how much emotional undercurrent I was building up without ever having realized it, while I had actually specifically rejected the idea that that was happening, until it became very clear that I wasn't actually resolving things internally but was just sweeping them under the rug. Perhaps if I were someone who cared less about full resolution, or finding answers beyond the surface, that might not have built up, or I might not have noticed it. But I did. In addition, I saw the repercussions of people judging themselves based on what they see in others, what others portray about themselves, and the damage done when people don't understand how thoroughly human and flawed everyone else is, not just them.

I started to value authenticity and honesty more than maintaining a "pleasant", or pleasing, persona which is masked enough to avoid upsetting anyone. I started valuing honestly admitting when things weren't great more than ignoring the unpleasant. I started to see something between the dichotomy: that you can accept the reality and accept your sadness or pain to the extent that it actually spurs you to find the positive, to learn, or to act in response. I started realizing the friendships I valued most were with those who admitted when they were failing, upset, hurt, or feeling broken, because I knew they were 'real', and I cared about them and wanted to help them and wouldn't want them to suffer quietly and alone but would rather know their downs as well as their ups, to rejoice, to mourn, to walk with them. I also probably knew I wasn't ready for that level of authenticity and was fascinated by it. But I was OK. I'd be fine. I could handle my crap. It was nothing as bad as so-and-so's, after all. And I certainly didn't want to become a burden to anyone.

It wasn't until I realized the significance of being someone else's support and investing in trying to lift them up that I started considering whether I ever gave anyone else the opportunity to love me in that way. And it was then I started considering that maybe I needed it, too. I felt good about having been emotionally self-sufficient, but I was beginning to accept that some of my feelings of alienation and relationship tension were probably a result of layers of undercurrent emotions I refused to really acknowledge because they weren't happy, positive, feel-good emotions. I had denied them because I didn't see any purpose in acknowledging them.

I guess I don't quite know how to explain why I decided it was important to acknowledge them and let them be rather than stifling them, but I can say my sense of peace and authenticity, of wholeness and stability, have greatly improved since I started letting myself be angry when I'm having a reasonable reaction to something, or even when it's irrational. It takes more work than my childhood anger, of course. It's not stewing. It's a more cognitive awareness that whether or not it seems rational, I'm feeling this, and there's some reason for it, and there's probably something to learn from it. Or maybe there's a way to channel the energy of it into something constructive I wouldn't otherwise have done. Or maybe I'll just fume for a while and be over it rather than having a bottled-up anger inside of me which I then have to quell with plastered layers of faux cheer.

I forget sometimes, though, when dealing with others, that not everyone gets that, or not everyone processes their emotions the way I do, or they do it with less frankness, believing it to be their burden to bear and their responsibility to cope themselves without letting others know. Others might see my refusal to mask as laziness, letting the emotion win out, or wallowing, because they don't understand that to actually process requires even more effort than either submitting to or masking or ignoring them, and that I don't see value in acting falsely enthusiastic just to hide. Some may even take it personally when I don't hide the fact that I'm generally irritated. It's not my fault when others 'tell themselves stories' about my emotional state. There are some people who just take everything personally, and there's not much I'm going to try to do about that. That's their issue. But in general, I don't want to make others more uncomfortable than I need to, and there are times when I have to honestly ask myself whether I've misdirected some anger or frustration onto an individual or unintentionally made it seem so. So I seek a synthesis of raw authenticity and the perceptions of others, of frank expression and diplomatic or constructive communication, and I think it's possible. Until I'm perfect, though, I'll butt heads with people here and there. C'est la vie.

The relationships I've most valued are those where we're able to be frank and even blunt with each other without being abusive or harsh, and I value that too much to indefinitely play or even endure the pussy-footing games most people seem to prefer or the attitude that a smile is always better than a tear. Bullcrap. I want to know you. I want to see you, not what you think I want to see. But then, maybe as I look back to years ago and realize what I wasn't admitting even to myself, maybe I'll look back at now and see masks I didn't realize I was wearing. I'll try taking off my masks if you'll try taking off yours...oh, shoot, someone's gotta go first, right? *sigh*


BLB said...

Fine, if we're gonna be playing that game. O-Mo, I hate/love/proud of/angry at/wanna be friends with/wanna be enemies with/wanna be frenemies with you. Pick and choose which you prefer. =]

Original Mohomie said...

You proud angry at be friends wanna be enemies with be frenemies with me?

Cool. I'm down.

Original Mohomie said...

I'm so glad we've had this talk.