I recently had a fight with some friends of mine.
As our opinions were squashed into a London flat that was too small for such big tempers, I was reprimanded again and again for being too strong. That I refused to give in to my pain, that I was guilty of equating emotion with weakness and above all, that I wouldn’t ‘talk about it’.
Long after the heat had left the room, and our voices, their words remained: repeatedly coming back to irritate me. It’s not the first time I’ve received that lecture, no doubt it won’t be the last, and perhaps that’s what annoys me so much. We’ve reached such a frenzied state in our sharing culture, that unless you thoroughly document your pain and hurt, it’s not enough, or somehow, it’s deemed less valid.
My friends and family implore me to ‘open up’, ‘get it all out’ and various other clichéd notions that put my gag reflex to the test. They are aware that I feel emotion and go through periods of sadness, but because they don’t witness it and it’s not available for sharing, they cannot understand it. When the dawn has safely broken and the last traces of tears firmly removed, I may inform them that was the night I broke, but it’s just words at that point. Cold facts in the light of day, devoid of feeling and they can no longer find the empathy they crave.
It’s not good enough. I’m not allowed to remain strong or to keep my emotions to myself. There seems to be an unspoken rule lurking around that I need to shatter before any pain is validated. They want to see the broken pieces spilling out across the floor. Perhaps my refusal to give voice to my feelings of sadness puzzles them. Perhaps they truly believe it will somehow help me. I’m not sure what it is.
I know that the moments of grief I ever feel are silently given to the deepest point of the night. I know that I have no desire to verbally sift through the hurt my brain has already overthought. I know that my refusal to sit encircled by friends as I dissolve into a puddle of tears renders everyone wholly uncomfortable. But overwhelmingly, I know that my pain is singularly my own; it does not need, nor does it require, an audience.