I was muted by mobs of doubt, distracted by distant deadlines and the blank screen merely stared back at me!
Marrying an even-tempered man had its advantages, but sometimes it made her crazy! Although they rarely argued, Janet often felt like she was going through her emotional experiences all alone–with someone who wasn’t affected by them. Mark saw change as mere, matter-of-fact occurrences unworthy of comment or discussion. What, then, should Janet do with her comments and expressions? So often she wanted to express herself, but found that when she did the people in her house—not just her husband, but her children too—looked at her with puzzled, annoyed or amused expressions and shook their heads. As if to say, “here goes crazy mom again,” overreacting as usual.
Nevermind that so many changes in her life were happening so fast and she didn’t like them, but Mark seemed unphased. No matter how she tried, she couldn’t get him to join her in the amazement.
“Look at these pictures from 20 years ago!” She would exclaim. “Look how young everyone was!”
“Oh my gosh, can you believe our daughter’s going to college already!”
Barely a blip on the radar.
“Wow, it seems like just yesterday we brought our baby home from the hospital, now look he’s almost taller than me!”
Janet’s a writer. Mark’s a scientist. For Janet, these important life changes are intertwined with her creative work and an important part of how she processes everything that is going on around her. So, when she writes something she’s especially proud of, she naturally wants to share it with her family. Of course, her family is politely supportive, but, when you’re the creative and emotional one who sees the world in metaphor and they’re the logical, matter-of-fact types who see everything in black and white, once the creative piece you’re sharing extends beyond a couple of sentences, a glassy look comes into their eyes and there’s a sound of birds chirping in the distance. The chirping stops, abruptly, when she gets to the last sentence, and, of course, everyone smiles politely and says “that was very good,” and she’s appeased, but empty, because she and they know what’s true.
It’s a lonely life.
You’re emotional. You feel things deeply. You “read” the world and people like a book and think about life and seasons in ways that others don’t. When you try to talk about those things, people look at you and listen, but they don’t really see you or hear. When conversations begin and you join in, they stop, or shift, or shut down, because you bring an entirely new perspective that no one thought of, or considered. They move on and leave you with your thoughts, unengaged.
It’s just our lot as creative thinkers.
But, maybe there are others who are like us who can appreciate the significance of the change happening all around, who will “oh my gosh” and “wow” and “amen” along side us while digging into the deeper meanings of those experiences and help us process them. It is not strange that we should need this, even if those around us do not. It is not strange that we should desire to discuss and write about and display our emotions in response to the world we experience, even if spouses do not. But, what we need is a space to do so that is free from the disparaging gaze of those who don’t understand, because the disapproving eye has so much power over the soul. Their disinterest makes us second-guess ourselves and their wrinkled brow squelches our light.
We will inevitably live and/or work with those who function outside of our mental space. But, perhaps it will stretch us in some way, make us work harder, think more…it will certainly give us something to write about.
Yet, in order to do our work, we must sneak away…for the sake of our souls, we must find a safe space, maybe even a secret place…and, if we can, a like-minded group. Forget about the people in your house! They might love you, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for your writing life. Find a writer’s group—even one online! But you mustn’t let go of your pen.
Shhh, even if we have to keep it secret, whatever we do, we’ll keep writing!
Today is FIRST MONDAY, so I’m supposed to have something inspirational, sensational and professional to share with you…
Well, it’s fall, so, my sensational offering is my new favorite tea–Harney & Son’s pumpkin spice! Y’all, it’s a hint of sweet and oh so nice! It’s caffeine free so it’s a perfect wind down drink at the end of a busy day. You’re going to love it. I promise.
As for the inspirational and professional…
Well, today’s a little different. I kind of need some inspiration (and perhaps professional) input from you!
In a recent post on social media I said that I could write a book entitled “All the Things” because, honestly, most days I feel like I’m drowning! Can you relate? As I’ve tried to identify the source of my stress, more than one person has asked, “what can you cut out?” What can you take off of your plate so that you’re not so strung out? And you know what?
Even that question stresses me!
So, what’s going on? Is the source of my overwhelm the busyness, or is it (also) something else? I began to psychoanalyze myself, because of course, I’m trained to do that sort of thing (kidding). I started writing in my journal–I really believe that journaling is the next best thing to therapy–and an interesting truth emerged. I discovered that the reason I’m stressed, regardless of the number of appointments on my calendar or tasks on my to-do list is that it’s not so much the number of things that I’m required to do as it is the number of people I’m attempting to please. Whether or not I attend the meeting or event, my mind is always thinking about the next thing that I must do to meet someone’s expectation–or how I might have fallen short in doing so.
Yikes! That means that my stress is much deeper than my to-do list and my issues may need more than my private journal to be resolved.
Nonetheless, could this also bring me to the possible starting point for a new book–“All the Things”? I don’t know. It was something I threw out in a hasty, anxiety-filled moment. What would a book with such a title be about anyway? “All” the things is certainly too broad. What things, exactly, would come under such a title? What are “all the things” that readers wonder about? Struggle with? Want to explore the answers to? If you have some ideas, I’d love to hear them.
In the meantime, I think I’ll have some Pumpkin Spice tea and try to relax!
Happy Monday & Happy Fall!
“I can’t tell you what’s in this folder” she said tapping the file on her desk.
“But just trust me when I tell you that even the expression on your face spoke volumes.”
The disabilities coordinator was explaining to me how my perplexity at a student’s question had caused an explosion. The creases in my forehead were a live wire that ran straight from my brain to her trigger and lit the fuse.
I wanted to defend my response, but I realized there was no defense. Nothing I could say would change the student’s perception. Whatever I said or didn’t say was wrong. It was enough to make her feel inadequate. She had left the room defeated and heated.
I replayed the scene several times in my mind and wondered how I might have done it differently. It’s so much easier to find the right words after the fact! But in this case, it wasn’t even as much about what I said as how! The reality is, I might have spoken the exact same words in a different way and there may have been a different outcome…
How often have I heard someone say, in their own defense, “I don’t know what the problem is, all I said was…”
I thought about her words: “I can’t tell you what’s in this folder.” The contents of that folder are protected by privacy laws. They contain the details of the student’s past experiences. Her medical history and all the things that would likely explain the inner workings of her mind. Yet they are protected by her right to privacy and would only be revealed if the student were to discuss them with me. As I reflected on this, it occurred to me that this student isn’t the only one.
We all have a file.
It may not reside in a metal cabinet or be managed by a disabilities coordinator, but it certainly holds all the details of our past experiences and history that would explain the inner workings of our minds. Those who interact with us don’t have the privilege of knowing what’s in our files any more than I did when interacting with this student. The best that we can do is guess as we interpret each other’s words and actions. Yet, how much are our actions and reactions the result of our own past experiences? How much do our own sensitivities come from the files each of us has that determines the lens through which we view the world? Our perceptions are always skewed by our files. We register every experience according to the experiences we’ve had before. We judge every new relationship according to our personal card catalogue of previous relationships. We recognize verbal cues, facial expressions and physical gestures because of those we filed away in our memory bank of painful or pleasant engagements. So when we see or hear them again, we respond accordingly.
“What, am I supposed to be a mind reader now?” was my sarcastic retort.
“Not at all. We simply need you to be aware that she’s not like every other kid. You have to be a little more considerate of her feelings.”
It’s all about consideration and accommodation. Thinking about the other person’s point of view first. What might she be thinking? Rather than standing apart from her I have to try to stand under her—literally understand. It’s an intentional act that requires intention and forethought. It’s not something that will come naturally, but I feel like it is something that could be transformative.
If I can learn to respond to people—not just my special students–with an attitude of accommodation, assuming that there’s something in their file that I can’t see which causes them to say or do things that I may not understand, perhaps I can at least delay judgment. Perhaps I can avoid conflicts and frustration. Because, if I could see inside the file I might have a different perspective on their behavior. I might not judge at all. I might even understand them. Not knowing what’s in the file, I should at least give them the benefit of the doubt. At least.
So, the word for today is understanding—to stand under—because everybody has a file that you don’t have permission to see.