This week has brought a few things to my attention. One, that I really need to work on my physical and mental responses to stress. (Walking home from Tesco the other day, I wondered why pretty much everywhere above my waist was aching. Turns out that being a tightly-wound ball of anxiety isn’t good for your muscles – they don’t like being kept in a constant state of “clench”.)
Two, if, at any point, I do pursue a career as a writer, this MA will have been spectacularly useful in that if nothing else, I’ve learnt to endure great lengths of time in a room with only words for company.
Three, families can really surprise you – a parcel from my mother arrived yesterday, containing a serious amount of (home-made, so-sweet-and-sticky-it’s-a-total-foodgasm) flapjack, a bar of Dairy Milk and some of those amazing Lindt balls. Oh yummy. (It also justifies the salad diet I’ve been attempting lately.)
And four. The biggie.
That there is a small, slight, skinny outside chance that maybe, just maybe, I’d feel a lot more relaxed if I, like, told people how I felt about stuff. To their faces!
What fresh hell is this?!
I don’t mean I want to become one of those crazy psycho-bitches who’s always freaking out – loudly – about something. I mean, I know fine rightly I can be Miss Over-reactor 2012, but I pride myself on being able to internalise it quite well. Or rather, vent at length to everybody else except the party concerned. Sometimes, things have come to pass that I haven’t been totally happy with – generally in friendship/relationship scenarios – and I’ve bitten my lip and held my tongue, having weighed up the costs and benefits of raising the issue. Sometimes it’s a case of, “Is this situation going to improve if I say something? Or is it going to make it into an actual problem the minute I open my mouth?” My favourite way of talking myself down from a “but why would he do that?” freak-out is, “Am I going to care about/even remember this in a week/month/three months?” Often, the answer is “no, of course not. Get a grip”.
But the effort. Oh, the effort. The very nature of being a “bottler” means that no-one appreciates the effort that goes in to not going nuts from time to time. On the one hand, it’s probably a good work-out for my mental strength – being able to claw back some perspective and not make a big deal out of every little thing is an advantage, surely? On the other hand, it does make you want to exclaim “Do you know how hard I am trying to not make an issue out of this? Do you?” when you finally snap. (By which point you’re sounding somewhat hissy and exactly like you are making an issue out of it.)
So, in a sense, internalising everything and only letting yourself confront your feelings when you’re alone in your room, with some very shouty aggressive music playing, is kind of a protective thing. It protects other people from potentially being hurt or pissed off by your feelings. But it’s also quite damaging, and I think I’m finally starting to see that (I can almost feel friends and loved ones thinking “What? She’s realised? At last!!”). The number of times where I could have said to people, “what you just said/the way you’re treating me is really not OK” – and they might have been arsey about it initially, but no one can be blamed for having feelings. Hell, they might have even apologised. It’s not an “anything-for-a-quiet-life” thing – it’s a fear of how others will react that keeps me quiet, as well as a fear of hurting them, I guess. Even if they have pissed me off.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to go and start arguments on a twice-daily basis. When it comes to friendships and relationships, I like to think I have a keenly-developed sense of perspective. (Stop laughing. Where my MA is concerned, that’s another matter. There’s no room for perspective there.) I guess there are people who, if someone has riled them, aren’t afraid to let that person know. And then there’s my kind of people – we bottle. We always bottle. Which is OK sometimes, and really bloody exhausting the rest of the time. That bottling tendency is thrown into especially harsh light when you come across someone who not only cares how you feel, but isn’t afraid to tackle things head-on. Someone who wants to be actively involved in your life.
I’m not entirely sure how I go about breaking the firmly-entrenched habit of a lifetime. There’s that quote about saying how you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind, but I don’t think Dr Seuss is going to help here. Easier said, and all that.
So yeah. One day I’ll be able to say exactly how I feel – to the relevant people – and that ability will spare me, and the people I live with, no end of angst.
I’m late to the party as far as these guys are concerned, but you should listen to this song. By God, it’s beautiful.