Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Our culture is not nurturing."

I read this stirring editorial in the New York Times yesterday and I love this quote:
"Our culture is not nurturing. We ask each other, “How are you doing?” but we do not really want to know. We do not really want that person to say anything other than “fine,” because that would mean we would have to listen, to really care, something that most of us have not even done with ourselves. ... And as a result, we have a “fine” culture that is everything but fine. Medicated smiles, robotic responses, whole lifetimes that pass under the guise of “fine” when all we really want is for someone to ask and care." 

Alexandra Heather Foss
An old friend once lost her mother and sister to cancer and later lamented about how coworkers avoided her at work afterwards. "They didn't even tell me 'sorry for your loss' or anything." She sniffed.

Personal troubles can be such a clumsy topic to broach, especially at work. After my husband and I separated, I basically announced that I would not be talking about it. (Well, except to close friends.) I did this because I couldn't run the risk of breaking down. Even the slightest mention, tilt of the head or sympathetic gesture would make me choke up. I hate HATE crying in front of anyone. It has always seemed like a cruel gift from the universe to grant the girl who hates being vulnerable such easy access to tears.

So maybe this is why people don't say something when someone is going through a hard time. They don't know if it feels intrusive. But not saying anything can be worse. Either way, pain is a clumsy subject.

One of the reasons I started blogging was experimenting with this side, with being open. It might be hard to believe but I wasn't always this expressive. I'm very good at listening but wasn't so much with sharing. I started my first blog in 2005. Not an ounce of it was personal. I used it as a digital collection device. It took another couple of years to gather the courage to write even on a superficial level and then only fairly recently did I begin this, what you're reading now.

As difficult as it's been to be open, it's also been one of the most rewarding experiences because of the feedback (sometimes commented, sometimes emailed). It's allowed me to understand I'm not alone. And now this benefit is becoming mainstream -- people are talking about how vulnerability is the true gift that allows us to relate to each other and accept our own humanity (e.g.: Ted Talk by Brene Brown on the Power of Vulnerability -- 20 min video). I've enjoyed deeper relationships from this kind of sharing. It's so  rewarding to deeply relate.