The Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz probably had it pretty easy. There, I said it. He just clanked along, oblivious to love and hurt and pain and joy. There were no emotive highs followed by crushing lows. No heart = no feelings. There was just a body, in a suit of armor, chugging along in life.
But humans. Humans! We are complex beasts, aren’t we? What with our hearts and our minds and our fears and our passions. Our belief systems and our desire to be right and perfect and flawless. Multi-faceted things we are. Oft misunderstood.
You see, the Tin Man probably never loved anyone. Or lost anyone. And if he did, he was pretty even-keeled about the whole thing. Kind of like a flat-line on an EKG — nice and steady. Not dead, just kind of numb from the inside-out. I’ve known a couple of real-life Tin Men (and women), and you probably have, too. Unruffled. Oblivious. Soul-less.
But then there are the people like you and me. WE FEEL THINGS!! Lots of things. It’s like the nerve endings in our capacity to feel things like love and empathy and pain are heightened and hyper-sensitive. And, we have opinions. And, often times, we feel the need to voice those opinions because we are not made of tin, we have huge hearts, and we deserve to be happy.
But, the problems with feelings and opinions and speaking your mind is that sometimes people don’t agree with you. Hell, people might disagree with you MOST times, but that’s not a reason to clam up and numb yourself to your own truth and do that emotional martyr flat-line thingy.
When I was growing up, the only opinion that really mattered was the one in which you agreed with your elders. I think my parents, because they were these free-spirited hippies, would like to tell you that our house was a democracy…but in truth, it was a straight-up dictatorship. Because-they-knew-best-and-they-knew-who-you-were-and-what-you-stood-for-and-you-were-going-to-like-it-and-follow-the-rules-dammit-or-you-were-going-to-face-the-consequences. So, I faced a LOT of consequences growing up. A lot of them self-imposed
because I did foolish angsty things, but a lot of them because I was
trying to be me and speak my mind and voice what I wanted to stand for (even if it was just for things like big bangs and pointy-toed shoes). Was it like that for you, too? Because I am pretty sure it was a generational thing. I think now, we collectively are a bit more tolerant and are more open-minded about letting people just be people. (granted, we have got a looooonnnngggggg way to go, but I see us making progress)
I digress. So back to the Tin Man and feelings. I just want to give you a pep talk. And, I want to give you permission to speak your mind. Your opinions in matters of the heart and head (and politics) will often differ from the opinion of the people around you. But, speak your mind anyways. Because opinions are based on our personal experiences. So, you have these opinions and a subsequent value-system based on your upbringing and the things you have experienced in life so far.
Example: I don’t like New York City and don’t really have a desire to ever go there again. Now, arguably, New York is one of the best cities in the world. But, I got robbed when I was there, so that experience gave me a very different opinion of New York than someone who spent a weekend in a lush penthouse, took a groovy carriage ride through Central Park, and saw the Rockettes. Catch my drift? Does that mean my opinion of New York is wrong? NO! It just means it is my opinion – based on my direct EXPERIENCES – and I have to honor how I feel about that.
The great thing about opinions is that they can change. New experiences = new opinions, new feelings, and a new and improved value system. That sometimes throws people right for a freakin’ loop! Maybe you have been plodding along all Cro-Magnon like and then all of a sudden, you develop this massive higher-minded belief system. The people who knew Cro-Magnon you are quite frankly going to shit when you become more evolved…because they are used to unevolved cave man you. One minute you’re all being-gay-is-wrong-and-it’s-a-sin-and-we-are-going-to-hell-and-those-people-are-responsible-for-typhoons-in-the-Pacific-because-God-hates-gays-and-he-is-using-Mother-Nature-to-get-back-at-them (*see footnote below). But then, your son, who you would literally lie down in front of a train for, tells you he is gay. And you struggle with it and you have an absolute knock-down, drag-out Hagler vs Ali in your psyche. In one corner: your ingrained belief system. In the other corner, wearing blue Chanel trunks, is your love for your son who was perfect in every way until he shared his sexual preference with you. Eventually, there is going to be a TKO. One opinion will win. For the sake of this story, you realize that sexual orientation ain’t no big thang after all and you join your son for a weekend in Provincetown with his new lover. Nobody dies. Nobody gets struck by lightening. It might feel a little uncomfortable, but that is you growing into this new experience. And, if I ever have a new, more positive experience in New York, my opinion will change. The old will be replaced by the new. Non-catastrophic new experience = Value System 2.0.
Your opinions, regardless of how gently and full of love they are delivered, have the capacity to hurt people. And that sucks. If you are like me, you hate hurting people (which sometimes means you keep quiet, even though you shouldn’t). But, share your opinions and matters of the heart anyways. Deliver them gently on a satin pillow of love and compassion, but deliver them. Because you have every right to say this matters to me or this hurts or I don’t want to or not today or I disagree or I need space or I don’t love you anymore or I love you so fucking much, but there is this thing you do that has an unpleasant impact on me and I would love it if we could work on changing that. You can only be responsible for the message, not the reaction to it. And, if you live your life not speaking your truth because you are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings (or, being afraid of the consequences), you are selling yourself short. You become so worried about how they might react and act the victim that you clam up and ultimately victimize yourself. Guess what happens in that situation? Nobody wins. No TKO. No changing belief sytems and positive experiences from either party. Just a big ‘ol forfeit. Pfffttttt.
A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself: “If I address this, what’s the worst that can happen? Can I live with that?” And then ask yourself the bigger question: “If I DON’T address this, what’s the worst that can happen? And can I live with THAT?” If the consequences FOR YOU of keeping quiet are worse than the possible consequences of sharing your story/telling your truth/expressing displeasure, then you better get to sharing. And quick.
With any luck, when you deliver your message from a place of love and a desire to improve a relationship, your feelings will be met with an openness to hearing your message and a mutual desire to improve things (in the event that they are not, it might be time to reevaluate the relationship). Because those are the first steps: the sharing and the openness to hearing the message. Then you BOTH get to have an active role in what happens from there. Brilliance!!!
I wish for you the power to tell the truth. Your whole truth. Even if your voice shakes.
*FOOTNOTE: The examples given in this articles about New York and gays were just that; examples. I understand people have very strong opinions on both topics and I would be open to hearing them if you leave comments on the blog. However, as I stated above, I only entertain opinions when they are delivered maturely, gently, and on a satin pillow (preferably with a piece of dark chocolate). If you approach it from that bigoted and douchey place that I loathe, all comments will be deleted. Because, where I value opinions, I don’t condone hate. (but the good news is, there are plenty of hate-mongering blogs and comments like that will fit right in over there)