No Resolution This Time

I usually write these posts with a purpose or a solution in mind. I don’t often write just to write. I think that’s perfectionism convincing me I need to have a pretty, polished result in order to show it to the world. I can’t ever be a work in progress.

Women aren’t typically allowed to be a work in progress.

I’m doing so much reading and thinking lately about what it means to be a woman. I haven’t thought much about it before, not until recently. I’ve also started reading, among many other books, Glennon Doyle’s Untamed. (I told myself I had to finish at least one of the other 10+ books I’m reading right now, but I just couldn’t resist!) I don’t think I could’ve picked a more perfect time to start it, though, and if you haven’t read it yet, I highly suggest it. I can confidently say it’s worth the hype, and I’m only 13 pages in.

Each page I read I think to myself “Why aren’t women raging mad all the time?!”

We’ve had the very essence of our being stolen from us, and the accomplice to this robbery—the instigator, in fact—was this patriarchal, capitalist world we live in. Anything about us that is even slightly feminine we are taught to stifle, to hide, to be embarrassed about, to feel shame about, to silence, to plaster a smile on, to wrap up in a pretty, perfect, pink bow.

Don’t show your emotions, you’re being irrational. Yeah, she never smiles or anything, she must be made of stone. You act like you don’t care! Jeez, you’re so sensitive. I’ve heard that chick sleeps around, she’s such a slut. Wow, you’ve never had sex, what a prude! Don’t wear a top that shows too much skin, you don’t want to distract the boys in class. Why are you dressed so modestly for a date, he’s never going to want to sleep with you. Aren’t you angry at how he spoke to you? Stop overreacting, you’re embarrassing yourself! Girl, you’ve gotta stop throwing yourself at him. Why don’t you wanna go out with him, he’s clearly into you! Well, of course they didn’t want to hire someone who’s pregnant. Don’t want kids?! Don’t worry, you’ll change your mind and want kids someday. You really need to stand up for yourself. God, she’s so bossy! Damn, your boobs look great in that Victoria’s Secret bra! Why is she breastfeeding in public, no one wants to see that! Gross, she looks like a skeleton. I’ll sign you up for a gym membership, you can’t gain the Freshman Fifteen. I don’t care that you have to go home to your family, you need to meet this deadline! Why would you consider this job, who’s going to look after your kids? You’re gonna be hot if you leave the house in sweats and a sweater! You were basically asking them to cat-call you by wearing shorts that short. You don’t need all that makeup, you’re so pretty! You sure you at least don’t want some blush and mascara, you don’t look very professional.

I could go on. I mean, holy double-standard, Batman!

We have to change the way we speak so we’re not as threatening. We can’t show our emotions without being seen as weak, irrational, dramatic, or crazy. We can’t be ambitious and family-oriented. I’m so tired of fitting into such a small box.

I still don’t know what to do with the anger that keeps rising in me. I don’t know how to quell my guilt and shame for defaulting to ignoring my power and making myself smaller for others’ benefit.

It bugs me that I’m going to publish this without any resolution or conclusion, but I don’t have any answers just yet. This is only the beginning…

Shame, That Cunning Bastard

Earlier today, after frustration over a search for socks snowballed into anger and I sent clothes flying all over our bedroom, my partner came to check on me. I was balled up on the floor, sandwiched between the bed and the wall, and my head was tucked below my knees. Anger, not being something I’m particularly used to yet, had left me feeling humiliated. As my kind and compassionate partner sat next to me rubbing my back, I didn’t want to admit to allowing socks (or lack thereof) to cause such a tidal wave of ferocity in me.

In the past, I wouldn’t have said anything. I would have remained silent and let my emotions consume me, driving away the person I desperately wanted to stay by my side. But see, I had made a promise. A promise to my partner not to shut him out. Not to make him think that my anger or moodiness is directed at him, or the result of anything he did or didn’t do. A promise to communicate.

I’m learning that I default to shutting people out, or shutting down entirely, when I feel intense emotions because of the unawareness my family and I had around my high sensitivity and my emotional needs as a highly sensitive person growing up. So, now that I know that my nervous system feels things much more deeply than the average person, I have to work hard at communicating when I’m feeling big things.

I’m not saying that I’m great at communicating now that I’ve learned all of this and have made this promise to my partner. In fact, I’m generally pretty bad at it. Sometimes, it’s so hard to say what it is I’m thinking or experiencing that it feels like I’m prying my mouth open with a crowbar and reaching down my throat to physically pull the words out. Often I’m speaking so softly that my partner has to ask me to repeat myself.

Today, though, I recognized that I have made some progress. This past week was particularly stressful, and I recalled the moments where I managed to use my words. At first, I wanted to celebrate this. I remembered how often I had kept my mouth shut in my relationships with my parents, friends, and partners in the past, and knew that any step in communicating was a step in the right direction. But quickly, shame piped in (that relentless bastard) and reminded me how far I still have to go. Shame said “How dare you celebrate this skill that you’re only less than mediocre at? You have way too far to go before you can pat yourself on the back.”

At first, I believed it. Shame is cunning, and uses small truths to create big lies. While it’s true that I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of what healthy communication looks like in my relationship, it is false that I have to wait until I’ve mastered the skill to acknowledge and celebrate my progress.

And, just because I’m not negating or discounting my success thus far, that doesn’t mean I can let up on the gas pedal. The fact is, I do have a long way to go before my communication is easy and open in those moments of moodiness or anger. But the more I practice it, the easier it will get, and I can celebrate the wins along the way.