Based on a True Sweater

Nov. 30, 2006

I Don't Lighten Up

It seems I'm going to follow my usual bloggng MO here: I do a bunch of stuff that I'm excited about and want to blog about; I get busy and procrastinate and don't write about it because I think I don't have time to write a good enough post. Time passes and I feel like hiding from my blog because I haven't written about whatever it was. Then, faithful reader, you get my random thoughts about whatever I feel compelled enough to write on a day when the stars and atoms align correctly for me to sit down and write. And so it goes.

I was blog-surfing during breakfast today, and landed at a blog I'd never read before. The current entry was the writer's announcement that she and her husband were splitting up. It was long and articulate. Near the end, she apologized for being so serious. What's wrong with this picture?

Obviously there's a discussion to be had here about relevant social phenomena, blogging culture, and on and on, but I'm not going to go there today. No, instead, it's going to be All About Me. (I need to start tagging these posts, like Jodi does.) I promise, though, I'll make it into something about not-just-me.

I got to thinking about a friend I used to have. Around the time Zak and I were preparing to get married, I had a very intense and damaging friendship with someone who used to tell me to lighten up all the time. I've been told to lighten up all my life, by many different people, and I've got to say, I hate it more than you can imagine.

On the whole, people don't tell you to lighten up because they're concerned for your emotional well-being. They do it because they are uncomfortable with your feelings, and because they don't really want to go where you are.

It's true that people don't all experience things the same way, and that's fine. I don't need everyone to process information and emotion the same way I do, and I don't think I should have to think and feel the same way someone else does. Because we all really only know what it's like inside our own heads, it can take a while to figure out how you are different from other people. (Think about colour-blindness. How do you know what colours other people see?) It's taken me a long time to realize that I am, to a larger degree than normal, serious, passionate, imaginative and emotionally intense. Why is this something I've been shamed for?

There is a balance to be found between wanting to improve yourself, and accepting who you are. There are certainly things about myself that I have worked concertedly to change, and things which I am still striving to change.

I think that too often, people are content to say "that's just who I am" about aspects of themselves which are damaging to themselves and those around them. (There's a lot of cultural reinforcement for this, too, but that's a tangent for another time.)

However, it's absolutely vital to recognize which of your qualities and characteristics are at the core of your being, and define who you are. Those things do not need to be "improved" away. They are aspects which need to be accepted and cared for, and if your environment and relationships are hostile to these parts of you, then they will be inimical to your soul.

The trick, of course, is in knowing how to differentiate between qualities to nurture, and qualities to work on. I'm afraid I don't have a clean answer for that. Being honest with yourself about this can be a terribly difficult, scary and slippery task.

The other trick is in not hating yourself for needing to improve. We are often so afraid to admit that we are flawed, that when we finally face this, we end up having self-loathing to deal with, too!

I've learned to choose better friends, and I'm much more comfortable with myself as a result. I feel like the people in my life now actually do accept me, and like me for who I am. They don't tell me to fucking lighten up.

Nov. 15, 2006


I'm in Calgary this week, visiting people I love and miss. Although I'm not going to be able to see everyone I was hoping to see while I'm here, it's been a really excellent trip so far. There's a lot to tell; I'll write more in coming days. Tonight, however, was particularly special.

Eight and a half years ago, I had a terrible, terrible fight with a beloved friend. I was quite certain that our friendship was truly lost. Because of a mutual friend, we did eventually regain contact a few years ago, but I didn't really think we would ever really reconnect.

We went out for dinner tonight, and we did indeed reconnect. We talked about the fight we had had and about how we both regretted the rift between us. We started catching up. I had never thought that this could happen; the fight had been so horrible, and it had hurt so much. I know that one dinner after eight years is really just a start, but I feel like I have my friend back.

In the aftermath of the fight eight-plus years ago, I made a choice to use the awful loss of my friend as an opportunity to change the things about myself which had contributed to the conflict. I really worked hard at this; the price was so high, I wanted to be sure I would earn something valuable in return. (Okay, I've never actually put it in those terms before, but the analogy makes sense to me.) Tonight, I feel as though I've been given a refund.

Sitting here in my parents' house right now, thinking of my friends, my husband, my loving family, and this lost, lamented friendship now regained, I can hardly imagine how I could be luckier.

Nov. 2, 2006

Thank You

Thank you all so much for your comments on my last post. They have really meant a lot to me.

May I offer you some Hallowe'en candy?