I Wrote This Last Wednesday

So let me tell you about my day yesterday.

I went to a conference for women in aerospace. Some of it was very woo-woo, but mostly it was a ton of amazingly kick-ass ladies in a room talking about how we can continue to be more kick-ass. That is inspiring to me. Rah, rah – go team!

Then, I watched/listened/absorbed ‘Lemonade’. When I was in middle school, I love NSYNC. In truth, I loved Justin Timberlake, but you know what I wanted more than Justin Timberlake? I wanted to be the kid that wasn’t like everyone else. So, I liked Lance because he was basically JT-lite (I’m guessing Lance would have pretended to like me too, so it would have been mutually beneficial).

Well, here it is. I loved ‘Lemonade’. I felt moved. I felt like “OMG, Beyonce is poetically saying/speaking/visually-stunning me with vibes I have felt.” I found out a lot of the stuff I gobbled up belonged to a woman named Warsan Shire. She is a poet.

So maybe I’m like everybody else in the world. Maybe I’m woke, or maybe I’m not woke? I don’t want to not like something awesome just because I’m worried I’ll be like every other person. Maybe we’re all cool, you know (because I’m cool – right)?

Then I watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and had two glasses of red wine. I watched the episode where [SPOILER ALERT] Tina Fey becomes Kimmy’s amazingly appropriate therapist. I am digging this storyline.

I then took a shower. The shower is where I do 98 percent of my cataloging for my day. I use my reflective moments in the shower to make sense of all that gets thrown at me during the day. So here’s the tenuous threads of my brain captured here in my blog.

Have you ever seen Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk about creativity and muses?

Now you have. It’s it awesome?

I am Tom Waits in the car, but instead I am in the shower. There are no pens in the shower. The shower is relaxing and gives me soothing feelings of apathy. By the time I leave the shower, I have yelled at my muses and told them to come at a better time (and then they shout back – UM, when the hell are you ever available for us these days anyway? – TOUCHE, muses. Toosh – eyyyy).

Tonight, my muses came by and instead I felt like I should listen. I captured these strings of thought and wisps of connection and I began to think about how emotional I’ve been feeling lately. How real I’ve been feeling lately. How unusual I’ve been feeling. How deep I’ve been feeling.

It’s scary for me to feel deeply. I have learned that I am addicted to feeling deeply and I chase that depth until there is no light left. 

I’m speaking about my experience with depression – or whatever the hell you want to call it because these days, I don’t think I want to label it as that anymore. I’m going all Winston Churchill on it and trying on another way to look at it. Whatever it is, I feel things and I feel them deeply. These days, I picture my feelings like a wavelength with very small peaks and valleys for very long stretches of time and it helps me do things like get out of bed and be a productive member of society, which ultimately gives me a greater sense of accomplishment and well-being.

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However, sometimes I miss feeling consumed by my feelings because even though they hurt me, they made me feel like I was more myself because I felt my whole existence so intensely (and the excitement of the frequent peaks and valleys was exhilarating). I got to spend days obsessing over my own thoughts and feelings in the pursuit of giant epiphanies about life and myself. These days, I don’t feel driven to drown myself in them the way I used to because I have just enough stillness to see straight down to the bottom. Ah, thanks therapy, a master’s degree and ongoing yoga. Also, general life circumstances and aging + the ongoing effort of choice to just not do that unrealistic shit anymore. #adulting

It doesn’t mean that I still don’t have moments where I miss those indefinite moments of feeling things as deeply as I could stand it, just because they were strong and powerful and beautiful in their own bizarrely tragic way.

At this conference (yeah, let’s pivot back there real quick), a speaker who was clearly a rad human doing amazing things in her career, said when talking about getting offered a VP position, “I have cultivated an ability in my life to look at a decision I’m about to make and determine if I want to say ‘NO’ because I’m scared. If the only reason I’m not saying ‘Yes’ is because of fear, then I’m going through with it – the only thing that can happen to me is I will fail and I’ve learned that I will try again, anyway.”

She helped kick some sand up. No deep digging, but just enough dissonance that I took the time to listen to my muses today. I used to write poetry. I stopped somewhere in my life because I felt like I wasn’t good enough to write it anymore. I’m not going to read my work at a coffee shop and I expect no round of snaps. Why would I bother?

But today, I wrote a poem because I don’t want to be scared. I don’t want to fear my feelings because of their depth. I don’t want to care if anyone understands me. I don’t want to fear whether my expression of those feelings will be accepted. I want to write my amazing/crappy poetry in my tiny corner of the internet I’ve dug out for myself so I don’t dig any further and I get it out of me so I can move on to another opportunity to feel extraordinary about feeling extraordinarily…  

I miss my black dog,

She was an effortless certainty,

At night, I would chase her.

In morning, she would let me sleep.

 

We would dig,

Dig deep.

Looking for what was buried,

Desperate for what we could not see.

 

Scraping.

Causing ourselves to bleed.

Picking at the scabs,

To see what was underneath.

 

She would heal me.

A new layer of skin,

Smooth and unknown,

A perfect place to dig again.

 

She cut my flesh,

Hit my bone,

Ripped out my marrow,

Just to know.

 

I miss my black dog,

She kept me company.

Possessive and imposing,

Aggressively digging into me.

 

When my nails bent back,

The pile of misplaced earth thrown aside,

My fingers bloody,

Alone I cried.

 

My black dog had hurt me,

Even though I had never left her side.

 

I loved my black dog,

She made me feel known,

One singular being to understand,

The absolute knowing of feeling alone.

Emotions in the Workplace

For any of you who read this blog with any regularity, you know I am an emotional being. I’ve never felt such a deep soul connection with a celebrity as when Kristen Bell exclaimed on Ellen, “First thing you should know about me, if I’m not between a 3 and a 7 on the emotional scale, I’m crying.”

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It’s true, really. I feel feelings quite intensely. It’s gotten me into some sticky situations at past jobs. I also manifest anger/frustration by crying, which is just horribly inconvenient. Nothing says, “Hey, don’t respect me at all. Just being all womanly and terrifying,” like crying at work. In male dominated workplaces, it’s rough. I just want to feel upset and hide it. So difficult.

Ugh. It drives me crazy. It doesn’t seem right that emotions are so taboo in the workplace. Of course, my perspective is skewed. I want us all to express ourselves, be aware about how we feel, and practice empathy when someone does cry at work. Unfortunately, I see the flaws in that idea from the outset. Crying at work, or really any extreme negative emotional reaction, is just seen as really taboo.

As with most things, I got into a conversation with Jesse about it. Why is emotion so frowned upon at work? What is it about being sad, mad, or passionate about something you care about that needs to be excused from day-to-day work cycles? You are expected to be passionate, but removed at the same time. That seems backwards. You have to care a lot, but not care too much. What?

First off, emotions make people uncomfortable. I mean, if you’re not my client and you start crying, I honestly have no idea what to do other than to empathize with you. Can I hug you? Should I? No. Um, do you need water? How about food? What can I do to make the awkwardness stop?!

Second, and I think more importantly, being emotional in the workplace indicates that you are too involved with emotion in your decision making process. At certain jobs, taking emotions into the equation are important, like counseling for example. At most jobs, rational decisions usually require removing emotional investment. It’s not how bad you want it but is there logically sound reasoning behind your choice?

Now, I’m not suggesting we all turn into Dr. House and just completely remove ourselves from caring completely (holy moly, I just realized I need to do a case file on him). Caring about your co-workers can be a uniting experience. Caring too much about your co-workers, your job, or anything that isn’t completely in your control can be dangerous. Take it from me… I am the queen of caring too much about my job. It’s hard in a society that encourages so much focus on job satisfaction, success, and earnings to just step back a bit and go, “Should I care about this as much as I do?”

For those of you out there who are champions of feelings, I salute you. I’m right there with you. It’s time to work on our self-awareness if we find ourselves too involved and too emotional about what we do for a living. I’m not suggesting we all shrug our shoulders and constantly reflect apathy, but I am suggesting that we keep the outbursts, tears, and large expressions of our vulnerable emotions to a minimum.

Another great reason to have an outlet like counseling. Glad I’m going back. 🙂

What do you all think?

Can you be emotional in the workplace and do a good job?

Related: Sheryl Sandberg says tells women it’s OK to cry at work

Defense Mechanisms: Intellectualization

Ahhhh… my favorite.

I love this defense mechanism because it is by far the sneakiest. It’s considered one of the more advanced forms of defense mechanisms, meaning it needs a little more brain power than your average, everyday one, like denial for example.

With denial, you can just flat out say, “No!” and close your eyes, plug your ears, and sing lalalalalalalalaaaaaah until whatever you’re trying to ignore goes away and you can continue back to your regular way of living. Denial is the most common defense mechanism in addiction and childhood. Like I said, no need for really high brow thinking.

I used intellectualization as my primary defense during my bout with depression. I would spend hours in my room, just thinking things over, coming to bizarre conclusions about why I couldn’t be happy, why life was shit, and why I was a horrible person.

I was reminded of my old crutch yesterday when I was writing the 50 Shades of Grey Case Files and I mentioned that Christian Grey’s primary defense mechanism was intellectualization. I figured for those of you who read this bloggy, you might enjoy a little nugget about intellectualization in greater depth.

The way I conceptualize this mental health issue is first to recognize that very often it is used to gloss over emotion. When we intellectualize, we take emotions out of the equation. This is of course a good thing very often. We don’t want people making life altering decisions when they are depressed or angry because that’s unstable and dangerous. It’s the argument lots of people make for why we shouldn’t have a woman president.

But that’s precisely the point, we’re globalizing a stereotype to make sense of our world. We’re taking what we believe to be “fact” and just smearing it over our lives. It is not a fact that women are too emotional and incapable of making appropriate decisions. Sure, we cry, we get angry, but I have learned not to make life-changing decisions out of extreme emotion. I may have learned it the hard way, but hell, I learned by 25 – that’s saying something.

I’m rambling, but ultimately, intellectualization is a way we rationalize our lives by using “facts” (as we see them) to make sense of our world, instead of taking in the whole experience. For example, a woman president would be awesome for many reasons, including having someone to represent the rights of women, someone who is equally, if not more educated than the men, someone who has proven themselves in politics time and again, regardless of her ’emotional state’. Say what you will about Hillary, but girlfriend does a good job of hanging with the boys. I don’t see her crying every time she’s at a press conference.

When we’re deciding to marry someone, we should use all of the information we have – how we feel and think about a person and our future with them. When we’re deciding what to do with our lives, we evaluate the things that are necessary – pay, job security, health coverage, etc. – but then we really should sit and consider our happiness over the long-term with that decision. If we don’t, we’re not being honest with ourselves. If we ignore how we feel every time we sit in our room and listen to sad music and think too much, then we’re not living the life we want, no matter how much thinking about how to feel better makes sense. Sure, mentally it makes sense, but ignoring the sadness we feel is not intellectual at all. It’s short-sighted.

Which is what a defense mechanism is; ultimately it’s an excuse to ignore the bigger picture because we are trying to avoid emotional pain and reality. I feel that we live in a society that doesn’t value emotions, which is more dangerous than any woman in the White House. Whether we like it or not, emotions are real. They exist, we all have them swirling around in our body with varying intensity, and we should honor how we feel. If we did, we would likely have a workforce that wasn’t so burnt out and disenchanted with their work-life balance. If we did, we would have a political climate based on compassion instead of fear, because we’d actually process how we feel about something completely (emotions + thoughts/facts) rather than just instinctively reacting to one or the other and then writing it on a sign and screaming it at people. If we did, we’d be happier.