Tonight I would like to talk to you about tidy emotions.
Tidy emotions are those that make people -mostly others, but could be you too because you've internalized others' and societal expectations- and society comfortable.
They're the "it's for the best" when someone dies. The "it was meant to be" when something crappy happens -a break-up, for example- and you're desperately and painfully trying to make sense of things. The "calm down and relax" when your heart is upset and, oh, maybe your country seems to be dying. The looks of "hmm" and the cacophonous silence when some bravely stand up in the face of injustice juxtaposed with the loud applause for bathing puppies and perfectly wrapped gifts that pepper our landscape with perky regularity.
For so many years, I was admonished for wearing my heart on my sleeve. I was chastised for my emotions. I was made to feel I was an awful burden because I felt things deeply. I was called "too much," and "too intense," and, yes, "a burden" because I worried about so many relationships and issues and because my confidence couldn't find a stud in which to brace itself against the many winds whirling about. I care about the fate of the polar bears. So sue me. I was told that I "seemed to be awfully stressed" when I had a newborn and a just-three-year-old and didn't have a night nurse and nanny like the person who was telling me I was stressed.
I am quite sure that there were times I was too much, that I was too emotional. I did learn to modulate and moderate, to assess context and situation, to respond versus react, and for that I am infinitely grateful. My porous self has certainly made life hard many times over. I have often wished for a sturdier core.
But I have also unlearned some of that muzzling. I've left behind that inner voice that commanded I be of a certain weight and size. I have worked hard to loose the reins on MY voice, and to accept, to HONOR, that it is sensitive and attuned. That although it is sometimes intense or thorny, it is, more often, generous and kind and feeling. And I will tell you that I would choose being all of that any day over privileged and aloof and tidy and small.
Tidy is women a long time ago but also too many of us today. Tidy is something you could once only afford to be. Tidy is something still afforded by class and privilege.
Tidy makes me tired, as my Aunt Da used to say. Tidy is dull and inaccessible and frequently lacks authenticity.
The opposite of tidy isn't fake or false or vapid. It isn't singular or snotty. No, those things are as improper, in my opinion, as is superficial polish. They are, often, worse, for they are entitled and ugly and out of touch.
The opposite of tidy is real. REAL. Authentic, candid, Self translated. The opposite of tidy is not going gently. The opposite of tidy is, usually, being courageously on the right side of history.
In today's New York Times, Charles Blow wrote
"I fully understand that elevated outrage is hard to maintain. It’s exhausting. But the alternative is surrender to national nihilism and the welcoming of woe. The next four years could be epochal years in the history of this country. They could test the limits of presidential power and the public’s passivity.
I happen to believe that history will judge kindly those who continued to shout, from the rooftops, through their own weariness and against the corrosive drift of conformity: This is not normal!"
Whether you want to see it or not, America is falling apart. As is our news, our common belief in fact, the binding threads of our communal quilt. Judgment and bigotry and exclusion and restriction are racing back into our public spheres in terrifying ways. We were better than this. I am ashamed that we've decided to put that exceptional goodness on hiatus. We should ALL be ashamed of that.
For those who are, stay loud. Stay strong. Resist. Anger is OK if you don't let it overtake you.
If someone tells you to get over it, or quiet down, or just move on, tell them to shove it. For those of you who only share lightness and animals and happy family pictures, consider why. Usually, the outtake prior to the "perfect" shot was the more real one. If you see someone suffering or struggling or simply in need of a hug, give.
Be honest. Be real. Do not surrender.