The redoubtable Lady P recently made a pledge on relatively open social media that she would say three nice things about anyone she knew who Liked her post. You can, I’m sure, imagine the tidal wave of hands in the air this provoked, and she has since said it was one of the more emotionally draining things she’s done in a while.
Even though we’re not as close as we used to be, we’re still on as good terms as conditions and schedules have allowed, and so I thought I’d stir the pot a little.
The responses I got included being The King of Salt, and also of “every other emotion” – which I have to admit bemused me a little as a turn of phrase.
The first part, is not particularly contentious; anyone who knows me has encountered the habitual sarcasm and acidic observations that season my interactions with the world. The second part I wasn’t so sure about, so I made sure to ask about it when we met up a day or two later for a rare coffee catch-up.
Her qualification of the remark was interesting, and sparked thought. On the one hand, she said, I was unafraid to experience and demonstrate all the emotions that I feel. On the flip side, when I need to I can cut them off and not be hostage to them.
Now, I struggle with anxiety and the after effects of trauma on a regular basis, and we are heading into a particularly difficult time of year for me.
This perception of being able to cut them off and function initially evoked quite a defensive reaction in me. It’s not how I habitually identify my behaviours, especially when I’ve enjoyed a few evenings of night terrors and shallow restless sleep.
I wondered briefly if this was some kind of dig at me, but then considered the source and context. Lady P also fights a number of demons. Some of them are quite similar to mine. More to the point, it was genuinely meant as a compliment.
For me, there is a distinction between feeling and expressing emotional responses. I have joked about being an analogue of Samuel Vimes from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. I do sometimes feel that I am actually several drinks behind most people’s natural state – a kind of anti-sober state he called ‘knurd’.
This almost certainly explains many of my doodles and sketches, let alone stories.
I may not express my emotions in emergencies or under stress, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. I’ve just had to learn to act anyway. It’s a coping strategy that generally helps, especially when I’m at saturation point.
While preparing for the recent job interview, a good friend remarked that they’d never pegged me as nervous. In addition, several others gave practical advice based on their careers in various Services. They all helped underline the value of feeling the fear but preparing, practising and executing the plan anyway. In other words, what I do works.
Her admiration of my ability to function when I might otherwise be overwhelmed by emotional responses to situations is partly fuelled by her own struggles. So, for such a relatively simple statement, there’s a ton of meanings that I have neither the time, inclination, or right to publicly explore; but they are appreciated as much for how they help me reflect on my behaviours and expectations – and that’s never a bad thing.
The other vital part of this is that it’s been a reminder that it’s very easy to fall into the toxic masculinity trap of seeing emotions and emotional expression as some form of weakness. I hope those who know me wouldn’t recognise that in me.
So, King of All The Emotions? Yeah, I’ll take that Lady P. Maybe we’ll talk more about it some time, hopefully this time not in the pouring rain.