Sometimes, I hate being a woman.
I could run off a list of reasons why: social injustices, sexual stereotypes, Super-Mom syndrome, lack of equality, unrelenting standards by men, unrelenting standards by women… and the list goes on.
However, I am going to get really personal (and somewhat trite) and say: I particularly hate being at the mercy of my own hormones!
This past week, I feel like I have been possessed by an emotionally volatile (and I apologize in advance for the stereotype) Latino, Italian, or African American woman. Missing in action is my mild mannered, don’t raise a fuss, always apologize first, usual expectation of myself. In walks her more robust, and sometimes downright hissy counterpart! Mamma Mia!
I’m not used to feeling this way. Sure, I have had ‘hormonal surges’ in the past, but I have become accustomed to their annoying arrival. They normally arrive in the form of caring a little too much about another person’s circumstance (one of which, I have little or no control over), abrupt or frustrated tears, and, as I have fondly come to call it, ‘stinkin’ thinkin’. All of which are usually controllable, and not overly disruptive.
This week was different. When I would get angry or frustrated, instead of the “Hold it in. Tread carefully. It’s really not that important to share.” mantra that usually enters my head, I found myself expressing ‘it’; whatever emotion ‘it’ happened to be in the moment. When I was mad, I said so. When I was frustrated, I said so. When I was sad, I allowed myself to cry. Well, perhaps ‘allowed’ myself isn’t entirely accurate. To be honest, I found it difficult to stop it from happening, though I did try. It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster that I rode with almost reckless abandon through many dips and speedy, intense turns. It was far more emotional than my regular day to day experience. It was also strangely freeing.
You see, my personality from the time I was young has always been passionate. I naturally had strong opinions about the world, God, justice, love… However, as I grew up, I developed a sense of shame about having strong opinions and expressing them. I didn’t want to be hailed as the bossy one, or the opinionated one, or as my grandfather ‘affectionately’ called me: ornery. There were a few of these types of people in my life who bore labels like this, and they weren’t always liked. In fact, they were often referred to as bullies. I also felt that as a Christian, (who is supposed to represent Jesus and offer His immense love to others), I shouldn’t even possess those seemingly negative personality traits. If I expressed my often strong opinions or passions, I would offend or isolate people, leading them further away, rather than closer, to God. In my mind, I had a choice to make: express my opinions and be disliked and isolated (the WRONG team), OR learn to keep my opinions to a minimum, and I would be accepted and loved (the RIGHT team).
I need to mention here, that although I began to train myself to hold my tongue, there were particular areas where I did allow my strong opinions to surface within my career choice. When I was hired as a director/choreographer of a large scale musical, I was essentially paid to express my passionate vision and direct others toward that vision. Others followed and helped implement my vision and my ‘bossiness’ became leadership. Looking back, I believe I was good at my job because the traits that I deemed undesirable in my personal life, were, in a different context, considered professional assets.
So, back to ‘unacceptable’ emotions and why I now see my hormones as my allies! As I wrote this piece over a couple days (it’s been difficult to write with the kids home for spring break), I began to realize something: by blaming my emotional highs and lows as the result of my hormones alone, I was discounting my genuine feelings. If I can blame my anger, frustration and sometimes exasperation on my hormones, then I can still be apart of the RIGHT team. I remain aligned with those who work hard not to offend, who hold their tongues, and always placate & pacify a situation. However, my emotional suitcase has ended up FULL of ‘unacceptable’ feelings, and is starting to bulge and burst at the seams. In order to avoid an emotional explosion so great that might leave others stunned and suffering in its wake, I am slowly pulling, slipping, and unpacking my emotional baggage. As I do unpack, my suitcase gets lighter and more manageable.
I’m sure it wasn’t always nice to be around me last week. My defenses were tougher, my opinions stronger, and my frustration higher. However, I have to remind myself that I was expressing genuine emotion that needed to get out. If it doesn’t come out, in an honest and (hopefully) constructive way, I am beginning to see that it turns inward and becomes a type of toxic soup for my soul.
No. I am not perfect. Yes! I get angry, frustrated and downright unruly at times. However, I am reminded that I am not alone in this, for “to err, is human”! But even more beautiful than our flawed connectedness, is the second part of that saying which is: “To err, is human; to forgive, divine.” By admitting my flaws, I open a floodgate of forgiveness – and THAT is good news!
Becoming Ordinary: Day 215