A little over a year ago, I was having dinner with my parents to celebrate my 28th birthday. I was scheduled to have surgery a few weeks later to remove an ovarian cyst that had been found unintentionally during an ultrasound purposed with locating missing IUD strings (because there are exactly zero birth control options that do not entail some sort of bullshit). During dinner, I mentioned how annoyed I was with the impending operation, its interruption to my routine, and the general unpredictability of recovery time and whether my doctor would have to remove the entire ovary or just the cyst. I don’t like not knowing things. Underneath my irritation, I was also very scared, but fear is not something I generally admit to.
My stepmom looked up, seemingly annoyed with me, and said, “Well, you just need to think positive about it.” The way she said it was quick and biting. It was as if to say, “Shut your mouth, you big baby. You’re ruining my street taco trio with your harrowing negativity.”
Communication 101: This is the WORST way to respond to someone who is upset about something. If you can’t think of anything to say, just say something like “I’m sorry, that sucks.”
I didn’t know how to respond, and I think I kind of froze. I felt judged, and that my feelings were in some way unjustified and invalid.
Please let Parks and Recreation show you the way…
My parents came to my apartment the day after my surgery to bring me some food and things to keep me busy while I couldn’t do much else but sit around with a lengthy Netflix queue. Side note: Laparoscopic surgeries are actually fucking terrible despite the shrugs they usually get from people. “You’re having surgery? Is it laparoscopic? It is? Oh.” *shrug* Sometimes it felt like my skin was about to rip apart at one or more of the four incision points including the one in my belly button. Not to mention not the inability to use your core to support yourself and the stress that puts on your arms and back.
The care package included a book about unlocking human motivational drives…or something like that. There was a note inside the book about how I deserved the best and could have it with “positive action.” I knew this gift was given to me as a result of the dinner conversation. Maybe I’m being an asshole about this, and my stepmom just gave me a book she read and enjoyed. But getting a note about positive action a few weeks after being barked at to “just think positive” was a little too obvious and very passive aggressive. It was clear someone thought this was a problem that I needed a self-help book to fix. It made me realize how little my parents know or understand how I process things, and they certainly don’t know that I have a pretty good handle on it. Maybe being understood by your parents doesn’t matter anymore when you’re almost 30, but if you’re going to give someone a gift like that, know your audience. I haven’t read the book yet, and I’m not sure that I will.
I stumbled upon a quote recently that made me stop for minute. It read, “The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said this. I’ll be honest, I’m mostly unfamiliar with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I know he was a poet, and that’s about it. I also don’t know what rain represents here, but for me, the rain is my feelings. In a way, this helped me figure out how to articulate to others how I feel about my feelings.
I’ve noticed that the willingness to acknowledge and sit with your feelings, however difficult they may be, is often misconstrued as being negative or pessimistic. It’s even worse if you tell the wrong person how you feel. It’s one thing to uselessly complain (we all know at least one person who does this). It’s another to tell someone how you feel because you’re looking for someone to trust and treat your feelings with the respect they deserve.
I’ll admit that hyper-positivity (I don’t know if that’s a phrase that people actually use) irritates the hell out of me, mostly because I have my doubts about how genuine it is. It’s like there’s happiness broom sweeping all of the shit you don’t want to deal with right now under a rug that’s supposed to hide all that is undesirable, but eventually, nothing else will fit under that rug. Then you have a big fucking mess to clean up when you could have dealt with it before you swept it under the rug. Maybe it is genuine and incredibly naïve at the same time. It’s the person who says, “I thought the world was a better place,” after a tragedy occurs, and you look at them with your head cocked to the side, like they are brand new to the planet and respond, “Oh, honey.” Then you feel like you need to hug them because, let’s face it, these kinds of people are huggers, and you’re doing okay (sad and angry maybe, but dealing with it) because already knew what a shit place the world can be. Except you’re not a hugger, and you kind of want them to suck it up and deal with it because that’s what you’ve been doing for basically your entire life.
Only the people closest to me know the extent of my optimism. I believe that most people are good, some are well-intentioned but uneducated, but the bad people who do exist can cause irreparable damage. I believe in the power of kindness and treating people with respect, and I hope with all of my soul that love and goodness will always win. I look for the good people who emerge in bad situations because they always do. I am also willing to acknowledge when things just suck and let it be for a while until I figure out how to make it not so.
It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be annoyed. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to feel however you feel because you always work through it, and you’ll be okay.
After all, it doesn’t rain forever, but you can’t force it to stop. Eventually, the sun comes out, or better yet, a rainbow appears among dispersing clouds. Then you know that everything will be fine.