Getting Friendly

You will have to forgive me if this post occasionally slips into a not-as-funny-as-Tina-Fey imitation of Tina Fey. I read Bossypants over the weekend. Well, OK, I read Bossypants until 2 a.m. Sunday morning.

All Americans should read this book. (It is strongly grounded in U.S. culture and so may not be funny to non-Americans.) Both my cat and I were disturbed by how hard I could laugh sitting in a room by myself.

After finishing the book, I decided that clearly the best way to appreciate the experience was to go straight into “oh my God what have I done by ignoring all my really important tasks to read this book” mode. This mode leads not to any action that might improve the situation but rather to a really good reason not to get up in the morning. I decided to feel sorry for myself for five minutes before beginning the day.

In those ten minutes (I needed an extension.), a rare thing happened: I recognized that I was feeling inadequate. My usual reaction to any emotion except happiness or peacefulness is, “La, la, la, I’m not listening.” The really top notch reasoning behind that reaction goes something like this: if I feel inadequate, maybe I am, and that’s too scary to actually be conscious of.

“Bad” emotions are not nearly so unpleasant when we stop being afraid of them. Years ago, in China, I spent a lot of time feeling lonely, enough time that loneliness shrank from a giant ogre to a small gnome. We became buddies. I’d open the door and say, “Oh, loneliness, it’s you, come on in,” similar to what Rumi describes in his poem, “The Guesthouse.”

It is not a newsflash to say we are afraid of our emotions in this country. One tiny illustration: perhaps more than anything else, we value and spend time being professionals. Expressing feelings, other than pride in a job well done, is generally considered unprofessional.

I find it mildly disturbing that it took me thirty-seven years to recognize feeling inadequate. I’m sure we’ve spent some time together; I’m sure we’ll spend some more, but maybe the next visit will be more friendly.

9 thoughts on “Getting Friendly

  1. Dear Rachel, Although I am subscribed to your blog, I admit I don’t read every post… But when I do, I always love what you have to say. Great post 🙂

  2. So, so true. Sometimes we have to get out and down in the mud to fix the car, not just keep trying to spin our way forward into driving. Sometimes we have to sit down in the middle of life’s road and mourn before we can get up again. And sometimes, you teach me, we have to open the door in a recognizing and inviting fashion. Thank you.

  3. Suzanne Vega flashback. Here is a bit. Not as nuanced as yours, but it occurs to me.

    Solitude stands by the window
    She turns her head as I walk in the room
    I can see by her eyes she’s been waiting
    Standing in the slant of the late afternoon

    And she turns to me with her hand extended
    Her palm is split with a flower with a flame

    Solitude stands in the doorway
    And I’m struck once again by her black silhouette
    By her long cool stare and her silence
    I suddenly remember each time we’ve met

    And she turns to me with her hand extended
    Her palm is split with a flower with a flame

  4. I belong to a small writing group and was surprised to hear two members despair how they hardly ever get time alone, how they treasure the time to just be by themselves. I was too ashamed to tell them how in my life, even though married with children and grandchildren, I’m mostly alone.

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