The other day I was with a group of friends, and one of them knows who I was ten years ago. She was telling a “new” friend about how Shahd used to be really tough, scary, and difficult to approach. I thought about this for awhile. I used to be very defensive. I used to be guarded, at all times. I was rational, and always very afraid of emotion, of drama, and of people. I still don’t enjoy being around too many people. Give me one or two at a time. Intimate conversation over coffee, never a group’s gathering. I hate having to politely socialize and I end up extremely awkward anyway.
So throughout the past decade, and especially the past year, I have shed a layer or two of my skin. I am not as thick-skinned as I used to be. Back in the day, criticism wouldn’t make or break me. Today, it affects me. I am left baffled and insulted. When I was younger, I would shrug my shoulders and assume the bully has issues (smart, I know). But today, as an adult, I can’t make sense of unkindness. I can’t understand why people poke at your wounds once they know just how bad they are. I don’t like confrontation much, but sometimes I think I’d rather be a child shoving someone back when they shove me. That simple. But with adult language, with etiquette, with sensitivity, “proper socializing”, one stops and thinks. We have to assess the situation. Is it worth speaking up? Is it worth inflicting pain on the other person? Maybe we should excuse their behavior? Then again, how much is enough?
As much as I despise confrontation, because of how difficult it is to show vulnerability (which is automatically read as weakness), I hate the aftermath of it. I can’t deal with silence, passive aggressiveness, and yet I also cannot handle a war-zone of aggression and insults. Women are labeled as “emotional”, “crazy”, “unpredictable” – and what bothers me is when women do it to each other. I don’t understand how emotions are dismissed, how “dramatic” becomes the easiest term to throw around, when instead we should really listen. We don’t listen. I don’t mean listening to the words. Over the years, I’ve learned to be less defensive, yes. I’ve learned to listen, to listen to the silence, to the words left unsaid, to see through patterns and assess before I conclude. But this has left me more open to injury. Am I right to believe we need to be neither rational nor emotional, neither defensive nor defenseless? In theory, yes, it sounds do-able. Now for the application. How? Can someone give me a formula I can depend on?