Thursday, January 23, 2014

Handle with care

My daughter Annie would be the first to tell you that she is a bit on the sensitive side.

And while it's true, I often try to help her reframe that idea of herself into more positive, affirming adjectives. I tell her she is compassionate, she is empathetic, she is thoughtful, and she has a tender, open heart. And I tell her that those are all good, good things. I tell her I wouldn't change a thing about her.

And, in theory, I wouldn't. Except that I kind of want to...for her sake.

I want to temper her compassion and empathy with just a dose of apathy (just a dose, mind you). I want to water down her thoughtfulness with just a drop of selfishness. And most of all, I want to build a wall around that tender, open heart of hers. Not a very tall wall, and not an indestructible wall, just a wall high enough and strong enough that maybe not everything can get through.

I want to do all of those things in spite of my great love for all that is Annie, because I know exactly how it feels to move through the world with paper-thin-skin and a gaping wide open heart.

It's interesting to me when I hear people talk about or write about "Facebook envy" or in its more general form, "social media envy." The idea being that some people find themselves feeling deflated by what appears to be the perfect lives of others. Perfect crafty birthday parties on Pinterest, perfect photos on Instagram, perfect family vacations on Facebook. And while I can't relate to it, if I step outside of myself enough I can understand how under different circumstances I could fall prey to the same phenomenon. I don't feel that envy but I also don't judge that envy because I know it is most likely coming from a place of hurt. Back in the day when I was struggling with infertility, Facebook might not have been the right place for me, and I'm kind of glad it didn't exist.

So, when I say I don't personally feel the social media envy some people struggle with, I am not saying I think it's crazy. It's just not my battle.

My battle is with social media fighting and labeling and political posturing and the feeding frenzy that can erupt when someone says something the slightest bit controversial. And the reason this is my battle is because at the end of the day I am NOT cut out for battle.

I feel wounded when someone else feels wounded. I feel attacked when someone else is attacked. I want to speak but fear keeps me silent. I am a great big baby who doesn't know how to unravel the knot in my stomach every time I witness conflict flare up, even when I am not personally involved.

Here is the thing, I just don't DO conflict. Even perfectly sensible, civilized debate leaves me rattled. I'm not proud of that, believe me. Part of me wishes I could stand up for my convictions and then walk away without another thought about it. But that's not what happens. I worry. I stew. I fear I've offended someone. And then I just start saying sorry even when I'm not entirely clear what it is I am apologizing for.

Honestly, I think it's too late for me. I've tried to figure out how to grow a thicker skin but I'm learning that at almost 44 years old, you either have it or you don't. However, I do hold out hope when I see elderly people who have that distinctive "I could give a crap" air about them. I wonder if they were always that way or is that the final gift of age? I kind of hope so. I could look forward to getting older if I thought it meant I would stop carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders and could finally unleash every controversial thought I ever had without fear of reprisal. That would be awesome.

Picture me, I'll probably be about 4' 10" by then, just going off in the nursing home on a rant that would make Richard Sherman look like he was just reading a bedtime story. And all this stupid exercise I've done my whole life is going to finally pay off then because I will still be strong and feisty and I'll single-handedly start a Senior Citizen Mock Trial group just so all of us oldies can argue and argue and argue to our heart's content. And at night, I'll sleep like a baby.

That's what I'm going to hope for.

But until then, please tread lightly. Be kind. And let's keep Facebook fun.

Peace out.

Be gentle, World. Handle with care, please.

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