Wednesday, May 15, 2013

On the expression of feeling.

Emotions are a wonderful thing. It seems like everyone has them but not everyone knows what they're for.

Emotions are messengers - they are supposed to send us a message and then leave us in time. When they fester, they become a problem. Momentary anger, for instance, can spur us to the defense of something good or to correct some injustice. Lingering, festering anger leads us to vengeance. Momentary sadness can lead us to seek others or to fulfill a need, but lingering sadness can lead to self-pity, self-hatred, or self-destruction.

I am not ashamed to admit that for a man I am unusually in touch with my feelings. However, this has had its drawbacks as well, because I can't escape them sometimes. I have found healthy outlets for my feelings...but some of them were good only temporarily, or misdirected...see my last few posts if you want to know what I mean.

In the quietness of my life right now, I have returned to writing down my feelings (outside of this blog). I don't really have very many people to talk to at the moment for various reasons, so this is a good alternative. Usually when there aren't many people around anymore, I get all-consumed by my loneliness, and that hasn't happened yet in this quiet space. I feel totally OK. I would very much like to keep it that way.

So, today I wrote a poem expressing my feelings. Tonight, I will be writing a letter I won't send. Tomorrow, who knows? I might write someone an email. Or call someone - if they answer, and if I can think of someone to call.

I suppose for the average person, managing a period of quiet in one's life is probably not a struggle. Not for me. I am weak to my feelings and always have been. My Dad would shame me for crying as a boy, and my elementary school principal told me I wear my heart on my sleeve. If that's a problem then it's mine to bear for good because I haven't yet found a cure.

I am very proud of myself for my progress. At this time last year, I was really a mess from my feelings of abandonment and loneliness. Now, I simply see this for what it is. I accept that if I do not reach out to people, I cannot expect that anyone will reach out to me. I expect that when I reach out, some people may not respond. It's just a fact. For you, reader, this may seem silly but for me this is revolutionary. When everyone left where I live, and no one tried to stay in touch and I was all alone I couldn't handle it. I did not handle it...very well at all. Now I am. Now I can.

I think what also helps is that I now see myself more for who I really am...not completely, but much closer than before. I am really not that great. I am not very special. But I'm worth something and I have dignity. I am necessary and I am loved. I am not always loved by people. I am often not loved by people. But I continue to make my way in the world - the often senseless and thoughtless, sinning, ordinary human being I am has a purpose I still have to discover...some kind of way for me to be a conduit for God's glory in the world...otherwise I would not be here, I would be dead already. I am no longer pretending I know what it is.

I think many times earlier in my blog, I felt I knew my purpose...and that vision led me to despair because I wasn't getting engaged, I wasn't getting a job, I wasn't growing deeper in friendship with certain people, and I wasn't getting anywhere near what I felt my purpose was. Now I know better. I do not assume I know what the future holds, nor do I look ahead. Oh, yes, sometimes I get little fantasies about what I hope will happen. But I try not to entertain them. I am only planning what I absolutely have to plan...because at any moment, God may blow my plans to smithereens and lead me off in a different, wonderful direction.

Who am I? I'm just me. Where am I going, and what's waiting for me there? I really don't know. How do I feel? Just fine.

There was a dream that I dreamed, a dream of true expression.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Facing outward.

This will be my final post for a while on emotional modesty...this one is meant to tie all the others together.

Here's where my story with emotional modesty begins: I never had any close female friends in high school.

Even when I did have them, it was not by my own choice (they befriended me and I just went along with it) and it was always a bit strange to me. But I acted like myself and never really discussed anything of any depth with girls. Girls were weird...guys I understood. The end.

When I got to college, I actually did get some close female friends, one or two of whom I felt close enough to share some personal things. Women were still more uncomfortable to be around, although not enough to be a deterrent. Still, it was never to the depth of my male friendships until my senior year. I started to change a little bit - mostly because at that time I was engaged in deep reflection about myself, and I discovered that girls tend to do that much more often than guys. Soon, I began to fraternize more frequently with women, especially after I discovered I had a lot in common with many of them. This would inevitably lead to some attractions, but I never considered that a bad thing even when I was eventually turned down. This is where I really began to fail at emotional modesty - and never knew.

It's really only after the past year that I've seen exactly how destructive this kind of sharing could be. I have become attracted to friends against my will, and some friends became attracted to me against theirs.

I actually had three pretty bad experiences in a row the last few months with emotional modesty.

In the first, we had the kind of friendship I would call the "fusion." We were emotionally intertwined and interdependent, leaching off of one another. Why? We were both lonely, and we both had the same reason for being lonely. It was like a blew up and fizzled out. We grew to like each other very quickly and grew to dislike each other just as fast. She got sick of me, and I got mad at her for it. It took quite a while to heal that friendship, and it's never going to be a good friendship again.

In the second, I did a little better. I was trying to incorporate some emotional modesty in that friendship, even though I did not at that point understand why...therefore, I stunk at it. This friendship was what I would call the "face to face" approach. It didn't work because as hard as we tried to keep a detachment about it, we were constantly faced with one another. That friendship exploded as well, but this one seems to be healing.

In the third, we were dangerously close to a "fusion" friendship. But this time, I think through some hard decision making (and discussion) I have managed to finally make our friendship "face outward." By this, I mean that we are friends without being emotionally intertwined to the point that we are acting like we're dating. We are looking more out at the world together, and not at one another. And we're great friends.

Before these events, I thought that because I never got attracted to girls who had boyfriends (even if we shared emotional things), it meant that this was possible in every guy-girl friendship. However, I am now thinking that this is an exception rather than the rule. The only reason I never get attracted to girls who have boyfriends is because I am practical and see a relationship as impossible in those situations, and my feelings cooperate with that. However, I am now seeing it as very possible that any other relationship with a girl can involve attractions where there has been mutual sharing of feelings - and that even though I have experienced it as a good thing, it is not always a good thing at all - because it has really damaged a lot of those guy-girl friendships no matter how well and how craftily I tried to fix it.

In my contemplation of this problem, it occurred to me how there is actually a real level of emotional connection between a boyfriend and girlfriend, and how I had built this connection with women before without any commitment to them other than as a friend. Only then did it occur to me how unfair that was, and how it would thus follow that I could only consistently share things like that with other men, as there is no danger of attraction there. The only really difficult thing about that is that most of the men I know who were open to discussions like that with me are no longer around. But it's not all about me.

Even if I were really, really good friends with a girl, our relationship would never and could never look like a dating relationship, unless we were dating. While we might from time to time share feelings, or even cry, those times should be few and far between. If that is how it must be, then that is how it will be.

There was a dream that I dreamed, a dream to face outward.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The longest lesson in a song.

Phoenix, a band I like, came out with a new album. All of their songs are pretty upbeat, but one in particular has really grabbed my of course I had to look up the lyrics.

I think this song represents for me the life lesson that has taken me the longest to learn. I'm not sure if I've actually talked about this "lesson" in my blog yet. Here's how I interpreted the song, and you'll see my lesson.

Just don't bother
Don't fed the animals
Don't let them run in circles

Don't be told
They just don't matter
If you're more than ready, run away
From dusk to dawn

Bad situations become worse when you feed them. If people are being unreasonable or are crossing lines with you, you can let them run in circles on their own and leave.

Last night on the couch you're livid
It's a poor complaint
It's the only thing
You're sad and underweight

You can be upset and withdrawn and self-pitying...but that never solves anything. Ever.

Whatever, we're so close to "serious"
Whatever promise you made
I have no problem to say "no"

Often when people become emotionally involved with one another, it can become a tense situation where things are more serious than either party is willing to commit. Sometimes we say things we can't really fulfill ("we're destined to be together forever") and you have to be able to say "no" for the best of both of you.

I'll never know
I'll never know you
Reach out for me
I'll never know you if you don't

We'll never understand each other if we don't communicate. We'll never really know one another as well as one can know oneself, but being open with one another is the only way to even get close.

It's just another
It's just another complicated case
To settle down the road
Whatever we're too close to "serious"
Whatever promise you made
From dusk to dawn

Being in relationship with other people, if you are doing it in a meaningful way, can get the point where if it's your habit it might happen a lot. Still, you have to be able to settle it at some point.

Don't swear that it is your fault
You're sophisticated
I saw the chandelier
I'm foreign and under stress
Whatever we're too close to "serious"
Whatever comments you make
I hear the rattle to say "no"

In any situation between two people, there is liability for what happened on both sides. It's useless to denigrate yourself. All one can do is one's very one can ask for more.

There was a dream that I dreamed, a dream for an infusion of music to learn from.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Emotional Destiny.

Emotional modesty is something I never really understood until recently.

To be honest, I think it is underestimated in Catholic circles how much guys need to learn this lesson. I had to call up a guy who graduated years ago to explain it to me because I was having so many problems with it.

I am an emotional being, and I'm male...and I'm constantly looking for people to share my emotions with. But it's caused problems.

One problem is the one from my last post - that I keep getting emotionally involved with people whom I did not intend to...and then I need to let them go for a while. Not a very healthy process.

Another is that this blog has become a sappy outlet for my feelings. It's not what I originally intended it to be: a place to chronicle my dreams and life lessons. Furthermore, at least one person has felt like they were singled out by one or more of my posts. I sometimes forget that there are actually people reading this blog regularly. I must admit, on more than one occasion I've questioned my own judgement about writing this blog. Although I disagree that it contains the same things that I would write in a diary, I talk about things in my life vaguely enough that it can be interpreted to be passive-aggressive communication. It's unfortunate, because the intention was to actually make it indecipherable so that I could communicate the feeling and the lesson/moral without anyone being able to feel like they were being targeted.

I think writing posts when I'm feeling good is something I need to get in the habit of. I wanted to chronicle my triumphs, not my sadness. My latest triumph is that I am finally bringing my friendships back to where they need to be - and viewing them as they are. I am happy with's been a hard-won lesson.

There was a dream that I dreamed, a dream for emotional mastery.