Women growing older with grace and gusto

Feelin’ pissy

I also wonder whether the more upbeat and positive, shiny happy bloggers are REALLY telling it like it is for them and whether this might leave the rest of us feeling slightly inadequate and turning to the self-help books when the reality is that for most of us, most of the time there is a half-full, half-empty cup of reality to be sipped?

photo credit: gcbb

This was a comment by Kate on my recent post about online community. I think it’s really important (in fact I wrote about this topic a couple of years ago on my last blog, here).

We’re all inadequate, flawed human beings, stumbling into grace. I frequently feel hopeless, bleak, powerfully angry and full of hatred. I’m guessing these feelings aren’t unknown to you, either.

Everyone in the world has gone to bed one night or another with fear or pain or loss or disappointment and yet each of us has awakened, arisen, somehow made our ablutions, seen other human beings and: “Morning, how are you?” “Fine thanks, and you?” It’s amazing. Wherever that abides in the human being, there is the nobleness of the human spirit.

Maya Angelou

Making it better

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it, to try everything to fix our periods of pain? And when someone is going through what we call in Britain, with typical understatement, “a bad patch”, we want to make it better for them. But it isn’t necessarily the right thing to do.

I had a conversation with a life coach I was working with a while back (not you, Sally Lever!) which fractured the relationship for me. I don’t recall the context, but I mentioned the difficulty I’ve had all my life not knowing what emotion I’m feeling until later. I expressed the desire to feel my emotions deeply and immediately. “Careful”, she said, “if you focus like that you may invite negative emotions into your life. You need to focus specifically on your desire to be happy. You do want to be happy, don’t you?”

No, I do not want to be “happy”. I want to feel turbulent gusts of pure joy that lift me off my feet. And how do you recognise great joy without opening also to the capacity for great pain?

Crouching in the darkness

I believe those periods of darkness are vitally important. It’s in the shadow that our greatest growth can occur. We need to stay with it.

In her comment on my recent post Death by Pep Squad, Karen introduced me to the blog Falstaff Was My Tutor, and to his post A Bitter Draught.

He talks about this far more eloquently than I can:

I want you to meet me in the Underworld and have a genuine and honest, heartfelt, unaffected, candid, interaction in which you tell me what you know to be true of you in that very moment rather than the pretty sentiments of someone writing in reflection from lessons they’ve already learned and moved on from … All you see is darkness. But darkness is not the defining characteristic of the Underworld; in fact, once one’s eyes adjust to the apparent darkness, the Underworld reveals itself to be iridescent.

But don’t wallow

There’s a trap lying in wait for us in the darkness. We can get hooked on the drama. The iridescence of the Underworld is not something to cling to. Once it has taught us what we need to know, it hands us back up to the light.

And remember to laugh

It’s incredible how laughter can bubble up like living water through the cracks in great anger and sorrow. You just have to make room for it.

And in fact I did laugh out loud just now as I realised what the title of this blog post reminds me of. Remember 59th Street Bridge Song by Simon and Garfunkel?

Slow down, you’re movin’ too fast
You gotta make the morning last
Just kickin’ down the cobblestones
Lookin’ for fun and
Feelin’ groovy

Sometimes we all feel groovy, other times pissy, don’t you think? And ultimately, that’s OK.

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17 Responses to Feelin’ pissy

  1. I adore you, Tess! This is the most quotable thing I’ve read all week: “No, I do not want to be “happy”. I want to feel turbulent gusts of pure joy that lift me off my feet.”

    Amen, Sister!!! Keep telling the whole story 🙂
    The Pollinatrix recently posted..Diggin’ ItMy Profile

  2. I go through phases where I become ashamed of my stuff once more and hide it. And yet whenever I speak of it, I don’t think I have ever once had anybody respond in a way that made me want to hide away. It’s just the internal shame which does that now, not anything external.

    Ahhh, to be able to climb out of the forest again, yes. While it’s hard to go underground, sometimes I think we can get snagged there too, and stay there. Which is weird, seeing it’s so hard to go there in the first place 😉

    But even more snaggy is getting caught in negative stuff. It’s funny, you know – I am dealing at the moment with understanding in my body where I am carrying old anger and old fear. There’s an awful lot of it – I always knew I was a terrified kid; now I can feel how much I was. Entering into these places to effect change is difficult because sometimes it’s easy to get stuck here too.

    But to never go there at all? No. I’ve learnt to not trust people who lack the courage to go there. We have to, sometimes.
    Sue recently posted..I Love MenMy Profile

  3. There are multiple issues with some of this for me though, I have to say. And some deeper considerations than simply happy and shiny vs honesty and transparency. This isn’t really an either or situation.

    Let’s say that someone has some things in their history. Perhaps they have been victimized in some way or are in a horrible divorce or are dealing with an illness. One would need to be ready to have them published, and then out there forever and ever. Because the internet means things exist for a very long time. And with some types of issues, one might be making decisions for more than one person by being “out”. (If it’s the significant other who is ill for instance. You’re in there dealing with this huge thing every day, but it’s not yours to tell if they want privacy.) There is no such thing as anonymity any longer. Also, the self-employed or those in more artistic careers may have the freedom and privilege to be able to be more forth-coming, whereas someone working in a conservative corporation may not feel that they do.

    Let’s take the example of a victim of some sort of violence, for instance. This is something that can create extreme vulnerability and fear and shame. It can be incredibly difficult to deal with. And, for good or ill, people who are ignorant about it may make assumptions that are unfair but could impact one’s life. Let’s make our blogger a single mother who is job-hunting. Or maybe she sells happy little signs on etsy. While there may be many benefits for her to talk about what happened to her, it may also change her life in ways she’s not ready to deal with. And heaven knows, with something like that, she should do what is going to feel safest and best for her. Period.

    So keeping things real can be challenging and deciding how much to talk about on a blog is a decision that needs to be done relatively slowly and thoughtfully, because once something is out there, it’s out there. Just another side to the topic here, which I’m finding very interesting.

    • Em, you raise some really good points here. I can completely understand why some bloggers prefer anonymity.
      And this is a strange world in which our comments, as you say, have a long half-life.
      For me, it isn’t about how much someone discloses on-line, I think that’s entirely a personal matter. Where I struggle is trusting people who never make reference to serious problems and pretend everything’s easy.

      • Ah. Okay. I immediately went to the extremes with this. I do understand what you’re saying.

        In my own life, I’m in the midst of a breakup. And while it’s not easy, it also doesn’t make me feel particularly vulnerable to talk about it. But deciding how to deal with it on my blog (briefly at this point) made me think of how one would deal with things that have a high vulnerability level and I guess it’s that that I’m wondering about.

        I also have a relatively new blog, with only a few people who comment, and so I’m still in that “am I sending this out to the void” place combined with the feeling of being at a party of friends where I only know one or two people. And I know that just needs time and authenticity.
        Em recently posted..The First Day of …My Profile

  4. Keeping things real is really pretty simple: I come from a violent background, but when I am writing about my low times, it is about those low times. I might reference something from my past but in a shorthand way. No details. I focus on the way I am RIGHT NOW and what I am doing about it (or not).

    Using shorthand is enough. People from abusive backgrounds…it’s all the same. Abusers are NEVER creative. They fit the book (and I think, by now, I’ve read all those books). It is astounding, actually, how alike they all are. So we don’t have to tell old story; we can focus on the results of it — which is where people need help, need tribes anyway. I don’t want to bond with someone because we were abused in the same way; I want to bond with you because we HOPE in the same way.

    And yes, Tess, I completely agree — you don’t get the true joy unless you admit the true happy. So much of this “happy thinking” crap is just puritanical repression and I would NOT want to be around on the day that old life couch of yours actually has to face her demons!
    Christine (Blisschick) Reed recently posted..A Peek at the ProcessMy Profile

  5. I struggle with the notion that because I am naturally cheerful I never get to be angry. That the sky is falling if I step out and get passionately excited about something and as a result I am asked “what drugs are you on?”. Ha! Duende is apparently some foreign disease. Where is it written that our personalities are locked in and we cannot change unless it is a pathological condition? Oh – yes – it’s from the same rule that states that revelation ended with the closing of the New Testament. (wry smile – not bitter smile)

    In case no one has noticed — I LOVE to rant – especially with a big smile on my face!!!

    I have only written one longish opinion on my newish blog. I’m still testing – tilting – looking for an excuse to give up the delusion that I am a sweet lover of Christ.
    Karen recently posted..ParadoxMy Profile

  6. I love the turbulent gusts too!

    I’ve been thinking about this question since I read your post – I agree about allowing ourselves to feel a full range of emotions (this is one of the reasons I love poetry, you can get to be deeply dark) but there’s a different question, for me anyway, about what we choose to share online.

    I’m not meaning everything should be happiness and light, I too get nauseated by too much of what doesn’t seem real, but I do try not to write or tweet when I’m feeling down, angry or cynical – I don’t like the kind of negative energy that sends out into the world – and there’s more than enough of that already

    Just wondering what you thought about that really as part of the whole question of building community online?
    Joanna Paterson recently posted..Looking Without A CameraMy Profile

    • Poetry – yes it’s a life-saver for me.

      The point you make here is very important. It happens that I rarely indulge in public expression of it (although I find journalling helpful) when I’m down/angry etc. And in fact I rarely discuss it with anyone in real life.

      What I find really destructive are the kind of discussions you find on Facebook which whip up a kind of lynch mob mentality in response to something that’s happened.

      I’m reminded of Jean Shinoda Bolen’s Book Crones Don’t Whine (which I reviewed here a while back). In it, she talks about destructive whining and self-pity. But she also says “Grief is not whining. Even whimpering is not whining.”

      I used to follow a business blog written by a clever woman. Her advice was great. And a couple of times she shared with her readers serious events from her private life. Once was the sudden illness and death of her mother, once her own diagnosis with cancer. She shared these things primarily because she would be offline for a while. She was grieving but not self-pitying. And the outpouring of support in the comments was heartening and community building.

      I think what I’m saying is that there’s a different between negativity and sharing. Does that make sense?

  7. It’s about “spectrum,” isn’t it? It’s about the difference between a Beethoven symphony swirling and crashing with sturm und drang one minute and delicately lyrical the next set against elevator music, homogeneous, innocuous, pastel, that blends quietly into the background, thoughtfully provided so that we will never be forced to endure even a moment of silence (like silence is some horrible, terrible thing to be avoided at all costs).

    It seems like our whole society is bent on quashing us down and narrowing our bandwidth into a tight little “comfort zone.” We’re taught on every hand that the greatest goal is to be happy, and that if we’re not happy, there must be something wrong with us.

    Instead of being prepared for extremes, given some paradigms to help us cope with the range and depth of our natural, normal, human emotions (the devastating effects of grief, for example), we are taught to fear them, especially their intensity, to dampen, suppress, and choke them down, even disown them. How sad to have to be told to dance as if no one was watching, because it means we don’t understand what dancing is all about.

    Yellow is a nice color. It’s cheerful, sunny. But would I give up the rest of the rainbow for it? No, I wouldn’t. I want dark indigo and ultraviolet days, too, and ruby red days, and days that are mixtures and shades of colors, gray scale days, and stained glass days. Since we seem to be quoting Paul Simon songs, “Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away.”

    Off topic, slightly, but pertinent in a way, we shouldn’t need to be taught how to be alone, either. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7X7sZzSXYs )
    WOL recently posted..Too Amazing Not to ShareMy Profile

  8. WOL, this is a fantastic comment, all the way. I love the analogy with Beethoven and muzac. (I played Beethoven very loudly on the record player the night my father died. It was my private way of seeing him out of this world.)
    Here’s to a full spectrum of LIFE.
    And thanks for posting the alone video. I had seen it before, but not for a long time, and it was delicious to see it again.

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